iconspirit studios the website of Karen Blampied, iconographer
About the Parish Saints
During 2010 I set myself an amazing local project. I wrote an icon of each of the 12 parish saints of Jersey. The title for this iconographic project comes from Psalm 16.
All my delight is in your Saints.
The faithful who dwell in your land.
The lines have fallen for me in
I have been given a welcome heritage.
The twelve Parish Saints are so much part of Jersey’s heritage that these Saints’ names have been an integral part of our Island’s past and present, its community boundaries and identity. But who are these Saints and why have their names been used in the naming of Jersey’s twelve Parish Churches and consequently the communities that surround them?
One thing we do know is that Jersey was at the crossroads of Celtic and Roman saints. These saints brought a great wealth of spirituality to the island, their witness is a tribute to the history of Christianity as it spread throughout these islands. AH Evans noted that “ in an effort to prevent new churches being dedicated to saints and martyrs of local fame not necessarily recognised by the church, Pope Hilary (461-468) decreed that dedications should be only to the Saviour, John his Precursor, Mary His Mother, Peter his Apostle and Lawrence his Deacon.[i]
All of these exist in Jersey but so too does the hermit Saint Helier and martyr Saint Clement, the Celtic monk Saint Brelade, the Archbishop of Rouen Saint Ouen and the Bishop Saint Martin de Tours. As well as these we have the great Godhead concept of Faith in the Holy Trinity.
The name of each parish church gives us an insight into its Patron Saint. They provide a combination of story, legend and historical facts that weave an intriguing community story and identity for the island of Jersey. Whenever I think of St Ouen, I think of it as my grandfather Winter John Le Boutillier’s, parish so when it came to researching and designing the icon of St Ouen I have been warmly reminded of my grandfather. But who was St Ouen?
The finished icons will be 52cm X 42cm made out of recycled wood, a pew from Holy Trinity church. All natural materials have been used to write the icon each having a theological meaning. The whole process of writing an icon is a theological journey, from the bare wood of the crucifixion to the luminous colours of the resurrection.
Saint Helier was a hermit monk living in Jersey in the 6th Century. His legend tells the story of his ascetic lifestyle, starving himself for years. From his vantage point on Hermitage Rock he would look out across the bay and signal to the shore if there were marauding attackers approaching. Finally he is said to have been beheaded by one such group of attackers and despite his frail body he was able to pick up his head and walk to shore.
Writing an icon of St Helier
My challenge was to interpret all this information about Helier into an icon. I chose to depict him standing in front of the St Helier Hermitage Rock, as we know it today. His head lies on the sea shore and the offending axe is propped up against a rock. Helier wears the robes of an ascetic monk, one of this hands points to his decapitated head and the other is held in an iconographic gesture that proclaims the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ
Here is my initial drawing.
During St Helier week the 12th to 17th July I was artist in residence in St Helier at All Saints Church and will be happy to share with you the richness found in writing an icon, especially the icon of Saint Helier.
From Article for Les Laurentins magazine
Saint Lawrence was Archdeacon of Rome during the persecution of Christians. He was martyred on the 10h August 258 by being roasted on a gridiron and is said to have shown no sign of suffering, he was however, heard to say. “Turn me; I am done on this side.”
My challenge was to interpret all the
information about Lawrence into an icon. I chose to depict him with
a church in his left hand and a thurible in his right. Both show
that as a deacon he was at the service of the church. In the icon is
the legendary gridiron, and in the top left hand corner the hand of
God can be seen bestowing a blessing on Lawrence, a martyr in heaven
for the church on earth.
The finished icon is 52cm X 42cm made out of recycled wood, a pew from Holy Trinity church. All natural materials have been used to write the icon each having a theological meaning. The whole process of writing an icon is a theological journey, from the bare wood of the crucifixion to the luminous colours of the resurrection.
An Icon of Saint Mary
Article for the St Mary’s magazine Saint Mary of the Burnt Monastery
Writing an icon of St Mary of the Burnt Monastery
I have taken some of these such as ‘Our Lady who Points the Way’, ‘Our Lady of the Burning Bush’ and ‘Our Lady Enthroned’. I have interpreted them into an icon that depicts the Church’s name Saint Mary of the Burnt Monastery.
