Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Taphophile Tragics # 10 - In the Arms of an Angel

The marker was bordering on taciturn:
Sacred to the memory of
Kate Reynolds Fiaschi
Born Ireland 1850
Died Sydney 1913
A loving wife and a devoted mother
Rest in peace
And yet the statue atop the marker was startlingly beautiful in its celebration of sensuality. Originally, I had thought this to be a straightforward post about a beautiful statue, until from deep in the bowels of Ancestry. com came an altered reality: Catherine Ann Reynolds AKA Sister Mary Regis.

There were three public trees that other researchers had fleshed out, telling me that Kate Reynolds married Thomas Henry Fiaschi in 1876 at Bethel House in George Street North, bore him five sons (one of whom died in infancy) and two daughters, before dying at the relatively young age of 63 (but I would use that adjective, wouldn’t I!).

Sister Mary Regis. Had she been a nun or something?

Searching Ancestry.com would take longer than I had the patience for, so I googled the string of both names as set out above, and BINGO. I chanced upon an article presented by Jonathan Auld at the Hawkesbury Family History group meeting on 9th March 2005 as part of Women’s History Month.

Both Kate’s parents died when she was 14. She was of a devout family and had been promised to the church. She was sent to live with an aunt in Sydney and joined the Sisters of Charity at St Vincent’s Hospital, where she was known as ... yep. As luck would have it, young Thomas Henry Fiaschi was a doctor where Kate was a nursing nun. This is where the sensuality of the carving strikes to the very core of humanity. They fell in love, eloped, and were excommunicated. Kate was the only nun to have ever left the Sisters of Charity.

As the surname hints, he was Italian (born there), their first child being born in Florence when Thomas Henry returned for a short while to complete his medical training. Upon their return to the colony, Thomas Henry set up his practice in Windsor, where they hoped anonymity would be preserved. Children arrived regularly: 1877, 1879, 1889, 1884, 1885, and 1893. The child who died in infancy was second last, explaining the gap. And twenty years later, she was gone.

They had established a vineyard at Sackville called ‘Tizzana’ which Kate ran whilst Thomas Henry was overseas in both the Abyssinian and Boer Wars. Yet their address upon her death was Darling Point, so theirs was a most comfortable existence in terms of goods and chattels.

The statue expresses what words were incapable of. To circle around it, as my camera and I did, is to become dizzy from the sheer ecstasy of love and acceptance; to be in the presence of, indeed, in the arms of, an angel.

Here is one of the most beautiful songs of the modern era, written by the enchanting Sarah MacLauchlan, 'In the arms of an angel'
In the arms of an Angel, fly away from here
From this dark, cold hotel room, and the endlessness that you fear
You are pulled from the wreckage of your silent reverie
You're in the arms of an Angel; may you find some comfort here.

I am indebted to Jonathan Auld's 2005 paper for the 'Hawkesbury Crier' for the unlocking of the 'AKA Sister Mary Regis' reference that I discovered deep within the heart of Ancestry.com.

This is my contribution to the Taphophile Tragics community.

36 comments:

Louis la Vache said...

What a touching and lovely post, Julie!

Luis Gomez said...

Julie, I love this post. Thank you for all the info and the beautiful images and song. It is a gorgeous and moving statue.

Steffe said...

Amazing what stories we can find online today. The statues are as you say beautiful and the story intriguing.

Gene said...

Great pictures and great post! Very interesting story.

JM said...

Fantastic! Love the angles you've chosen to shown us the sculpture and also the cropping on the larger photos. Great post, Julie!

Julie said...

Jose: none of these shots are cropped. I was mesmerised and took, shall we say, a few!

Jim said...

Very interesting story and intriguing monument.

AL said...

Amazing detective work and a great and interesting post. The sculpture is very sensual and rather lovely.

Ann said...

That's a beautiful and moving statue and quite different to the usual angels that you see as markers. I really like your composition and perspective in the top shot.

VioletSky said...

You are a good researcher, Julie!
I somehow feel comforted that when she died she was at least living "a comfortable existence".

Mama Zen said...

Absolutely gorgeous!

Dutchcloggie said...

Absolutely lovely. Great pictures. I saw the post title and immediately thought of the song. Glad you referenced it. I must congratulate you on your music tate :)

Julie said...

