Eugene Ball Sculpture in Cathedral Re-Illuminated by New Plinth and Votive Stand

Our Peter Eugene Ball sculpture Madonna will now watch over the prayers of our visitors, thanks to a new votive stand crafted from a tree from Christ Church Meadow.

The work, which depicts the familiar Madonna and Child motif of the young Jesus and his mother, was previously displayed at floor level in the recess behind the Lady Chapel altar, following the 2015 exhibition of Ball’s work for which it was commissioned. Christ Church’s Dean, The Very Revd Professor Sarah Foot, tasked House Architect Ptolemy Dean with creating a new plinth to bring the statue into the light. She also wanted to raise the sculpture up from the floor so that viewers would be face-to-face with the figure of Christ, inviting them to engage in the emotions of Ball’s expressive work. The plinth was to serve a dual purpose as a stand for votive candles, so that the sculpture might inspire the prayers of our visitors. 

Dean’s design works carefully in harmony with the Cathedral building. The stand’s base follows the contours of the neighbouring stonework, while the wrought iron prickets (the traditional word for a spike that holds a candle) reflect the nearby ornamental railings of the Sanctuary and Chancel. The timber is stained a dark colour to connect it to the neighbouring medieval watching loft and Bell altar. By using the space formed by a missing column between the Lady and adjacent Bell Chapels, the work becomes an accompaniment to the very structural fabric of the Cathedral. 

This picture illustrates how the new location for the Eugene Ball Madonna and Child sculpture occupies the location of a 'missing' ornamental pillar.


The Statue and plinth are designed to fill a space left by a 'missing' decorative pillar, seen here.

It was decided at the outset that it would be good if the new pricket stand could be made by Christ Church staff, in-house and under the supervision of the Clerk of Works. The plinth is formed from a large sycamore log spotted in Christ Church meadows by the Clerk of Works, Steve Brown. The Foundation's carpenter Chris Watkins carved the wood into the form of Dean’s design, while the wrought iron prickets were also fashioned in the college workshop by our metal-worker, Lee Ring. 

A portion of a large sycamore log stands on a red pallet lifter in the Christ Church workshop


A large sycamore log has begun to be shaped into a plinth. It stands in the Christ Church workshop, with a selection of carpentry tools lying on top of it.


The sycamore log used in the plinth's construction was found in Christ Church meadow by our Clerk of Works, Steve Brown, and shaped in the Foundation's workshop by our carpenter Chris Watkins.

“The commission of this new piece of furnishing within the cathedral has been brought to life by the skilled work of the college’s own craftsmen, and it will be a legacy of their skill and achievement for years to come. The rich ochre, gold and blue hues of the figures’ robes, and the softness of their faces, are illuminated by the reflected light of the candles, bringing out the humility and humanity of Peter Eugene Ball’s work.” 

The stand was formally installed in a short ceremony with a blessing by the Dean during a service of Festal Evensong on Easter Sunday. You can find the text of the blessing prayer below.

The Dean, wearing a gold cope, blesses the Eugene Ball statue and plinth wit incense during its installation on Easter Day 2024


The Dean blesses the new stand during Evensong on Easter Day 2024

A Blessing For A New Votive Stand

“Almighty God, 
When all was darkness at the dawn of creation, 
You spoke your Word and there was light. 
Bless this stand, made to hold the prayers of your people, 
That as the flames of its candles rise before you, 
They may turn the darkness of our hearts to light. 
According to your promises, shed the light of your love upon those for whom we pray; 
That in you all your people may find the well of life and the light of joy; 
Through him who is our Way, our Truth, and our Life, 
The risen and glorious Light that shines in the darkness, 
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Peter Eugene Ball's sculpture 'Madonna', a statue of Mary with the child jesus at her feet, stands between the Bell and Lady chapel altars on a new, dark wood plinth. The plint is surrounded by a wrought iron circle of prickets for candles.