The statue of Bl. John Henry Newman

Several good things come together in this story from the Birmingham Mail.

Statue of Cardinal Newman to take pride of place during Papal visit

Aug 18 2010 by Jasbir Authi, Birmingham Mail

THE great nephew of legendary Birmingham author JRR Tolkien is sculpting a statue of Cardinal Newman which will be specially placed in Cofton Park for the Papal visit.

Award-winning sculptor and Catholic Tim Tolkien has started work on the life-size statue of the Cardinal which will be fabricated in steel and sprayed with bronze.

Pope Benedict XVI will hold an open-air Mass at Cofton Park on September 19 and is expected to beatify Cardinal Newman in front of tens and thousands of pilgrims.

There are plans to get the statue, which is expected to be placed next to the stage, blessed by the Pope. Mr Tolkien, who is making the statue with Chris Yeomans, a blacksmith originally from Alvechurch, said the aim was to show him as a scholar and a priest rather than a Cardinal.

The statue will feature the Cardinal seated on a chair with a book and pen on a small table at his side.

Red sandstone for the six foot high plinth will be sourced from a local working quarry and the finished statue will be chemically aged for the visit.

Mr Tolkien, aged 47, who runs a wood carving and metal sculpture business in Cradley Heath, said he was approached by the council around three weeks ago to make the statue.

The father-of-two said: “I haven’t got time to make it complicated, it’s got to be simple. It’s going to be life -size rather than larger than life. “There is no council fund, no budget, money is being raised by sponsorship.

“It’s a great privilege. The Pope doesn’t come often and it’s happening in this city.

“The deadline is going to be tight, it’s going to be right up to the line.”

Mr Tolkien has applied for planning permission application to put the statue in the park.

Council leisure boss Martin Mullaney said: “We want pilgrims to touch the statue. Cofton Park will become a site of pilgrimage together with the Birmingham Oratory and Oscott College.

“It could become a holy site for Catholics like Lourdes in France and resurrect Longbridge.”

Mr Tolkien is probably most famous for his Sentinel sculpture, which stands at the entrance to Castle Vale estate, and features three Spitfires peeling off into the sky in different directions.

He has also sculpted a memorial to the actor Sir Cedric Hardwicke, which has been set up at his birthplace of Lye, West Midlands, for Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council.

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  1. Another interesting connection: JRR Tolkien and his brother Hilary were orphaned while still young. Their mother entrusted their care to the fathers of the Birmingham Oratory until they reached their legal majority. The entire Tolkien family has a special connection to Bl. John Henry, Cardinal Newman.

  2. LawrenceK says:

    Tolkien’s mother Mabel joined the Catholic Church in 1900, after the death of her husband, when her son JRRT was just eight years old. Her Baptist family disowned her. Even after she became sorely ill they refused to help her, despite having the means to do it, and she died in when JRRT was just twelve years old.

    As a result, J.R.R. Tolkien considered his mother to be a martyr for the Catholic faith.

    Since JRRT was raised at the Birmingham Oratory from 1904 onward, he must have known many priests who had been friends with Newman himself.

  3. AnAmericanMother says:

    THREE WEEKS for a life size statue?

    That’s ominous. None of my mom’s sculptor friends ever rushed something through that fast. Maybe he’s a quick worker though. I hope the end product is worthy of a saint.

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