NJ sculptor behind newly-installed pope statues at St. Patrick's Cathedral

Lauren Glassberg Image
Monday, December 17, 2018
St. Patrick's Cathedral unveils newly-installed pope statues
Lauren Glassberg reports on the pope statues in St. Patrick's Cathedral.

MIDTOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- St. Patrick's Cathedral is both a spiritual and inspirational place for sculptor Carolyn Palmer.

"I was always walking around looking at the sculptures," she said.

Thomas Jefferson, Mario Cuomo and Lucille Ball are some of Palmer's commissions, and then came a holy one -- four popes, whose busts she sculpted at her home in Saddle River, New Jersey.

"Any piece I do in my studio takes on a certain life to them," she said. "And you have to become in communication with who they are in order to bring them to life."

She's communicated with these pontiffs for two years in her own artistic way.

"I worked on all of them in the room and wanted them to have a feel of togetherness," Palmer said.

And now, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II are at the southeast corner vestibule of St. Patrick's Cathedral, while Pope Benedict and Pope Francis are at the northeast one.

All four popes have visited St. Patrick's Cathedral, and they'll now greet many of the cathedral's five million yearly visitors.

"He had the best hair," Palmer said about Pope Benedict.

She said Pope Benedict was the most challenging to sculpt, while Pope John Paul II was a joy to work on.

"He, to me, had the most compassion coming through his eyes," she said. "And that sort of happened that way."

Palmer has never met any of the popes in person. She used freeze frames from videos to capture their essence, each wearing a papal cape and his own cross.

Her sculpture of Pope Francis for the papal residence five years ago inspired this commission, one that makes Palmer feel particularly blessed.

"To have these here, it's just incredible," she said.


* More Manhattan news

* Send us a news tip

* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts

* Follow us on YouTube