City Walks – Christian Art

Mary Sculpture

Religious Garden Art

Lots of garden art is just for fun — bunnies, monsters, and butterflies. But sometimes it can be more serious, or at least acknowledging something spiritual. And despite the handwringing, in practice Christian symbols are displayed all over without controversy or condemnation.

Angels

Probaly the closest to low stakes fun would be angels. I doubt more than a few percent of Christians really know who angels really are in the formal doctrine of their religion.

Some are barely more than fairies, like this figure (who maybe even is a fairy).

Child angel

While here is an angel in a classic form, accompanied by a rabbit, which is one of the clearest examples of the capture of earlier non-Christian symbols.

Bunny and angel

The classical presentation on a column and the dress are a reflection of how the iconography of angels also predate Christianity and pulls in elements from Greek and Roman themes, such as the Goddess Nike.

Angel on column

This art display is a take on the famous Sistine Madonna by Raphael, with the angelic cherubs moved to the top, instead of at the feet of Mary as in the original painting. The form of the cherub is taken directly from the earlier putto, which dates back at least to Roman times as a companion to the goddess Venus.

People sitting on the porch can put their faces into the holes in the main panel and have their photos taken. Note also the statue of the Buddha below.

Religious art in yard

This statue of Mary is in an untended patch of grass. You can see the value of traditional iconography that makes her still recognizable despite the peeling paint and lack of a label — her cloak and downward glance tells you right away who she is.

Statue of Mary

Likewise the pale blue on her cloak is an immediate identifier, as obvious as St. Peter and his keys or St. Christopher carrying the tiny Jesus on his shoulders.

Statue of Mary
Statue of Mary

She shows up in displays that are clearly a hodge podge…

Garden art including Mary

… and also straightforwardly devotional.

Mary with baby Jesus
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15 Comments

    • I’m sure a lot is completely against doctrine in some way. There’s a reason so many crackdowns come from the doctrinaire side rather than nonbelievers. Nonbelievers don’t care what color you paint your statue of Mary.

      Except for homeowners associations, and they tend to be secular religions.

      • Definitely against doctrine.   The line between Christianity and folk magic gets very blurry in these parts.  Statues of Mary next to bottle trees and such.

      • The reason why Mary is depicted in blue is that blue was the most difficult and expensive pigment to make, for centuries, and the tincture that looked pretty good upon application often faded and/or turned to gray. Therefore, quality stuff was used very sparingly and in the Christian world to denote exaltation or divinity. Christ is sometimes depicted as wearing blue robes but it’s most closely associated with Mary. There’s even a shade called Marian Blue.

        Those angels hovering above the Virgin Mary must have come from a Hallmark store circa 1980-something, when that awful card was so ubiquitous. Doubtless Hallmark made a banner out of it for suburban shoppers to celebrate God knows what, a wedding anniversary, an engagement? Your neighbors upcycled. Or maybe they’re being ironic.

        The “Mary In A Bathtub” motif, so common in America, is almost unknown in Catholic Europe (and completely unknown in northern, Protestant Europe.) There are actually very few public residential religious statues anywhere in Catholic Europe, and I think your neighbors would consider you weird if you erected one or attached one next to your satellite dish. War memorials (especially post-WWI) featuring grieving Marian-like figures abound, most of them quite moving, Mary being the universally accepted signifier of maternal grief, at least in the Christian world. You see Mary in cemeteries too, hovering over a gravesite, but usually not enclosed in a decorated, semi-submerged bathtub.

        • It’s definitely odd how those two cherubs became such a thing — they’re just a minor part of that painting by Raphael.

          I’ll give credit to the people who put that together in that they at least kept the cherubs together with an equally semi-authentic version of the Mary and baby Jesus from Raphael’s Sistine Madonna, but putting them above instead of below, as they appeared originally, completely changes the dynamic.

  1. I used to live in an area with a large Mennonite community. They had little placards on their mailboxes with scripture sayings. It was an easy way to identify which homes belonged to a Mennonite family. I briefly considered putting one up on my mailbox that read Bingo Monday Night, Fish Fry Friday so everyone would know where the Catholic lived.  I thought better of it in case the local priest saw it and dropped by to invite me to Mass.

    • you just reminded me of one of my dads favourite jokes

      which helpfully was findable on the interwebs….coz i fuck up jokes like nobodies business

      A Jewish man moves into a Catholic neighborhood. Every Friday The Catholics are driven crazy because, while they’re eating fish, the Jew is outside barbecuing steaks. So the Catholics work on the Jew to convert him to Catholicism.

      Finally, after many threats and much pleading, the Catholics succeed. They take the Jew to a priest who sprinkles holy water on the Jew and says, “Born a Jew, Raised a Jew, Now a Catholic.”

      The Catholics are ecstatic. No more delicious, but maddening smells every Friday evening. But the next Friday evening, the scent of barbecue wafts through the neighbourhood.

      The Catholics all rush to the Jew’s house to remind him of his new diet. They see him standing over the cooking steak.

      He is sprinkling water on the meat and saying, “Born a cow, Raised a cow, Now a fish.”

      • I remember hearing that one before, lol. There are some weird exceptions to the meat rule at least for Lent – alligator, iguana, beaver, capybara.  No thanks, I’ll stick with fish. And even if St Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday you can have your corned beef. Silly rules are easy to bend.

        • tbh…i love fish…so im perfectly fine with eating it on friday

          or any other day

          i havent tried any of your exceptions so cant say

          im not religious…. but i believe in do onto others as you would have them do onto you

          which in my case means leave them the fuck alone, dont give em shit and respect that maybe they do or dont want fish on a friday

          i will respect your religion in your home….and to an extent outside of it if i am aware

          buuuut…..trying to convert me is highly offensive to my beliefs

          • I’m not a subscriber myself but growing up I didn’t have a choice.
            I eat fish most days of the week but during Lent crave burgers cause I’m just that way, lol.

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