... *grin* ...

Thank you.

Sondra said...

awww yes, Sarah Mc, is my very favorite and this one is one of her best. What a fabulous story to go with such a strikingly beautiful statue!! Its almost overpowering----

Bob Crowe said...

This kind of cemetery is endlessly fascinating. The photos remind me of Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires. St. Louis Cemetery in New Orleans and Père Lachaise in Paris. Lovely images.

Gemma Wiseman said...

I thrill to find surprises like this along the way! Incredible that you turned up a rare, excommunicated nun! But I have one more question! Who carved - or commissioned to carve - such a statue that seems to mix the sacred and the secular? It would hardly be the Sisters of Charity and yet someone close to them? Close to one of them? Or was it Thomas who may have commissioned the statue - if he died after Kate? Intriguing story! Love it!

Joe said...

A magnificent post Julie. The statue is remarkable.

The Paw Relations said...

Wow, what an amazinging momument and such a wonderful story behind it. Thanks so much for sharing.

Herding Cats


http://seathreepeeo.blogspot.com

Julie said...

Gemma: My guess is that it was Thomas Henry who commissioned the statue, together with his children perhaps. He lived until 1927. What I did not include in my story, is that 18 months after the death of Kate, he remarried to a lass 33 years his junior and sired another 5 children. He died aged 73 with 11 children ranging in age from 50 to 4. I have my own thoughts on that second marriage, but it is mere conjecture.

biebkriebels said...

I had written a long comment when blogger did strange, couldn't use my mouse anymore and had to close the computer. It disappeared! Well again, I like your post very much, it reads like a novel and listened to the nice music. Then I read your last comment, what a shame, he remarried and started a family all over again!

brattcat said...

julie, these are such moving images. you are amazing.

Deb said...

Great piece of research, when you find a memorial like that you just know there will be quite a story behind it. Your pictures certain do justice to a beautiful sculpture.

Breathtaking said...

I was very moved by your story.It would make a fantastic film!!! The
sculpture is amazingly sensuous.
Great post as always!

Kathy said...

What wonderful information you've imparted in your post. Thanks for all that work!

CaT said...

11 children. hmmm.
but the angel is amazing, and very beautifully pictured.

Hilda said...

Such a beautiful, bittersweet story - and sculpture.

Rae Walter said...

Stunning and beautiful Julie. You have captured the statue and what it conveys so well that it jumps off the screen. Thank you also for all the research; such a wonderful heartfelt story to match the visuals you have here.

Emma Dalloway said...

What a compelling post! I can tell that the passionate strength of the statue inspired research into what is a remarkable story. Wow.

NixBlog said...

Great post, Julie. Like your photos a lot.

diane b said...

Gosh you dig up (oops) some interesting stories about the deceased. It is a beautifully balanced sculpture.

Joan Elizabeth said...

That statue is so different I am not surprised at you wanting to know more ... but your ability to find more is amazing.

When I am in cemeteries I generally take in the surrounds, maybe a headstone or two but not the detail like you do. It's a talent.

cara said...

That statue is achingly beautiful. The post is fab! Top detective work, too!

Can you imagine, 99 years after your death, so many unrelated people from all over the world marvelling at your story and admiring the statue on your grave? I'd say some folks might consider that a reason to be cremated. I think it might be a case for a burial... provided you could choose the statue before you go.

Rose from Oz is Back! said...

Julie this post moved me deeply, the background information you found was simply amazing (that so much would still exist) and the statue indeed says so much. But how? and who? was commissioned to do the statue and how? could the (artist)? have such depth of feeling to depict this so poignantly? Who are the people who (make) these stunning statues in graveyards and cemeteries? What is the background there? How do these 'statue makers' capture the feelings so precisely of the loved ones left behind? Sorry Julie, but these musings of mine really hit me. Wonderful, wonderful post.

Rose from Oz is Back! said...

PS: To me it seems that this statue was not something to be chosen from a catalogue or a list, or from drawings - it was commissioned so to speak - it was too personal to be otherwise?

Sheesh said...

Kate was my Great Grandmother! Her son Piero was my Grandfather.
Thanks for the beautiful photos!

Melissa Williams-Brown said...

Amazing history! Thanks for sharing!