Wednesday, March 26


America Needs More Napping Wax Virgin Martyrs

The interior of St. Vibiana's Cathedral, Los Angeles, during its heyday. At the summit of the great reredos is a recument wax figure of the virgin-martyr patron of the church and archdiocese, draped in an appropriately grandiose Mediterranean fashion across her bier. The United States could use a few more napping wax virgin-martyrs, as they always make churches more interesting, though perhaps also slightly weirder as well--which I suppose makes them the epitome of P.O.D. (If you do not know what is P.O.D., this is P.O.D., and this is not, though the hat might make a very festive oven-mitt.)

A similar example of the genre, from Our Lady of Mount Carmel in East Harlem, New York City. She is perhaps a bit on the sentimental side, or perhaps even mildly alarming, but there is nonetheless a certain charming sleepy meditativeness to her gaze that endears this effigy to me. (Ladies with really great hair, take note: you too can become a saint.)

Wax effigies were also sometimes used in great state funerals in times past, considering the relatively late date of the invention of formaldehyde. One remaining fragment of one, for Good Queen Mary's funeral in 1558, is on display at Westminster Abbey, and remains an interesting curiosity, even if it looks surprisingly cheerful for something supposed to represent a corpse.

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