Bishop Donald Bolen blesses the Annunciation mosaic and stained glass art installation in the Queen of Peace Chapel at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon. Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski

Artist Hall’s latest work blessed at Saskatoon cathedral

By  Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Canadian Catholic News
  • June 12, 2014

SASKATOON - Toronto artist Sarah Hall was in Saskatoon as her latest work, housed in the Queen of Peace Chapel at the Cathedral of the Holy Family, was blessed by Bishop Donald Bolen. 

Hall’s depiction of the Annunciation was blessed May 25. Bolen blessed the “Joy to the World” Annunciation mosaic and stained glass art installation in a brief ceremony between regular Sunday celebrations at the cathedral. 

The artwork was fabricated at Glasmalerei Peters Studios in Paderborn, Germany. Wilhelm Peters and two artisans from the German company were on hand for the installation in Saskatoon. Hall also designed the stained glass windows in the cathedral’s main sanctuary and the solar art glass in the building’s spire. 

The new mosaic in the cathedral’s side chapel features an image of the Angel Gabriel announcing to the Virgin Mary that she will become the Mother of God — the moment when the Incarnation became reality, thanks to Mary’s response: “Let it be done unto me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). 

The seven-foot figures were inspired by a fresco in Santa Felicita Church in Florence, painted by Jacopa da Pontormo in the early 16th century. In Saskatoon, the figures of the Archangel and the Virgin are placed on an image of the Earth and the cosmos, stretching out in the shape of a chalice on the stone background of the chapel wall behind the altar. On either side are stained glass windows incorporating prairie and eucharistic imagery, framing the Annunciation in this time and place. 

Hidden among the mosaic tiles that make up the Earth are a few barely visible, daintily etched words such as “Saskatoon,” “Paderborn,” “Holy Land” and even “Roughriders” for the province’s Grey Cup champion football squad — continuing a long tradition in art of hidden signatures and messages, often humourous. 

During celebration of Mass before the blessing, Bolen reflected on the beauty of the artwork in light of Christ’s promise to send the Holy Spirit and the letter from St. Peter urging Christians to be ready to give an account of their hope. 

“We have this beautiful promise that God’s Spirit will be with us in this walk of life; that the Risen Jesus will be with us as we live this human life in all its complexities and its joys,” Bolen said. “And in the second reading we hear that we are called to be a people who are able to articulate our confidence that this promise is true. St. Peter says always be ready to give an account of the hope that is within you.” 

Beauty — such as the beauty of the cathedral’s stained glass windows or the new chapel artwork — is another way to account for the hope within, Bolen added. 

“Beauty gives us life. Beauty is something that allows us to believe that this world is God’s work, that it’s all in God’s hands,” Bolen said. “Beauty is something that taps into such a deep place of joy and life within us. Beauty is one of the reasons why we can be a people of hope.” 

The day before the blessing, Hall gave a tour of the glass art in the cathedral to members of the Saskatoon Glassworkers’ Guild, describing the inspiration and creation of the stained glass windows in the sanctuary, the solar art glass windows in the spire and the mosaic in the chapel. 

Hall reflected on her own journey as an artist and how as a child waiting for her father at meetings in a church, she was fascinated with the stained glass windows and their interplay of images, colour and light. 

“I was sitting there and I thought: what I want to do when I grow up is to make windows. They were one of the most beautiful things in the church and they also kind of created this other world,” she said. “It wasn’t just the images that I loved but how colour and light really transform how we feel, and how they transform the space.” 

Hall began her studies at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont., and continued her education in the Architectural Glass Department at Swansea College of Art in Wales before apprenticing at the Royal College of Art in London and studying Middle Eastern techniques in glass for a year in Jerusalem. She opened her own studio 37 years ago. 

(Prairie Messenger) 

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