Flying buttress figurine: James the Lesser

copy of flying buttress statue of James the Lesser in Muschelkalk limestone

Two Jameses

The next flying buttress figurine of St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem was one from the series of apostles of arc no. 16. It represents a heavily built man with a club. This could either be Judas Thaddeus, or James the Lesser. He was called the Lesser because he became an apostle later than James the Greater. The other James was, along with his brother the apostle and evangelist John, a son of Zebedee, a fisherman. They were inspecting their nets when Jesus arrived and asked them to become fishers of men.

Brother of the Lord

copy of flying buttress statue of James the Lesser in Muschelkalk limestoneBut James the Lesser was called "brother of the Lord". Then how is that possible? Well, according to the Medieval stories, that everyone knew in those days, the carpenter Joseph had been married before and he had a number of children from that marriage, but his wife had died. He was a widower when the young girl Mary (Miriam) came to live under his protection. She took care of the children, and especially James was very fond of her because he was very young when he lost his mother. Maria was about 14 years old when she came out from the temple protection to live with Joseph. Her father and mother, Joachim and Anna, had miraculously been gifted child in their advanced age and therefore entrusted her to God as a temple maiden. So she was brought up very pure and trained in high spiritual knowledge.

When she was 16 years old, she suddenly turned out to be pregnant and Joseph wanted to distance himself from her, but the angel confided to him that she was carrying a great miracle. He decided to marry her. Mary became the mother of Jesus, and James grew up with him. He was at least seven years older, but was among his most faithful disciples.

Club

copy of flying buttress statue of James the Lesser in Muschelkalk limestoneThe club that the apostle James carries with him shows a different way of thinking that was common in the Middle Ages. Emphasis was placed on the suffering and martyrdom of Jesus and of his apostles and saints, therefore, the club with which he was put to death was given a prominent place in the depictions of James. Now this is not a Medieval statue at all, but made in 1956 by Eduard van Kuilenburg. In the Dutch language book on the sculpture of the Eusebius Church Elisabeth den Hartog and Ronald Glaudemans write that the themes for the sculpture were presented by Arnhem city archivist Mr Schaap. That could explain why Van Kuilenburg gave the saints such traditional attributes.

Traditionally, James the Lesser was sometimes depicted with a fuller's stick instead, a heavy piece of wood that was used to felt wool, because he was supposedly been beaten to death with it. So who else could have become the patron saint of all wool felters other than James? Those inimitable twists of thoughts of those Medieval people though…

Today we would be more interested in the life and works of such an apostle than in his martyrdom. The lurid details and emphasis on martyrdom for the Church are definitely from another time.

 

on to the next flying buttress figurine→

Beeldhouwerijblog.nl is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well: beeldhouwerijvanvelzen.nl

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