Perhaps the most striking and interesting feature of the church’s exterior, this sculpture in bronze is to be found high on the wall facing the vicarage.

It was designed and made by the sculptor David John and depicts St Basil surrounded by several other figures. These have been selected to represent all the saints from an original plan of 30 or 40 (Though some of them are not truly recognised as Saints), and in the next few pages each is looked at in turn.

The sculpture is important to us for a number of reasons:-

Firstly, it is a visual interpretation in art form of our ecumenical project St Basil & All Saints.

Secondly, the Saints have been drawn from many denominations confirming our idea of togetherness.

And finally, they have been intentionally drawn from times spanning many centuries from ancient to the modern day. This may serve as a reminder to us that god calls people to His service in every age and generation

The diagram below is a key to those represented.

It was commissioned as a result of a donation for ‘a work of art for the new church’. In 1985, Cllr. John Huges, the Mayor of Halton Borough, chose it to appear on his Mayoral Christmas cards.

1. St Basil the Great (c330-379)

Also known as Basil of Ceasarea, whose feast day is the 2nd January according to the Roman Catholic Calendar; 15th June (as Father of the Eastern Church) in the Anglican

Basil’s was an old Christian family of wealth and distinction. His grandmother, father, mother, elder sister and two younger brothers are all remembered as Saints.

He was educated in the schools of Caesarea, Constantinople and Athens. About 357 he visited the chief monastic centres of the East, and then settled as a monk at Annesi. His influence was vast, and the monastic life of the Orthodox Church is still based on the principles he laid down. From 365, St Basil was practically responsible for the diocese of Caesarea, and in 370 was made Bishop there.

He provided an estate that included dwellings, a church, a hospital, and a hospice for travellers, doctors and nurses; all on a scale sufficient to be called a new town.

He is best remembered for his help in bringing to an end the controversy about Arianism, He had stood up against the persecution of Orthodox Christians by the Arian emperor Valens.

Unfortunately, we do not know what St Basil looked like in life. The artist has modelled the figure of Basil on Canon Paul Oestriecher.

2. A Woman and Man of the poor.

Most of those represented on the sculpture are Ordained Priests, and during its design the artist remarked that he was sad that it should be so. He wanted to include a ‘poor Godly heroic’ perhaps a man and his wife from El Salvador or the Philippines as he had recently met on trips.

3 Simone Weil (1909-1943).

Simone was born in Paris 1909. She has been described as a social philosopher and activist, and certainly showed great concern for the social welfare of the working classes, even from an early age. When she was three years old, she refused the gift of a ring, saying she didn’t like luxury; and at the age of five she refused sugar because the French soldiers at the front during World War I had none.

She taught philosophy in several French schools from 1931-36, losing her posts often, usually as a result of disagreements with school boards who would object to some of her extracurricular activities, which included picketing, refusing to eat more than those on relief, and writing for socialist journals.

Her belief in ‘purity’ of manual labour led her to leave teaching and go to work in a factory, where she learned that one of the difficulties in bringing intellectual values to the workplace, was that hard manual labour left one too exhausted to think. One reason for this, she argued, was the alienating, unthinking rhythm of routine factory work.

In 1936 she went to Spain, training for action in the Civil war. Her pacifism would not permit her to fight however, and she became camp cook. After the German invasion of Paris in World War II, Simone moved to Marseilles where she wrote for anti-German resistance journals, and in 1942 she came to England to work with the French resistance. She died in 1943 as a result of voluntary starvation, undertaken to identify herself with the French under occupation.

4. Maria Skobtsova (1981-1945)

Maria, real name Elizaveta Yurievna Pilenko, was born in Riga in Lativia. The Family later moved to Yalta, in the Ukraine. As a young girl she witnessed a number of raids by secret police, who swooped and savagely beat the occupants of the university where her father taught, in retriution for political meetings held there.

She later recalled that when her father died, “My soul yearned for heroic action. I longed to give my life for all the injustice in the world.” Maria was looking for faith. She had a strong compassion for Christ and his suffering, but couldn’t come to terms with religion.

During the First World War she joined The Socialist Revolutionary Party and plotted to assassinate Trotsky. In 1918 she became the first woman Mayor of Anapa, but ignoring politics she set out to care for a flood of homeless refugees. A year later she was thrown into jail charged with collaborating with the Bolsheviks. She was acquitted and within a few weeks had married the president of the tribunal, Daniil Skobtsov. Her first marriage had broken down some time earlier.

They had two more children, and the family travelled o Yugoslavia and then France looking for work. They were one of many extremely poor refugee families who lived in terrible conditions. Her eldest child died as a result. The marriage collapsed and she became involved with the Russian Orthodox Student Christian Movement, Having at least found the faith she had been looking for.

In 1930 she took the work of the movement to the provinces where the drunk, despairing and useless became her special concern. Shortly after, she came to a momentous decision, and received permission to become a nun, albeit she was a married woman with two husbands still living.

There were many refugees in France, many of whom had nowhere to live. Maria rented a house in Paris where people could take refuge and where vagrants were given meals throughout the day. It wasn’t long before a bigger property was needed. Sympathetic traders gave food or Maria herself would travel to the markets on the metro to beg for scraps. She was also the cook, carpenter, decorator, seamstress and icon painter.

Some years later she travelled France surveying the mental institutions for Russian patients. She found a great number, many of whom should never have been there, Homes were found for some and others came to help her at the hostel.

