Who was Chad?
Chad is the saint and bishop to whom Lichfield Cathedral is dedicated. Born to a noble family around 634, he was educated on Lindisfarne and spent time as Bishop of York and Abbot of Lastingham. When he was appointed Bishop of Mercia, one of the most powerful Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, Chad chose to centre his administration in Lichfield. He founded a church and a community here in 669 which became the religious heart of the kingdom.
Chad died in 672, much loved and revered. Bishop Hedda, his successor, consecrated the first cathedral in Lichfield on his burial site on Christmas Day 700. The shrine of St Chad grew quickly in importance and became one of the three most important centres of mediaeval pilgrimage in the country.
|‘A holy man, of modest character, well-read in the Scripture, anddiligently practising those things which he had learned therein.’The Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People (completed around 731).
Lichfield Cathedral commissioned sculptor Peter Walker, to create a major new public sculpture of Lichfield’s patron saint.
Made of bronze and standing 3m tall in The Close facing Dam Street to welcome visitors and pilgrims to the Cathedral, he holds a representation of the Cathedral’s famous 8th century St Chad Gospels in one hand with his other hand raised in blessing.
Famous for his holiness and humility, Chad maintained a life of poverty and simplicity and preferred to walk to all parts of his huge diocese than to ride. In the sculpture he is seen almost in motion, about to set out from the Cathedral behind him to draw people into its community.
Why a statue?
Big public sculptures help to define a place and tell a story, they become landmarks in their own right. Lichfield Cathedral owes its origins to St Chad (c634-672) the first Bishop of Lichfield. His body was reburied on the site of the Cathedral in a small Saxon Church (St Peter’s) and the Church was consecrated on Christmas Day in 700. Chad became one of the most loved of the English saints and people flocked to his tomb to pray for and seek healing. At the height of the middle ages, Lichfield was a hugely popular place of pilgrimage ranking alongside Canterbury with Becket’s tomb and Walsingham. The whole City of Lichfield was laid out to provide for the needs of pilgrims and many of the City’s street names are attributable to sights and customs associated with pilgrimage.
St Chad was famed for his Christian energy – walking vast distances and choosing to walk so that he could talk and engage with people wherever they were. He taught and lived the good news of Jesus Christ (the gospel) with great sincerity and conviction. Without Chad Lichfield would be a very different place. The people who came to the Cathedral in previous centuries are not so different in their needs and hopes from the people who visit now. Religious commitments might be different but people still seek answers to life’s questions, they seek beauty and inspiration, holy space where thanks can be given or sorrow expressed.
Pilgrimage has again become popular – time out to walk, reflect, meet others on similar journeys and share life stories. The new sculpture of St Chad is designed as a welcome to everyone who comes to Lichfield Cathedral. St Chad is depicted as if he is on a journey of his own. One hand raised in blessing, the other holding the book of the Gospels opened and ready to share the story of Jesus Christ. The same offer of blessing and invitation to share the story being told by Chad is depicted by the statue.