Sydney March 2014 (5 photos)
In the arms of the angel
fly away from here
from this dark cold hotel room
and the endlessness that you fear
you are pulled from the wreckage
of your silent reverie
you’re in the arms of the angel
may you find some comfort here
“Angel” (sometimes mis-titled as “In the Arms of an Angel” or “Arms of the Angel”) is a song by Sarah McLachlan that originally appeared on her 1997 album Surfacing. As McLachlan explained, the song is about the Smashing Pumpkins touring keyboard player Jonathan Melvoin, who overdosed on heroin and died in 1996.
I was photographing this interesting memorial when I saw a guided cemetery tour approaching. I was certain they were coming to this memorial so I moved away. Indeed, the group stopped at this memorial and having stayed close enough, I was fortunate to overhear the guide state that this was the most photographed memorial in the cemetery. He also mentioned a few other facts that offered an interesting perspective into this memorial, and which I’ve since been able to research.
The memorial is in remembrance of an Irish woman who was orphaned at an early age, of devout religious parents. Sent to Australia to live with an aunt, as per her parent’s wishes she became a nun with the Sisters of Charity at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney. Whilst at the hospital as a nurse, she met and fell in love with a young doctor. The doctor had actually been sent far away to Australia by his parents, apparently being the black sheep of his family. They decided to elope and she escaped the convent at nightfall by climbing the walls as the Mother Superior exclaimed “This woman is married to God!”. The very next day this Catholic couple married in a Protestant ceremony. A major scandal in its day, they were shunned by the establishment and ex-communicated from the Catholic Church. Temporarily, they left for the doctor’s place of birth, Italy.
The young doctor later went on to become a surgeon, a war hero, a pioneer of cancer surgery, a president of the British Medical Association in NSW, and one of the fathers of the Australian wine industry. He served in both the Italian and Australian armies at different times.
It is said that the former nun occasionally “helps out” in the wards of St Vincent’s Hospital. Although it’s been years since the Grey Nurse was last sighted, nurses used to recall that things would mysteriously get done while they were on night duty such as adjustments to drips. Many patients have also told of the calming presence of the Sister in Grey by their bedside which gave them much comfort.
“The Grey Lady. She was really a nun. Our saying was she leapt over the wall and married a doctor. And she came back in reparation. She has done remarkable things in this building.” source
The depiction of the angel and the boy are quite remarkable. The larger than life statue is quite open to interpretation and conjecture. I’ve read that viewing the statue from different sides can convey different meanings. I hope this little background perspective helps your own interpretation.
117 thoughts on “In the arms of the angel”
Gorgeous set Draco.
How do you do that the statue is so detached from the background?
Is not only a question of depth of field, is a part of your post treatment?
Have a lovely evening
You’re completely correct. Wide aperture, real separation of subject from foreground, and added structure in post processing to point of interest.
Thanks Sophie. Have a wonderful day ahead.
Thank you for this explantations.
You’re welcome. 🙂
Beautiful. Ta, very much!
Beautiful shots and a great story. You got lucky with being there as the tour approached and were able to listen in.
Thanks. It was fortuitous. Otherwise I would not have thought to look further into the background of it all.
Thanks for the back story and graceful images. Love the B&W and contrast.
Thank you kindly. It is a very interesting story.
Nice image 🙂
Amazing shots here and a wonderful story…although the statue itself is a bit creepy.
Thank you. As you say, there is a dark interpretation to the statue that others have mentioned.
Beautiful photos!!! The lighting really makes the statues look so lifelike and three-dimensional. I really get a feeling like i was there too! It’s a very beautiful post overall! 😀
Thank you very much. It is very impressive. I only came upon it by chance.
I don’t remember ever seeing cemetery statues captured so beautifully. I have spent about 15 minutes here just staring. Do you like Smashing Pumpkins?
Thank you very much Paula.
I tend to pick and choose songs, rather than faithfully follow bands, but yes there are some of their songs I like.
P.S. The last shot with the view, and sea in the background is my favourite; and the sky in the first one.
Both were my picks too. I wasn’t sure which one to use as my featured image but the sky won. 🙂
Great story and very powerful photos!
Thank you. I had to spend a while trying to work out the best angles to shoot.
Lovely photos. 🙂
Great photography from this strong memorial.
Thank you. There are very few mourners here. Mostly joggers, photographers and occasional guided tours. It is a very old but scenic cemetery.
Amazing and fascinating. Cemeteries are treasure troves. I think you and I are in synchronicity today. 😉
My thoughts exactly after reading your interesting post about the Countess. There’s a lot of history to be “unearthed”.
the light is a m a z i n g … these look almost 3D to me…
Thank you kindly. I brought out the structure in these images to get that effect, along with using depth of field. Next post in colour. Promise!
thanks for the interesting and informative article.
beautiful set of pictures, they look so lifelike – almost 3D!
the photos do convey a different meaning from different perspective, i like 4 best, the love and compassion is so intense.