In 1939 with the outbreak of World War II, she refused to flee to the relative safety of America, and Paris fell to the Germans in 1940. The canteen was taken over by the authorities. When Russia was invaded the next years, thousands of Russians in France were rounded up and taken to detention camps. Maria prepared and despatched food parcels and raised funds for their dependants.

With the persecution of the Jews in France, Maria and her Chaplain provided Baptismal Certificates for many non-Christian Jews. Eventually Maria, her son and her Chaplain were sent to concentration camps in Germany. Maria, being used to self-denial, was better equipped than most to cope; and was a great help to other prisoners. In 1944 to commemorate the Allies landing in Normandy, Maria embroidered a cloth using a needle, dye and cable, which they had stolen from their chores.

Maria became desperately ill. The S.S. was anxious to eliminate all traces of their war crimes and began to systematically dispose of all women prisoners who were ill or unable to walk. She managed to avoid the gas chambers for some time. Some eyewitnesses say she finally failed the crude S.S. health testing; others say she volunteered to take the place of another woman, but she was gassed on Easter Eve 1945. The Red Cross gained admittance to the camp the next day and negotiated the immediate release of the remaining 300 women.

5. Winnie Mandela (1935- )

Wife of Nelson Mandela who was the leader of the African National Congress in south Africa. She was sent to jail herself in March 1971 after being found guilty of receiving visitors at he home. A government order had forbidden her to see anyone there except a doctor and her two children. In August 1976 she was among 20 black South Africans picked up by police after rioting in several black townships. She continued for many years to campaign for black rights in South Africa.

6. Gladys Aylward
When Gladys was just thirteen she worked as a parlour maid where, one evening, she heard a missionary give a talk about China. She was so determined to become a missionary there herself that she paid her own fare to get there.

She worked in a village called Yang Cheng where she helped to quell a prison riot and later looked after unwanted children.

In 1938 the Japanese attacked China and Gladys led almost 100 children on a long dangerous journey over the mountains to safety. Later in life she started an orphanage on the Island of Formosa (now Taiwan) and spent her last years working there.

7 Roger of Taize (1915- )
Roger Schultz was born in Switzerland. IT is appropriate that he is seen here at this Roman Catholic/Anglican church because, although his father was a Protestant pastor, he was allowed to live with a Catholic family ad a teenager, and so Roger developed a ecumenical attitude from his earliest years. Perhaps this had some bearing on him being elected president of the Evangelical Student Federation, when he was 24.

A year later Roger bought a house in the French village of Taize, where along with some of his fellow members of the Federation, he helped refugees from occupied France.

After the war Roger and three compatriots began to live a monastic life. Other young men joined them and in 1948 Roger was made prior of the new community, which had made vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Since then Roger and the community of brothers have developed friendly relations with Churches all over the world. In 1974 he opened the Council of Youth, which annually attracts more than 100,000 young people to Taize for contemplation and discussion. In 1978 there was an ecumenical youth pilgrimage to Taize from Merseyside, le by Archbishop Worlock, Bishop Sheppard and Rev. Norwyn Denny.

8. Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941)

Maximilian was born in Poland. In 1910 he entered the Fransiscan Order and studied in Rome. After he was ordained nine years later, he developed tuberculosis and returned to Poland. Here. He founded a Christian, magazine and later a daily newspaper was produced at a Fransiscan community, which he began in Niepokalanov near Warsaw. He later founded another Fransiscan community at Nagasaki, Japan before he was recalled as Superior, to Niepokalanov, which now had 763 Friars.

During the war he was arrested as a journalist and ‘intellectual’. He was taken with four companions to Auschwitz in May 1941, then a labour camp. Despite very heavy work, kicks and lashes, he continued his ministry; moving bodies, hearing confessions in unlikely places, and smuggling in bread and wine for the Eucharist.

In July of the same years some prisoners managed to escape. Others were selected for death by starvation as a punishment. Maximilian volunteered to take the place of a sergeant who had been selected. He helped the others to prepare for death with dignity with prayers and psalms. Two weeks later he alone remained fully conscious. He was injected with Phenol and finally died on the 14th of August 1941 aged 47.

9. Michael Scott

Michael was a Priest who achieved international respect as a campaigner for the under privileged. He was born in England the son of a country parson. At the age of 19 he went to South Africa and worked among lepers. He was ordained into the Church of England six years later. After working among the poor in Calcutta he returned to South Africa. He was imprisoned for joining passive resisters and whilst in prison he compiled a 40,000 word memorandum on necessary reforms.

In 1952 he was banned from South Africa and 14 years later expelled from India for   his work on behalf of the Naga tribesmen. Michael suffered from cancer for some time and died in 1983.

10. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)

Dietrich was a Christian minister during the Second World War. He was one of a number of Germans who recognised the evil realities of Nazism and travelled widely in Germany, Britain and America, secretly informing fellow priests of a plan to overthrow Hitler.

However in 1942 their plans failed when one of the conspirators, Field-Marshal Von Brauschistsch was dismissed.

Dietrich decided that only one course of action remained and planned to personally assassinate the Fuhrer. Two unsuccessful attempts were made in 1943 and Dietrich was arrested.

He was imprisoned for two years during which time he wrote some of his most important works, whilst his cheerful kindness comforted the other prisoners.

In April 1945 a diary was discovered which revealed the names of the conspirators, including Dietrich. He was hung and his body burned. A month later Germany surrendered. 

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