We are pleased to reveal today a new painting that was commissioned last year, thanks to the generous bequest of a young parishioner and our friend, Alison, who sadly died after a long struggle with cancer. The painting was blessed and unveiled today in our new calefactory by the Prior, along with Allison’s family.
The painting is titled St Norbert gives England to Our Lady of Sorrows. It was painted in Oxford by the young and talented artist Alvin Ong, and it was a great pleasure to work with Alvin to produce this new image of St Norbert for our house, especially since he went to great effort to thoroughly research the subject, and was very generous in accommodating our needs. The style is late baroque, evocative of Anthony van Dyke, who painted several works for Norbertine houses in the seventeenth-century, not least the famous Mystical Marriage of Hermann Joseph.
The scene shows St Norbert, as he is often depicted, in his pallium, and the Sacred Host in the monstrance is held by a putto. In Chelmsford, we have a particular devotion to the Conversion of England, and, given that our canonry is dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows, we thought it fitting that our holy father dedicating our mission here in Chelmsford to her.
Of course, St Norbert never visited England, and the English flag with which we are today so familiar and which here is being given to Our Lady is a later historical development. But still, we thought it an appropriate symbol for our work. Also, he is holding in his right hand the familiar olive branch, since St Norbert is also known as the Apostle of Peace, who in life sought reconciliation between feuding families and individuals: and how much do we need still an example of peace and reconciliation in our own troubled world today? St Norbert can be a good help and an heavenly advocate in our own struggles in life, both with our own interior conflicts, and with our relationships with others.
St Nobert himself is dressed in the white habit, wearing a cope which is modeled on a cope from Strahov Abbey, where his relics are venerated. He is standing in an archway in his cathedral in Magdeburg, where St Norbert was archbishop; the column and the archway themselves shown here in the middle-ground are in the sanctuary of that cathedral.
Our Lady herself is shown, surrounded by Reni-style putti, with her Immaculate Heart exposed, pierced the seven swords of her sorrows, graciously receiving (we trust) the mission with which St Norbert has tasked us.