The Rev. Richard Sutter, pastor of Saint Gabriel Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, asked if the members of the Charlotte Region had a passion for religious art. If so, would they be interested in helping to purchase an Our Lady of Lourdes statue from Demetz Studios in Rome? The statue, along with a few others, would be placed in Saint Gabriel Church. Our members jumped at the opportunity, and the funds were raised quickly. The statue of Our Lady of Lourdes was blessed by Father Richard prior to Mass on August 28. It is now on display for all to enjoy.
The statue is the product of a centuries-old tradition of woodcarving in the village of Ortisei, Italy that began with a group of farmers who spent the cold Italian winters carving small statues and reliefs. One of these farmers, in Val Gardena, was Johann Demetz. These skills and talents were handed from generation to generation until a business was founded in 1872. In the century and a half since then, the ecclesiastical art of the Demetz family business has become world-renowned. They now design and produce crucifixes, reliefs, and beautiful mosaics in addition to statues—all of it hand-crafted.
These wood carvings provide a timeless beauty that becomes more precious with age. The heart of the Demetz business lies in the collection of statues produced in their state-of-the art wood-working shop. Each piece of art begins with linden wood imported from Eastern Europe. Only the “bull,” which is the trunk up to the first branch, is acquired and kiln-dried to the perfect level of moisture so that it will not crack or split. Carvers use the same tools used in the 15th century, along with a few more modern tools for larger pieces. Carvers, painters, gilders, carpenters, and freelance artists gather and combine their skills to craft each piece, from start to finish, by hand.