Following the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and protests around the country demanding that confederate statues be removed because of their sullied past, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to hear such tales cropping up in other countries as well. The latest concerns a Catholic school in Australia which was forced to cover up the statue of a 16th-century saint for its suggestive undertones.
The statue in question is that of Martin De Porres, a lay brother of the Dominican Order who was beatified by the Pope in 1837 and is the patron saint of mixed-race people, barbers, innkeepers, public health workers, and all those seeking racial harmony. He was also noted for establishing an orphanage, a children’s hospital, and generally working for the betterment of the poor.
Set up at the Blackfriars Priory School in suburban Adelaide, the statue depicts De Porres handing a loaf of bread to a little boy. The little boy can be seen gleefully looking up at the saint and accepting the offering. However, because of the way it has been sculpted, it appears to portray something different entirely.
Once the unfortunate gaffe was brought to the attention of the school administration, it was promptly covered up with a black shroud. The statue was then placed behind a blackened fence, with the curious series of events catching the attention of Twitterati and netizens, some of whom were confused as to how it was even put up in the first place, to others who were amused at the half-hearted attempt at a cover-up.
Simon Cobaic, the principal of the school, posted an apology on Facebook and explained the series of decisions that led to the blunder. He wrote: “The statue was sculptured in Vietnam by the same sculptor who created the St Dominic statue on the front lawn of our School. The sculpture is a famous depiction of the tireless work of St Martin de Porres, a Dominican brother, for the poor and downtrodden of the 16th Century.”
However, while the motive was undoubtedly pure, the execution was less than exemplary. He continued: “The two-dimensional concept plans for the statue were viewed and approved by the Executive Team in May but upon arrival, the three-dimensional statue was deemed by the Executive to be potentially suggestive.”