Back to the list

Life of Christ/Cycle of Life by Philip Rickey

Charles B. Hayes Family Sculpture Park


Everything I’ve done up until now has prepared me for working on Life of Christ: Cycle of Life.  My childhood, my education, my travels, years of sketching and sculpting…all of this has influenced my development and led to my ability to take on a project of this scale.

When I first saw the site for Life of Christ: Cycle of Life, it felt sacred—in a different way than other spaces at Notre Dame.  It was located right on the edge of the classically formal campus, but this wild bit of nature seemed like it was a world away.  For one hundred years, it was a landfill for the University.  Native grasses grew among berms and gnarled oak trees.

My creativity thrives when I can merge art with the intrinsic beauty of nature.  And I knew I was about to embark on a journey as I endeavored to tell the story of Christ in this eight-acre space.

I create sculpture environments in rough, naturally broken stone.   With these “megaliths,” I channel our human desire to make a mark on our landscape, following our ancestral sculptors, creators of sacred spaces like Stonehenge.  For this project, I carefully chose each stone to represent a character in the narrative.  They were carved and polished in Minnesota, then carefully lifted by cranes and transported to Notre Dame.

It is designed so that you find yourself participating in the Passion, and at the same time, discovering links between Christ’s journey and your own.  Each person, whether they are Christian, agnostic, Muslim, Jew, or atheist, will experience Christ’s story in their own way—moving and deeply religious for some, or for others, perhaps a spiritual connection with the land.

For me, Life of Christ: Cycle of Life is particularly poignant.  During the discovery and design phase of the project, my wife Mary was diagnosed with cancer.  The metaphorical journey I have created, tracing Christ’s life, has become analogous to my family’s journey… just as it may be analogous to others, who are in the midst of personal challenge, bearing illness, or also experiencing the death of a loved one. 

It is my hope that these standing stones speak to a visitor’s soul, connecting our lives with the earth in an ancient narrative that is still relevant today.

            Philip Rickey

Life of Christ/Cycle of Life, 2017, Philip Rickey (b. 1959), basalt.  Gift of Anonymous Benefactors