Jean Collier Hurley
The Martyrdom of St. Edward the Confessor / A meditation on Loss and Rememberance
Of splendor in the grass,
Of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind
-William Wordsworth, 1804
Following almost a year of treatment for breast cancer, I watched the demolition of St. Edward the Confessor, a 38-year-old church in the Laurel Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. Observing the demise of this sacred place of worship was a solemn and unsettling experience.
The deconstruction of St. Edward’s bore striking similarities to the medical procedures, hospitalization, and death the which I had recently been exposed. Broken windows, shattered stonework, and fallen barricades were like broken body parts. The entire scene resembled the martyrdom of a saint being put to death in public view; and evoked memories of profound loss – the deaths of beloved relatives and friends, the loss of my home in an earthquake, and the loss of my health from breast cancer.
St. Edward’s was located on California Street near the Laurel Village Shopping Center, surrounded by a friendly neighborhood of charming stucco homes, many occupied by the original owners from the mid 1900’s. The decision to close the parish was based on the belief that declining membership had reduced its long-term viability; as with a cancer patient when medical treatment can no longer contain the progression of the disease of sustain life and is, therefore, withdrawn.
The parishioners were deeply disturbed by the plan to destroy their house of worship, however their efforts to save the church were futile. The property became a construction site for twenty luxury condominiums, providing an infusion to the city’s declining supply of available housing. The parishioners have scattered to nearby parishes where they seek to establish roots. By memorializing the demise of their sacred parish home as a meditation on loss and remembrance, I hope to find for myself, and perhaps for others, strength in what remains behind.
Edward the Confessor was elected King of England in 1024 and was the last of the Anglo-Saxon kings. Edward was considered pious, gentle, and unselfish, and his reign was one of peace, prosperity, and good judgment. He was said to have the gift of second sight and many miracles are attributed to him. Edward sought to re-endow and greatly enlarge what is now Westminster Abbey. When the Abbey was consecrated on December 28, 1065, Edward was not present due to illness, and he died a few days later. His mortal remains are entombed behind its High Alter. © 1999 Jean Collier Hurley.
Jean Collier Hurley is a California based artist who has studied photography at the San Francisco Art Institute as well as business at the University of California at Berkley. Her work, spanning topics from the Martyrdom of St Edward the Confessor to the Pier One Project, is in public and private collections including Art for Recovery and AMB Property Corporation. She has Exhibited at San Francisco City Hall and the Hollis street project. This is her first New York showing!