Thank you kap. I guess everyone will have their own interpretation. I was really struck by the impressive nature of the statue first, then I started to wonder what it meant as it seemed a little dark.
Reblogged this on rebloggobbler.
From someone who is rarely lost for words, I’ll take that as a big compliment. 🙂
Wow!!! I love it!!! The angel is wonderful…I find it full of passion…Very human…It is the first time I see such a lively monument in a cemetery…And the story is great!!!! Thanks a lot for sharing this L.D.
Sorry I did not comment your previous posts, but I am far from home and the internet conexión is terrible!!!
No problem at all. Thanks for visiting whilst you were travelling. 🙂
Monuments like these don’t tend to be built much anymore here. A sign of the times I guess.
Very nice Black & White !
Thank you very much.
Marvellous, LD – quite marvellous. I, of course, knew nothing of this: unless one happens to be a wandering photog. with camera which provides reason to enter a cemetary, one doesn’t, really. So I’m most grateful for the b.g. info as well; but the pic.s …!
Thank you kindly.
The cemetery is known for its Victorian and Edwardian monuments. They conduct tours. Famous graves include Henry Lawson, Jules Archibald (Archibald fountain and prize fame), Henry Kendall, Dorothea Mackellar, Lawrence Hargrave, Olympic swimmer Fanny Durack, and New South Wales Premier Sir James Martin. Other notable graves, the state’s first salaried executioner, and Sydney crime figure George Freeman, and over 200 war graves.
I stay away from cemetaries. Whilst Chic wasn’t buried, they’re too close for comfort.
What a fascinating story. Thanks for sharing it along with your beautiful photos.
Thank you very much.
It’s beautiful! An intriguing story too.
Thank you. Yes, I found the story interesting, particularly as in one of the articles I read, the story has been corroborated by people I know.
Oh I love the story! and what a wonderful memorial.
Thank you. The background story reads like a movie plot in a way, doesn’t it?
Yes it really does! 🙂
I so love this song, and Lignum, these photographs are so beautiful.
Lots of emotion here.
Thank you Lisa. It is a beautiful song, full of emotion. A perfect match for this memorial.
Wow! These pictures are over-the-top terrific. Don’t care how cool the subject matter is–it’s what you do with it. However…that is the single creepiest, most disturbing piece of memorial art I believe I have ever seen. And you’ve left me looping that song around in my head. Aghh!
But the series is stunning.
Thanks. I went for a more dramatic presentation, kind of like a movie which is how the background story sounds to me.
You’re not the first one to describe this as disturbing. One reference thought this was a depiction of the Archangel who sucks the soul from the body at the moment of death. Or is just a simple kiss? They don’t make monuments like this anymore.
A soul-sucking archangel.
Yeah…I’m sleeping with the lights on tonight. 🙂
Sweet dreams. 🙂
Awesome photo series and article. Great work, thank you very much for sharing and the inspiration!
Thank you for the encouragement. Much appreciated.
……… and dragonshades is responding. As a sculptor I tend to like the back views of sculptures and this one is no exception. Love the photography.
Thank you. Most people just concentrate on the front don’t they?
This is the challenge of sculpting that it should have a balance and meaning at every angle. Computer created sculptures are perfect and tend to have an alien vibe like mannequins in a shop window. Living creatures are never symmetrical and that is the wonderful challenge to create an object that is asymmetrical but not distorted. My favourite sculptor is Medardo Rosso. His touching ability to merge emotion and the human form with cosmic abstract.
A really interesting post and I love the photos.
Thank you very much. It was chance discovery and such an amazing legacy.
Graceful pictures and back story. The song, Angel, is on my mind now…
You are an angel. Thank you. 🙂
Stunning, gorgeous, breathtaking! Thanks for sharing : )
You’re welcome. Thank you! 🙂
Thank you very much. 🙂
I love the song Angel. It’s been so long since I heard it! I like the last photo the best. I see hope in this picture, anything is possible out there in this dark, dark world of ours 🙂
Hope springs eternal.
What a story! Just few of us are bold enough to follow our heart for cost is big enough. But I still believe it’s the only right way to go.
It was a very very brave decision for the two of them, and particularly the young nun to elope and marry. But in the end, they were happy.
What an interesting piece! It’s beautiful!
Thank you. It’s even more impressive in real life.
I bet! How tall is it?
It’s on a pedestal at the head of a grave. At a guess, over 6 feet.
Spectacular photos, Draco! Before I read the story I’d thought that the first photo is really scary with a sky like thi in the background.
But the story itself is amazing, so cinematic really! Thank you for telling it!