An Icon of Saint Ouen Article Originally Written for Lé Gris Ventre.
The patron saint of Saint Ouen’s Parish Church is Saint Ouen de Rouen. (Latin Audaenus). He was born around 609 in Sancy, France, into a Gallo-Roman family and died in Clichy-la-Garenne on the 24th August 683, the date on which his feast day is now celebrated.
Ouen’s childhood was a privileged one, his father, St Authaire made sure his son was well educated at the Abbey of St Medard. Ouen showed a great talent for learning and as a result of this he was welcomed into the court of Clothaire II and his successor Dagobert I, who made him chancellor as did Clovis. Dagobert persuaded Ouen not to become a monk and charged him with important missions. At the Royal court Ouen found a faithful friend Eloi, together they served Dagobert, but at his death they both felt released from their duties and left the court.
As a layman, Ouen took up theological study and actively promoted his Christian religion. As a statesman and theologian he encouraged learning and the founding of new monasteries. In 634/6 Ouen himself founded the Abbey of Rabais on land donated by Dagobert and Clovis. In 641 Ouen was finally ordained a priest and was consecrated Archbishop of Rouen. The diocese was transformed under his administration especially in his ordering the worship of false gods to cease.
Ouen was known for his austerity and charity and did much to combat simony convoking the Synod of Chalons in 644. Ouen supported many missionary activities, sending missionaries to the pagans. Shortly after negotiating peace between Neustria and Austrasia in Cologne he became ill and died.
Saint Ouen, who survived Saint Eloi, wrote the life of his friend, in it he gave valuable information on the moral and religious education of that time. It is one of the most authentic historical documents of the 7th Century.[ii]
Writing an icon of St Ouen.
My challenge was to interpret all this historical information about St Ouen into an icon. What were archbishops wearing in those days? Since St Ouen wrote about St Eloi what did 7th Century calligraphy look like? And what did he write about St Eloi that could be relevant for today? I found several existing images of St Ouen and icons of similar saints of his era.
I then did my initial drawings. I felt it was important to include a scriptorium and a portion of St Ouen’s 7th Century text in the icon, I also decided to take calligraphy classes so that I could write in the Onciale text of that time. Looking at the priestly garments I realised that I could include the parish crest as a motif on the chasuble. The final drawing conformed to the canons of iconography. The spiritual flow lines enabled the eye to look at the theological information of the icon, especially the raised hand of St Ouen which spells the letters ICXC- Jesus Christ in Greek.
The 7th Century Texts taken from ‘Vie de Saint Eloi Evêque de Noyon et de Tournai par Saint Ouen’
« Mais j’avoue en toute humilité que les tendres sentiments de mon cœur me guideront dans les lieux où je ne pourrai me rendre à pied. J’irai donc par mes vœux ou je ne puis atteindre par mes paroles. »
« Lui, par l’effet d’une grâce… reçut le nom d’Eloi, qui lui convient parfaitement et qui est comme le miroir de son âme. »
I took my inspiration for this from the ‘five mile road’ with its dunes and sea shore. This led me to include a fishing net draped over Peter’s left shoulder, echoing Christ’s call to him to be a fisher-of-men. In the top left hand corner we see Christ handing Peter the ‘keys’ I therefore was able to include the main aspect of the Parish crest and draw attention to the fact that Peter was given the ‘keys’ to the Kingdom of God. In my final drawing I will also include a cockerel, so much part of Peter’s struggle to understand his own faith. A faith that overcame all doubt and is an inspiration to us all.
The finished icon will be 52cm X 42cm made out of recycled wood, a pew from Holy Trinity church. All natural materials have been used to write the icon each having a theological meaning. The whole process of writing an icon is a theological journey, from the bare wood of the crucifixion to the luminous colours of the resurrection. To find out more, please visit St Peter’s Church during the week of the 21st to 26th June I will be artist in residence at that time and will be happy to share with you the richness found in writing an icon, especially the icon of Saint Peter.