The new statues include Aslan the Lion, the White Witch, and Mr. Tumnus.
The 12th-century St. Mary’s Church in Beverley, England, is preparing to replace the old, weathered sculptures that adorned its facade and roof with new stone carvings that depict characters from the Chronicles of Narnia, by the English writer C.S. Lewis. The statues were blessed at a ceremony led by Alison White, Anglican Bishop of Hull, and will be displayed at ground level for a time before their installation.
Smithsonian Magazine reports that the medieval-era church’s leaders came to the decision to replace the original statues after launching a large-scale restoration effort. Their original intention was to replicate the statues already in place, but closer examination revealed that they were too worn to identify. With no photographic records of the designs, leaders were forced to seek out alternatives.
Hoping to crowdsource some inspiration for new designs, the church began accepting submissions from local art students. That’s when they were taken by one artist’s depiction of Mr. Tumnus, the fictional faun who befriended Lucy in Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. They soon decided to replace the statues with a whole series of Lewis-themed carvings, which, according to Smithsonian Magazine, include Aslan the Lion, the White Witch, and Reepicheep the talking mouse.
Published between 1950 and 1956, the Chronicles of Narnia are celebrated children’s books that are also widely considered to be Christian allegory. The decision will meld the medieval heritage of England with the one of the most culturally influential works of English fiction of the 20th century.
In an interview with The Guardian, Rev. Becky Lumley, the vicar of St. Mary’s Church, noted that the series of novels, which centers around a group of siblings who had been evacuated from London to escape the Blitz, is still a story that today’s youth can connect with. She said:
“The story has much resonance for today. Our children [have been] in a very different kind of lockdown to that of the second world war, but they too need to imagine new possibilities and hope. These books are not just for children, they contain incredible truth which helps many Christians today reflect on our own understanding of God and faith.”
The Guardian report also noted that St. Mary’s sought and received permission from the estate of Lewis before creating the sculptures. While some of the 14 commissioned statues have been finished and blessed, others are still in production.