A European walk through Bordeaux 9
The Cardinal of Manzù.
The bronze bas-relief overlooks the tomb of Paul Marie Alexandre Richaud (1887-1968), archbishop of Bordeaux in 1950 and cardinal in 1958. Against the wall at the base of the tomb, dug into the ground, a black marble plaque bears the epitaph of the cardinal and his coat of arms.
Hommage au cardinal Richaud [tribute to Cardinal Richaud] is the work of the bergamask sculptor Giacomo Manzoni (Bergamo, 22 December 1908-Rome, 17 January 1991), also known as Manzù (Manzoni is Manzù in Bergamo dialect). His signature appears on the relief, in the bottom left.
Self-taught but a professor of sculpture throughout his life, Catholic but close to communism (he was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize in 1965), Manzù began a series of bas-reliefs in bronze in 1939 on the theme of the crucifixion and the deposition where the executioners wear German helmets, which were exhibited in Rome in 1942. He attracted criticism from both the fascist government and the ecclesiastical authorities.
Manzù’s public, monumental and “civil” sculptural work is well-known, notably the Monument to the Partisan in Italy, in his native city of Bergamo, created in 1977. But also his great sculpture, Peace and Justice, created for the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg in the seventies and, in 1989, his last monumental sculpture, Hymn to Life, which stands 6 metres high opposite the United Nations building in New York.
Yet, from the outset, it is around religion that he expressed his originality best. Manzù offers a contemporary version of the inspiration of Ghiberti for the bronze doors, and of Bernini, who was himself a cardinals’ sculptor in another century. Having won a contest, he worked from 1952 to 1964 to create the Gate of Death for St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, which he dedicated to Pope John XXIII. In 1955, he created the central gate of the cathedral of Salzburg, the city where he lived until 1960, and which exhibited his Great Cardinal.
It is a feeling experienced during a visit to St. Peter’s in Rome in 1934, at the sight of the Pope surrounded by two seated cardinals, that determined this recurrent creative process. Two years later, he created his first “cardinal,” but it was a failure and doomed to destruction. Manzù then had to wait until the summer of 1938 to create his first sculpture of a cardinal standing 65 cm high. And so began his long series of “cardinals”, monumental bronze sculptures, hieratic simplified images, pyramidal working drawings of figures wrapped in the conical powerful mass of their cappa magna. The cardinal he exhibited in 1948 won him a Grand Prize at the 24th Biennale di Venezia. By 1959, he had already sculpted more than fifty cardinals, sitting, walking, from small to life-size. Today, no one knows exactly quite how many there were. Sitting, standing or praying, but invariably represented absorbed in meditation, his cardinals can be found in all the major museums of sculpture in the world.
For Bordeaux, the Hommage au cardinal Richaud stele was of a more modest design, but in it are combined both Manzù’s cathedral door bas-relief expertise (seen in the Vatican, in Salzburg, in Rotterdam, in Orvieto, etc.) and the clean lines common to his more monumental works. He has also depicted the face of Cardinal Richaud, stylised but easily recognisable. The Cardinal of Bordeaux does not belong to Manzù’s anonymous series and hence remains – along with the sculpture of Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro, completed in 1953 – one of the few … ….
Epitaphe (gravée, au sol) : Paulus / S. R. E. card. Richaud / 1887-1968. Epitaphe (sur la plaque de marbre) : Ici repose / le cardinal Paul Richaud / 1887-1968 / né à Versailles prêtre en 1913 / évêque auxiliaire en 1934 / évêque de Laval en 1938 / archevêque de Bordeaux en 1950 / pasteur et docteur / il maintint et fit grandir / son église dans la foi / en communion avec / le siège apostolique / il fut un grand apôtre / de la justice sociale / de la charité et de la paix / le 5 février 1968 / il répondit avec confiance / à l' appel du seigneur / qu' il savait proche. Armoiries du cardinal Richaud (au-dessus de l' épitaphe) : [de gueules] à quatre chaînes d' or en sautoir entretenues au coeur par un anneau de même, au chef d' azur chargé d' une étoile d' or accostée de 2 fleurs de lys de même ; devise : Vinctus Christi (Eph. III, 1). Numéro d' inventaire (sur le relief) : BX. 1972 11. 2. 2009/05/20