And of course I can’t help saying the last pic is fantastic. It seems to me as if it’s not the sky but the sea surface above the ground. A bit surrealistic, I know, but nevertheless the photo is great!
It does seem like a movie script. The clouds do look like waves in that last one. I was lucky with the cloud formations.
Thank you very much.
Thank your for sharing this amazing story.
Lignum, your breathtaking photos along with the details gave me goosebumps and brought back memories of a wonderful story I heard not so long go on the radio here in NY –
http://themoth.org/posts/episodes/1003 – it’s the story of Darry “DMC” McDaniels and his Angel, Sarah McLachlan . . . . hope you are able to access it!
Everything happens for a reason. Thanks Patti, I was able to listen to it – was it during one of his concerts?
An amazing story and the tag at the end caught me by completely by surprise. I had to go and see their song “Just like me” on youtube. Angel is such a powerful song.
Thank you for that story – fascinating! 🙂 And your pictures are really amazing, so life like and dramatic, I feel like I’m there! It does seem to look different depending on the angle. In one picture I thought the angel was breathing life into the boy, and then in another it looks like a kiss. I can see why it’s the most photographed memorial in the cemetery – it’s totally captivating!
I love that Sarah McLachlan song, such emotion! And I can see why, now that you’ve explained what the meaning behind the words are. Very interesting, and gives even more feeling to the song when you know that! 🙂
Thank you. Some people have interpreted this in more sinister ways, but I think that’s just their personal view. Why would a devoted husband build a memorial with sinister connotations?
Now I understand that song better too, and it tugs at the heartstrings.
Stunning treatment of this memorial! And you chose the perfect song to accompany the photos. I can’t believe I’ve never seen this statue in all the times I’ve walked through that cemetery. I shall go hunting this weekend, though I know my results will never match these.
Thanks. It’s actually in plain sight (once you know what you’re looking for).
That’s a fascinating story. Your photographs add a compelling aspect too. Beautiful!
I found it very interesting too. And then one of the articles quoted someone I know, which made it all the more real.
Impressive photos Draco and I am always fascinated by your stories. Really enjoyed it all and that memorial is so beautiful!
Thank you very much Elina. The history is fascinating.
More reason for me to come and see your beautiful country. Awesome photos and moving story. I enjoyed reading it. I hope they learnt never to brand people as black sheep!
Thank you. And the accomplishments of the children and descendants of these “black sheep” adds to their remark ability. People are too quick to judge.
I hope you do get to come down under one day. 🙂
la vita ci riserba sempre sorprese!
il tuo angelo sembra distaccarsi dal pc e volare
the life there is reserving always surprises!
your Angel seems to move away from the pc and fly
La ringrazio molto per i vostri commenti generosi.
Thank you very much for your generous comments.
Hard to pick my favorite out of the last three, but all of them are striking!
Thank you very much.
A deeply moving story and stunning images! What magnificent light in each and every one…extraordinary!
Thank you very much.
It remembers me Doctor Who: Don’t blink! 🙂
Very clever! I didn’t see any warning signs:
“Don’t Blink. Blink and you’re dead. Don’t turn your back. Don’t look away. And don’t Blink. Good Luck.”
Brilliance as always. Stunning pictures are pure joy to my eyes.
Sorry for the delayed reply. For some reason your comment was in my spam bin. It seems to be happening with a few others too. Something wrong in WordPress land.
Thank you very much for the kind comment.
It is so rare to see you posting these many photos in a post and thanks for sharing all angles and perspective including researching the outrageous (at the time) story. It’s beautiful and sad at the same time. Your photos are stunning and kept me scrolling up and down and finally after a long time, I think I like the first one with the sky best. It seemed befitting. This is an emotion invoking post. Thanks, I thoroughly enjoyed loitering here (although I won’t spend this much time if I were in the actual cemetery), lol…
If I posted this many photos in one post regularly, i’d run out of photos very quickly. 🙂
This cemetery is on the coast. Joggers and walkers come through everyday. But I understand what you’re saying.
Thank you very much.
Wonderful story, once I´ve gone to cremona (Italy) for finding an angel, but I missed to look at the cemetry. Your pics remind me, and you´ve made a great job, I think!
Thank you. I hope you found your angel.
Wow, what an amazing set, your handling of B&W is impressive!
And a great story to match, but for me the photos are the winner 😉
Thanks for sharing, Ron.
Thank you. The interesting story is the icing on the cake. This is a very interesting sculpture. 🙂
Amazing post! Your last photo is majestic, Dragon! It wrapped up the love story beautifully…
Thank you. I try to remember to photograph from all angles. There is so much detail in the work, not just on the front.
Stunning post ! Everything is perfect !
Thank you. 🙂
I love this post as much as the first time. Thanks; Draco.
Thank you kindly, Paula.
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