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Madonna and Child over Ottawa at the Cathedral. Photo courtesy Paul Lauzon

Cathedral hosts historic fresco

  • May 12, 2019

A 10-foot high fresco of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the child Jesus over the Ottawa skyline that was saved from destruction 20 years ago was back on display May 1-5.

The historic fresco by artist Ugo Chyurlia was on loan to Notre Dame Cathedral for the exhibit before being returned to storage at the Canadian Museum of History.

The Franciscan order had commissioned the work in 1957 for their monastery and church of St. Vincent de Paul in the Ottawa neighbourhood of New Edinburgh. In the 1990s, after the Franciscans decided to sell their monastery, a petition circulated to save the artwork.

“Public uproar and the work of a few dedicated individuals, including Jerome Chyurlia, the artist’s son, ensured that this work of art is still with us,” said Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast.

Chyurlia was born in London, England, in 1911 and immigrated to Canada in 1954. He died in Ottawa in 1982.

A fresco is a painting done on fresh plaster on a wall or ceiling, making its removal “a science in itself, extracting and re-setting a fragile medium that was never intended to be moved,” said Prendergast.

The Museum of History notes that the fresco is “a magnificent Madonna painted by Ugo Chyurlia in a very free style. The faces of the angels, for example, exemplify this liberty which belongs to a more modern tradition, as if the artist wanted to remind us that these creatures also belong to the terrestrial world.”

Along with the display of the fresco, the Cathedral hosted lectures on the history of the Franciscan Monastery and St-Vincent de Paul Church.

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