Photo courtesy of Concrete Pictures Inc.

Cathedral shields a natural fit in Catholic worship

By  Charles Lewis, Catholic Register Special
  • September 25, 2016

When Ruslana Makarenko was trying to think of how to design the 30 new shields that run along each side of St. Michael’s Cathedral, two things came to mind.

First, the wooden shields would look like they had been there from the beginning.

“I wanted them to look at home in this space — really a natural part of it,” said Makarenko, a partner with her father in Ecclesiastical Art & Design of Yonkers, N.Y. “Not something that looked like it was created in 2016.”

The second inspiration, for what she called one of her favourite shields, came from being in Toronto in November near Remembrance Day.

She noticed the red poppies that Canadians wear in memory of the fallen in the First World War. For the cathedral shield she added the years 1914 to 1918 and to make it fit in a Catholic sacred space she placed a cross within the poppy “in a very subtle way.”

“I wanted people sitting 40 feet away to see the poppy as a whole and then notice the cross.” The 30 shields take into account the whole of Catholic worship and belief and are meant to echo the entire interior space along with the sacred liturgy. Makarenko designed each one. The colours — reds, blues and greens — not only reflect the other colours found in St. Michael’s but also used in traditional Gothic cathedrals.

Images range from the Lamb of God to the Holy Trinity, the Jesse Tree and the Holy Spirit and more. There are three shields depicting a pelican — a pre-Christian symbol based on a legend that the mother pelican would stab herself with a beak so blood could flow to prevent her chicks from starving.

It was later adopted by the Church to represent Christ’s sacrifice for our redemption and continual feeding through the Eucharist.

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