Saturday, October 30, 2010

LDS Temple Relief Sculptures

This entry is about temple sculptures other than Angel Moroni statues or other statues.  There are or rather were 2 other statues I know of on one temple.   If you know what I’m talking about, feel free to post a comment.  Either way  I’ll get to that in another blog post about statues on temples and on temple grounds.  For this post I’, focusing on Friezes or bas-relief or any type of relief sculpture for that matter.  Although Nauvoo, Salt Lake and many other temples have sculptures of suns, moons, stars, trumpets, clouds, constellations, earths, tree of lifes, flowers, etc., this post isn’t about them.  I’m writing today about the Laie Hawaii Temple, Mesa Arizona Temple, Oakland California Temple, Newport Beach California Temple and the Cardston Alberta Temple although it is a little different.

 The first temple relief sculpture was on the Laie Hawaii Temple in 1919.  On the four sides of the temple there are friezes that are relief sculpture planned by J. Leo Fairbanks and  built by him and Avard Fairbanks, his brother.  These depict Christ in 4 dispensations, or perhaps more accurately in 4 scriptural periods.  These are:

West - Old Testament
South - New Testament
North - Book of Mormon
East - Latter-day Dispensation (Doctrine and Covenants)

If you live in (or visit) Utah you can see smaller bronze copies of these sculptures (by another artist, I can’t find his name but it was one of the big mormon names, like Knaphus) in the lobby of the new Church History Museum.  During the recent renovation of the Laie Temple they added a waiting room with copies of the sculptures so patrons inside the temple could appreciate the scenes and not just those outside.

The next relief sculpture was at the Cardston Alberta Canada Temple in 1923.  I say “at” because I don’t think this relief is actually on the temple but just the grounds, although I am unsure.  It was originally in front of a pool which has since been removed.  The sculpture by Torlief Knaphus depicts Jesus Christ talking to the woman at the well and even quotes scripture.  If you live in Utah you can see a plaster casting of this sculpture in the lobby of the Provo Utah Temple (with added color!). 

With the previous 2 temples including relief sculptures, a relief frieze was included on the Mesa Arizona Temple in 1927.  This sculpture, also by Torlief Knaphus includes 8 panels, 2 on each corner of the temple, depicting the gathering of Israel from the 4 corners of the earth.  The panels depict gathering scenes of:

Early Latter-day Saints crossing the plains to the Salt Lake Valley
A ship landing with English, Welsh, Irish and Scottish immigrants
Handcart pioneers
Mexicans travelling to Zion
Native Americans gathering
Pacific Islanders (who actually aren’t travelling unlike every other panel)
French, Swiss,  Italians travelling
Continued with Germans and Dutch leaving their homes and heading to Zion

The Mesa Temple also has a lion head on the east side by the baptistery entrance.  It is a fountain.

After the Mesa Temple it took 37 years before the Oakland California Temple included relief sculptures in 1964.  It has a sculpture of Jesus teaching the people in and around Jerusalem during his mortal ministry on the north side of the temple.  On the south side of the temple there is a sculpture of Jesus Christ appearing to the Nephites in the Americas after his resurrection.  I can’t seem to find out who sculpted these scenes, but if you know please tell us in the comments on this post.  This temple also has tree of life sculptures, but they are more of an architectural detail so I might discuss them in a later post.

Most websites and articles say that the Oakland Temple is the last with relief sculptures, but they are simply wrong.  The Newport Beach California Temple built in 2005 has a relief sculpture of Christ appearing to 10 of the 12 apostles after his resurrection.  The sculpture looks like bronze and is above the front doors.  Although smaller than the other sculptures in this article, it is a welcome return to relief sculptures and I hope we see more scenes on new temples.  I don’t know who sculpted the Newport Beach Temple frieze and would really like to know.  LeRoy Transfield sculpted this beautiful sculpture.  If you know any information on this PLEASE COMMENT.

So there you have my discussion of relief sculpture on LDS temples.  We have scriptural scenes (Laie Hawaii, Cardston Alberta, Oakland California and Newport Beach) and latter-day gathering (Mesa Arizona) represented in these fascinating works of art.

If you know of any other temple sculptures (not statues, I’ll deal with them later) please tell us in comments.

-The following is an addition to the original post
I noticed that although the Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple doesn't have relief sculptures on it (unless you count the doors), the grounds are shared with a pioneer cemetery with some nice relief sculptures of Christ, etc. in a style I really like.


Scott said...

Come on, someone comment. I'll have more posts if you do :)

Mom said...

You shouldn't have to stoop to begging, Scott. I find your research fascinating. Keep it up.

Scott said...

Darn straight it's fascinating!

Jon said...

Scott, how the fronff do you know all this stuff??

Scott said...

Jon - I am obsessed with temple stuff. That's why I have interior photos of most temples on my computer.

ashleykk said...

Leroy Transfield made the sculpture above the front doors on the Newport Beach temple. He is married to my cousin. :)

Scott said...

Good to know. Do you have any more information on it or do you know where any articles can be found?

Lewis said...

The people Mesa Arizona Temple friezes are facing so that they progress from the back of the temple (the East or baptistery entrance) to the front (West) entrance. This symbolizes not only the gathering of Israel from the four corners of the earth, as was already stated, but is symbolic of people of all nations coming to the House of the Lord. I have heard, though I cannot find it documented, that the reason the Pacific Islanders are not moving is because by the time the Mesa temple was built, the temple in Hawaii was already in operation. Them not moving is symbolic of establishing Zion in their own lands since they had a temple.

SuperSquirrel said...

The Oakland Temple sculptures have a particularly interesting history. As told to me by several people, one of which was a temple president, the sculptures were some of the last additions to the construction of the temple. When they were to install the stone slabs onto the facade of the temple, the current technology would have required them to either drill into the temple itself or drill holes into the sculptures in order to install them. The sculptor took some time to pray for revelation on how to install the sculptures without damaging them or the temple. Also, he promised the Lord that the device used to install them would not be used for personal or monetary gain and the plans and devices would be destroyed after the installation. The device was revealed to him by the Lord and was subsequently destroyed along with any information about it.