Pomegranates and Apples

Female Saints in the St Joseph Chapel in the Cathedral Church of St Marie
The Lewis Organ
Pomegranate carved in the case of the historic Lewis Organ in the Sanctuary of the Cathedral Church of St Marie.

St Marie’s historic organ, on the left hand side of the Sanctuary was designed by Thomas Christopher Lewis and is the largest and most impressive of only three Lewis Organs that have not been tonally altered in addition to being the only one of the three on daily public view.

The organ case was designed by John Francis Bentley, a Victorian architect who came from Doncaster and became best known for designing Westminster Cathedral.

The case was carved from Austrian oak James Erskine Knox, who later became Bentley’s assistant when Bentley was working on Westminster Cathedral and includes a series of more than 20 carvings of pomegranates, each one different from the others.

Pomegranates can signify a number of Christian concepts. The seeds bursting out of a pomegranate are likened to Christ bursting out of the tomb after his crucifixion, so the fruit represents resurrection and the promise of eternal life.

The Pomegranate’s numerous seeds can also represent the Church, unity in faith and a community of believers. Pomegranates appear in depictions of the Virgin Mary as Mother of the Church and can also symbolise royalty.

Some of the symbolism harks back to the ancient myth of Properspina (Persephone), the Roman goddess of fertility, wine and agriculture, who was abducted by the god of the underworld and forced to live with him for six months of every year after eating six pomegranate seeds during her stay in the underworld.

St Barbara in the St Joseph or Nortfolk Chapel in the Cathedral Church of St Marie

You will find more pomegranates in the St Joseph chapel to the right of the Sanctuary in a tiling image of St Barbara, who carries a palm frond – a symbol of martyrdom.

Legend has it that St Barbara was the daughter of a rich pagan who tried to kill her after she became a Christian. She was taken before the prefect of the province where she lived and every night, after being tortured, her wounds miraculously healed.

Eventually she was condemned to be beheaded. Her father carried out the sentence and was then struck by lightning and burnt to death as he returned home.

Saint Barbara’s day is celebrated by Arab Christians on December 4 with a feast where attendees eat a traditional dish called Burbara, made from boiled barley, pomegranate seeds, raisins, anise and sugar.

Pomegranate seeds are used in both sweet and savoury dishes, ranging from pomegranate chicken, almond couscous and an Indian snack called cauliflower chaat to cheesecakes and ice creams.

Pomegranates are also used to make fruit drinks and are the main constituent of Grenadine, which is used to flavour cocktails.

St Barbara is one of six female saints depicted on the right hand wall. To her right is the image of St Dorothy who was martyred in 313 at Caesarea in Cappadocia (Turkey), during the great persecution of the Roman emperor Diocletian.

Dorothy was executed because she refused to worship idols and because she would not give up her consecrated virginity.

Legend has it that a man called Theophilus jeered at her from the crowd as she was on the way to her execution, asking her to send him produce from the garden of this Paradise she was supposed to be going to.

Dorothy agreed and, just before being executed, prayed for him. A messenger from God is said to have appeared and given Theophilus a basket containing apples and roses.

After this, Theophilus became a Christian, himself, and was later martyred.

The tiling image in the St Joseph Chapel shows St Dorothy holding a basket containing apples and roses. In the background are apple and rose tree branches, creating the impression that Dorothy is standing in that garden of paradise about which she was mocked.

Tiling showing St Dorothy in the Nortfolk Chapel of the Cathedral Church of St Marie