Stories from the Barn
A hive of activity in the Hampshire downlands
Angel memorials are possibly one of the most common sculptures captured in stone, ceramics or glass.
Advent Day 24
Angel memorials probably stand out as the most prominent memorials as any walk through the great Victorian cemeteries will reveal. There are numerous angels, bowing or standing over the graves of loved ones. In our church windows angels are captured in vibrant boiled sweet colours that burst onto the floor as the sun light passes through. And of course angels are part of the battlefields of war, standing over the fighting men and captured on war memorials as guardians. The Angel of the North is a contemporary sculpture, designed by Anthony Gormley and located in Gateshead England. Standing 20m tall it is the largest statue in Europe and the largest statue of an angel in the world.
Angels and religion.
The angel was recognized in Judaism and Islam as a supernatural being, a celestial messenger between God and the people. The word angel comes from the Latin meaning messenger.
After the birth of Christ, the Bible tells us of many interactions between angels and humans. The angel was the spirit of God on Earth and therefore the presence of angels a very powerful thing. They have human form but have wings and except for a few Gabriel and Michael have no names. The belief is that they are spirits with no gender, although that has been portrayed differently in more modern times. Modern angels are more likely to be portrayed as female and we see fewer of the warrior angels. Many religions believe that angels are the spirits of people who are dead or yet to be reborn. The idea of each person having a guardian angel is also a belief in some religions and societies.
In art the angel is a thing of beauty and the faces on the grave memorials are always benignly beautiful. Most of the angels are also depicted with wings, pointing to their connection with heaven and higher places that mortal man cannot reach. Memorial angels are nearly always serene looking. When they appear grumpy or fed up, it is most likely the sculptor was trying to depict sorrow but missed the mark somewhat.
Some of the most glorious angels appear in C19th and C20th stained glass and of these the loveliest of them all are the Tiffany angels.