When Episcopalian Bishop Henry Codman Potter began considering a New York City cathedral in 1887, he wanted one that would outshine the magnificent Roman Catholic St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. Construction of the massive Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, that started more than a century ago is still not completed. I wrote about the Cathedral several times ( post 1 and post 2 and post 3)- it is really magnificent!
If you have ever visited the Cathedral , you may have noticed a bizarre sculpture in the courtyard next door to it. The Peace Fountain, as the sculpture is called, located at the corner of West 110th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, is immensely confounding and provocative. It was sculpted by Cathedral Artist-in-Residence Greg Wyatt to mark the 200th anniversary of the Diocese of New York in 1985.
Greg Wyatt completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in art history at Columbia College in 1971, later studied classical sculpture for three years at the National Academy of Design’s School of Fine Arts and earned his M.A. degree at Columbia University. He is the author of the eight bronze monuments , each inspired by a Shakespeare play, installed in the Great Garden at Nash’s House and New Place, Stratford, Great Britain. New Place is the site of a late-medieval house once belonging to William Shakespeare.
In May 1885 about 1,300 worshipers celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Episcopal Diocese of New York with prayers and hymns. On display in the cathedral there were items to be placed in a time capsule to be opened in 2085. And following the two-hour the Bishop led the group to the Great Lawn outside the church for the blessing and dedication of a new statue.
The 40 foot-high 16-ton bronze sculpture on the top of fountain weaves together several representations of the conflict between good and evil. It looks right out of a Hieronymous Bosch painting.
A plaque at the base contains the following inscription:
Peace Fountain celebrates the triumph of Good over Evil, and sets before us the world's opposing forces—violence and harmony, light and darkness, life and death—which God reconciles in his peace. When the fountain operates, four courses of water cascade down the freedom pedestal into a maelstrom evoking the primordial chaos of Earth.
Foursquare around the base, flames of freedom rise in witness to the future. Ascending from the pool, the freedom pedestal is shaped like the double helix of DNA, the key molecule of life. Atop the pedestal a giant crab reminds us of life's origins in sea and struggle. Facing West, a somnolent Moon reflects tranquility from a joyous Sun smiling to the East. The swirls encircling the heavenly bodies bespeak the larger movements of the cosmos with which earthly life is continuous. Nine giraffes—among the most peaceable of animals—nestle and prance about the center. One rests its head on the bosom of the winged Archangel Michael, described in the bible as the leader of the heavenly host against the forces of Evil. St. Michael's sword is vanquishing his chief opponent, Satan, whose decapitated figure plunges into the depths, his head dangling beneath the crab's claw. Tucked away next to the Sun, a lion and lamb relax together in the peace of God's kingdom, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah.
Within the garden are "Animals of Freedom" sculptures created by artists from kindergarten through high school that were selected in a public competition in 1985. The sculptures are placed around the ring of freedom. Collectively known as the Children’s Sculpture Garden, they represent the diverse community the Cathedral strives to serve and represent.
There are also book-like sculptured plaques located in the sunken plaza in which the fountain sits, that contained quotations of various philosophers, authors, artists and contemporary icons.
I really cannot understand why such a graphic interpretation of violence would be called the “Peace Fountain... It is not about Peace it is not fountain- and there is now water in this fountain...