Restoration of Holy Week Statue of Christ in Chicago

In 2018 this beautiful statue of Christ was restored for St. John Cantius parish in Chicago.  The statue is utilized by the parish for its annual Holy Thursday and Good Friday devotions, displayed in a little shrine to the Divine Prisoner that is set up temporarily every Holy Week for the edification of the faithful.  

The statue, originally from the Daprato Studios in Chicago is over one-hundred years old.  It was restored to its original splendor by a St. John Cantius parishioner involved with the Catholic Art Institute.  The original hand-painted face was preserved, with minor touch ups.  The hands were repainted to correct liberties taken during a previous touch-up attempt.  

The tunic of Christ was sanded and repainted.  The floral details were added in genuine 23K gold leaf to enrich the garment.  The gilded designs were changed to include flowers imbued with symbols of the Passion.  

The detail around the collar is composed of passion flower vines with five blooming passion flowers. There is one for each of the holy wounds of Christ, with the middle one in fuller bloom, representing the wound in the Sacred Heart.  Historically, in the 15th and 16th centuries, Spanish missioners adopted the image of this interesting plant, particularly in the numbers of its various flower parts, as symbols of Christ and the crucifixion. A few notes on the symbolism:

  • The pointed tips of the leaves were taken to represent the lance that pierced the side of Christ.
  • The tendrils represent the whips used in the flagellation of Christ.
  • The ten petals and sepals represent the ten faithful Apostles (less St. Peter the denier and Judas Iscariot the betrayer).
  • The flower's radial filaments, which can number more than a hundred and vary from flower to flower, representing the crown of thorns.  
  • The chalice-shaped object with its receptacle represents a hammer or the Holy Grail.
  • The 3 stigmata represent the 3 nails and the 5 anthers below them the 5 wounds (4 by the nails and 1 by the lance).  

The tunic is covered in thistles. This has long been a symbol of suffering and sin, mentioned in the book of Genesis after the fall, that man would toil and produce thistles and thorns. Christ, covered in thistles (our sins), becomes the sacrificial Lamb, dying the death of a criminal, Himself being innocent.

The hem line at the bottom of His tunic contains thorns with droplet of blood, intermixed with dogwood flowers. The dogwood is another symbol of the crucifixion, as the tree was believed to have been used for the Cross. Once mighty like the oak, legend says it became slender and bent, no longer strong enough to be fashioned into a sturdy cross. The blooms of the dogwood are cruciform, with two petals slightly longer than the others. The petals have piercings on the end which are stained red, symbolic of the bleeding nail wounds of our Lord.

The statue was restored in honor of Fr. C. Frank Phillips, C.R. in gratitude for his commitment to restoring the sacred, not only in liturgy and music, but also in the visual arts. The preservation of our Catholic artistic heritage helps edify many people for generations to come! 

Source: The Catholic Art Institute Facebook page.  

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