Visitors fixing their gaze on the imposing towers of the medieval cathedral in Lund, Sweden may not realize it, but 12 little heads are closely watching their every move. Created to represent the future of mankind, they peer out from a split in the protective cloak of the Skyddsmantelmadonnan sculpture.
Cast in bronze and placed at the entrance of Lund Cathedral in September 2015 to honor its 870th anniversary, the statue is the work of Swedish sculptor Lena Lervik, who drew inspiration for the work from the Christian artistic motif of the Virgin of Mary, which dates at least as far back as the 13th century. Traditionally, works like the Skyddsmantelmadonnan, which translates to “Protective Cloak Madonna,” are a depiction of the Virgin Mary sheltering a group of people against various dangers under her outstretched cloak. These were often Christian religious figures such as the Apostles, saints, and members of religious orders or groups of people under the protection of Catholic Christianity.
But this particular Skyddsmantelmadonnan doesn’t limit its protection to just Christians. Although it stands in front of a Christian cathedral (once Catholic, now Lutheran), Lervik’s work is a secular interpretation that presents Mary as a Mother Earth figure who protects all people, specifically, Lervik says, the future of mankind, who “cry and scream and would rather stay there.”
Update as of August 2022: Update: Skyddsmantelmadonnan has been temporarily removed due to the cathedral roof being renovated. The sculpture is expected to return to its usual spot sometime in 2023.
Know Before You Go
The sculpture is located outside the western gate of Lund Cathedral. The Lund Domkyrkan bus stop only steps away.