St Carthage’s Cathedral, Lismore, NSW: The Centenary Rood
On Monday 6 June 2011 a new feature was installed in St Carthage’s Cathedral — a large crucifix, attended by Our Lady and St John, suspended from the chancel arch. Its proper description is a “Rood”, from the Old English word for a cross. In modern usage it refers to such a cross placed in a church at the entrance to the chancel or sanctuary, either supported on a beam or suspended from above.
The Rood is part of the beautification of the Cathedral sanctuary planned to commemorate the building’s Centenary in 2007. However those plans were overtaken by the serious hail-storm damage to the roof, windows and brickwork during that year. The repair programme, restoring the entire Cathedral exterior from roof-ridges to foundations and drainage, has now been successfully completed four years later.
The Rood figures were commissioned for the Centenary from the Atelier Saint-Joseph at Mougères, France, and carved in a Romanesque style in European oak by the contemplative nuns of the Monastères de Bethléem. The figures arrived in Lismore in 2007. The cross, with a lower beam supporting the Blessed Virgin and St John, was designed and made in Grafton by craftsman Jim Muldoon. The cross is made of North Coast silky oak and features on the reverse carved symbols of the Four Evangelists. The text at the foot of the cross is from the third acclamation after the Consecration at Mass: Salvator mundi, salva nos – “Save us, Saviour of the world.”
The Rood has now emerged from four years of storage as the first element of the sanctuary refurbishment. The completion will follow in 2012 with a new marble altar directly under the Rood, its design harmonious with the 1919 altar in the apse. Close by will be a fine 1903 eagle lectern in brass, contemporaneous with the building of the cathedral, which has also been in storage since 2007. The paving of the whole sanctuary and steps to match the marble and mosaic flooring in the two side-chapels, together with modern lighting and sound systems, will provide a beautifully enhanced setting for the celebration of the modern liturgy.
Two new angel windows were installed in the Cathedral at the same time as the Rood. They replace amber glazing high up on either side of the chancel arch. They were made by Kevin Little of Arncliffe Studios and given by our Project Manager, Mr Neil Manglesdorf of Regional Project Managers Australia Pty Ltd. The Angel on the left holds the acclamation said at the beginning of the Gospel at Mass, Gloria tibi, Domine, “Glory to you, O Lord,” and the Angel on the right the acclamation at the end, Laus tibi, Christe, “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Rood was blessed by Bishop Jarrett on 6 June immediately before it was raised into position. All of the external work, completing Stage One of a comprehensive Master Plan for the restoration of the Cathedral, will be dedicated in thanksgiving at Mass on Sunday, 17 July.