There is sculpture in these French Romanesque churches that takes your breath away. The mastery in stone that transforms it into a fluid medium astounds. The Jeremiah of the abbey of Moissac in France is not stone, but a shimmer of feeling and fabric that barely clings to the wall, almost escaping into the surrounding air. I have to touch the sculpture just to make sure it’s hard and cool like stone and not warm with life. How did this mason, this sculptor achieve this? How is it possible; this is stone after all. That’s the one question I ask constantly. It’s the one question anyone experiencing this mastery must ask. If the scupltor was working today he would be famous, praised, interviewed, biographied and firmly ensconced in the museums of the world . But here, there is no greater glory than to praise the creator of stone itself. So, I silently thank him as I am moved to tears by the anguish, the joy, the humanity, the sheer artistry of his talents. The photograph I take is a pale replica, a cheap imitation that is over in milliseconds. I know I am unable to capture Jeremiah because it is only in the presence of this masterpiece that the real depth of his power is felt.
Then there is “Potty Boy” from a tiny church in Mailhat-Lamontgie in the Auvergne. He is no less a masterpiece. His power is his ability to put us personally in the stone. Here is the everyman of daily life and he makes me smile because I know this face. These sculptures, tucked in the corners, frequently holding great weights of columns, are not saints or wealthy patrons. There are no elegantly carved robes, no biblical prowess revealed. Here is just a modest man caught in that moment of something larger than himself in which he has a humble but daunting part. He will do his job carry, carve, say his prayers and hope that his work will be worthy. I look for him when I go into these churches. I feel better when I find him.
If you are interested in seeing more of these images, please see the Via Lucis website.