In July, the Museum celebrated a very special occasion with the addition of a spectacular piece to the Abbey Museum collection. Now firmly in its final home, this sculpture of the Lamentation of Christ places the Abbey Museum as a world-leader in its collection exhibits, bringing Art that would normally only be found in much larger city-funded museums to regional Australia. The magnificently carved limestone frieze depicting an episode from Christ’s Passion, the Lamentation, dates from the middle ages, weighs close to half a tonne and like all of the Abbey collection pieces, has an incredible story and journey to tell about how it came to it’s rightful resting place in the Abbey Museum’s Manuscript Gallery.
Rejoicing the Lamentation
From subject alone, this sculpture merits reverence as a magnificent art piece depicting the Passion of Christ. We see the Three Marys anointing the body of the crucified Christ, watched by two others, Joseph of Arimathea – whose tomb Jesus’ body occupied – and Nicodemus – a man who came down from the tree he was hiding in to follow Jesus after hearing him preach. The intricate border of the bas-relief sculpture is ornately carved with cherubs, birds and flowers.
However, this sculpture has another dimension of wonder making it even more special to the Museum. This sculpture was donated to the Museum in the early 90’s (together with the Cheverly Manor panels which are already on display) by Mr. Mike Figgis-Turner, Hollywood Director. Mr. Turner, at that time, was one of the owners of the Abbey Art Centre. The Abbey Art Centre was the institution that succeeded JSM Ward’s Abbey Folk Park in New Barnett, England when he departed the UK in the 1940’s. So this sculptured frieze was originally displayed in the Abbey Church in the Abbey Folk Park, and has now found it’s way back to a rightful and permanent home, in the Abbey Musuem of Art and Archaeology, Caboolture SE Queensland. Unfortunately, no records have been found so far from Ward’s collection of the piece; its provenance only listed as ‘Italy, 16th century’. With no room to display it in the museum until now, this treasure has been in storage for almost 30 years!
A medieval treasure in regional Queensland
Early research suggests that the carving is Gothic in style, which could date anywhere from the 13th to 16th centuries. Looking at the clothing worn by the figures proves a closer date range. The frieze itself is most likely to have been part of a rood screen, the wall that separates the nave of a cathedral or church. A similar example can be found in the Cathedral in Leon, Spain, and an earlier form in the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul in Naumburg, Germany.
The frieze will be on display in the Abbey Museum during the Abbey Medieval Festival with and official launch to be held on October 18th 2018.
-By Michael Strong and Lincoln Morse