The SPIRAL SYMBOL is fifty centuries old. The ancient peoples of Ireland were skilled in astronomy and they related to the mystery of the divine presence in the world through the sun, moon and stars and through nature.
The elongated spiral in the tapestry is a symbol for God the Father. The spiral evokes power, energy, creation, immensity, the “still centre of the turning world.”
From out of the symbol for the Father comes the HOLY SPIRIT, in bird-like shape descending. The shape is in the form of a spiral and is energized after the manner of the Celtic Irish schools. Here the symbolism is attempting to suggest Incarnation: the interpretation of spirit and matter.
The Lord and Giver of Life enters through four natural elements: Air, Water, Fire and Earth. Air precedes the bird-like shape of the Spirit like waves. Water is on the left; Fire to the right, and Earth surrounds the Celtic Cross.
As the eye is led into the Celtic Cross, the three major symbols – SPIRAL, BIRD AND CROSS – are united to complete the presence of the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Celtic CROSS is a unique symbol in Christendom. Christian legend has it that one day St. Patrick was by the sea-shore discussing the nature of God with the Druids. They drew a circle in the sand, symbol of their Sun God, which Patrick understood very well from the days of his captivity in Ireland.
Then he “baptized” their circular symbol by gently tracing the Cross of Christ into the circle. He was careful not to destroy their circle but, in a sense, to fulfil it. In this Icon the Celtic Cross is symbolized in “mandala” form. The word “mad\ndala” in Sanskrit means both “circle” and “centre.” The richness of the colours evoke
the splendour of the cosmic Christ and the hidden glory of his presence in the world. It also mediates themes of Transfiguration, Resurrection and Uncreated Light.
The Little Snail
To remind us that the great transcendent God is also immanent in all creation, the great spiral at the top is echoed and counter-pointed at the bottom by the snail, macro to micro. You will have to look for the little creature where the Icon-Tapestry disappears behind the tabernacle. The children, we can be sure, will soon find it!
The FREMANTLE ICON-TAPESTRY contains within its symbolism the most profound teachings of the Church.
Australian wool is used throughout. Perhaps some of this wool came from sheep reared and sheared by descendants of Irish stock? The wheel of Fate spinning full circle!
The wool comes to Ireland – to be spiritualized into a holy Icon. It is blessed and returned with love to enrich the church of St. Patrick in Fremantle!
Properly cared for, Icon-Tapestries such as this one will have a life span of up to five centuries.
The Re-Production of the Icon:
A Massive Undertaking
V’SOSKE JOYCE STUDIOS LTD near Oughterard, Co. Galway, has been hand-tufting carpets and
tapestries since the V’Soske family established the company in 1957 in the United States.
They relocated in the West of Ireland in 1978.
The company has an international clientele ranging from the Dorchester Hotel in London, to Government Buildings in Dublin, to the palaces of the royal families in the Middle East.
The Fremantle Icon-Tapestry gave V’Soske Joyce the opportunity to make their largest ever wall-hanging. It measures some 50 square metres and weighs almost one tonne.
Because of the problems associated with hanging a tapestry of this size, the Production Director, Mr Gerry Dixon, came to Fremantle to supervise the hanging and to design the layout of the gripper to be used.
The Making of an Icon
The artist-designer, Desmond Kyne, comments: “My initial fears that this Icon-Tapestry would never get properly made were unfounded. I found at V’Soske Joyce Studios a team of craftsmen who were willing and able to work to the most exacting standards.
“My working relationship with the company was most educational. We got on well together, by God’s grace, and came to respect and understand one another. Something came into being, a happening, if you like, that was quite different from anything they had experienced hitherto. Shapes and colours and textures, light and shade, were all used in different ways than in the making of a carpet. What I am trying to describe was a subtle process, emanating from the spiritual form of the Icon itself, and the symbols that are in it.”
Art Transcending Craft
“What distinguishes a work of art is the quality of tension that is in it, and on which it depends for its intrinsic energy and vitality and cohesiveness. This innate quality – a spiritual dynamic – is both linear and colour balance related.
“Twelve men in all worked alongside me at different stages in its production. At times I felt like a conductor, with a world class orchestra before me, and each one had at least two decades of continous unbroken craftsmanship, and their hands were holy, hallowed by patient endeavour. Those hands were forever trembling on the borders where art transcends craft, and where wonders can be worked, and I was very much alive to it. At the end, we all knew how much the Lord and Giver of Life had graced us with His presence.”