The Virgin Mary Statue by David Wynne

The statue of Virgin Mary in Ely Cathedral by David Wynne

statue sign

david wynne virgin marycharlie dimmock

A recent edition of national newspaper the News of The World carried a small article about this statue by David Wynne which is sited in the Cathedral's Lady Chapel - it stated under a small headline of "Quite contrary over Mary" - "A controversial new statue of the Virgin Mary in Ely Cathedral has failed to grow on visitors. They moan the strawberry blonde Madonna looks like bra-less TV gardener Charlie Dimmock."

OK - so what do you think ? Give us your verdict - e-mail :

"For someone who has not grown up in a Catholic environment, the step towards a modern Mary is smaller to make than to one that looks like it comes from the Middle Ages or earlier. I have always found the classical Mary statues and images quite remote, dreary, over-chaste and unreal. I have never been able to understand how they can still generate devotion, either, although I am fascinated by a balance of male and female elements in the Church. I am looking for a small statue of Mary for in my living room, and if a small version of David Wynne's creation existed, it might well be the one I am looking for. Met vriendelijke groeten / with kind greetings. May the Lord bless you and keep you always." -
Jaap Theunisz, Licensed Reader, The Netherlands.

Comment 18th Jan. 2012:

"When I saw it, I found it stunning, and have directed people to it ever since. Leaving aside the blonde hair, I would say that there were unlikely to have been bras in the 1st Century AD, and I understand that the pose adopted is the way men were given to pray in those times. For me, there is a power in this aspect of Mary which we don't think about often enough. This is not "Mother Mary, meek and mild". This is the Mary of the Magnificat, giving thanks and praise to the God of Moses and Elijah." - Steve Mack.

Comment 4th Feb. 2012:

"Seeing the statue of Mary in the Lady Chapel at Ely Cathedral has got my year off to an excellent start. I find the image of a strong and vibrant woman an inspiration for myself and all women. It is great to see the church offering a strong, healthy and powerful image for womanhood. A great alternative to the 2 usual interpretations of women in religious art; gentle Mary the mother the Madonna. or dodgy dangerous Mary ( Magdalene) the fallen woman or the female temptress (Eve) - the whore. Thank you David Wynne and those who commissioned this sculpture." - Liz Lewis

Comment 26th Oct. 2012:


Comment 28th Nov. 2012:

"I want to say how inspiring and totally moving the beautiful statue is of Mary in the Lady's chapel. Myself & my husband saw it for the 1st time during a private memorial we were having for my mum who recently died. I cannot express how totally appropriate that image was to both the day we were having as well as to me personally. My mum taught me to always be a strong feminine woman and I am now passing this message onto my twin daughters. This image of Mary is such a positive message to all women with its power, strength and femininity. Absolutely beautiful!" - Rachel Pernak-Brennon

Comment 22nd Dec. 2012:

"This representation is the most wonderful one I have ever seen, it captures the young girl beautifully and has changed my view of Mary from a woman who was perhaps abused, really having little or no choice in the matter to a young woman joyfully embracing the task to which she has been called.
" - Beryl Cowling

Comment 22nd Aug. 2013:

"Hello, I feel really rather shocked to see the vacuous comment on your webpage about the Mary statue "by David Wynne which is sited in the Cathedral's Lady Chapel - it stated under a small headline of "Quite contrary over Mary" - "A controversial new statue of the Virgin Mary in Ely Cathedral has failed to grow on visitors. They moan the strawberry blonde Madonna looks like bra-less TV gardener Charlie Dimmock.""

I am even more shocked and disappointed that you have printed it! For 'Heaven's' sake people, get your heads out of your bottoms and enjoy the deliciousness of a Lusty Woman of the Fens..... I feel it is a beautiful piece portraying the strength of the Divine Feminine....Charlie Dimmock? The Lady Mary of the Fen, she is not!" - Felicity Cook

Comment 29th Aug. 2013:

"You have erected a statue to please the feminists and further desecrated the Lady Chapel - proving that Protestants have never understood the Blessed Virgin Mary." - Sidney Lucy

Comment 1st Nov. 2013:

"A beautiful and very refreshing depiction of the Virgin Mary. Sad that Sidney Lucy’s remark has stayed on the website. I find it quite offensive “proving that Protestants have never understood the Blessed Virgin Mary” and is contrary to the Equality Act 2010. I feel it should be taken off." - Leigh Griffiths

Editor's Note: In view of Leigh Griffith's remark about the Equality Act I decided to check into the Act and in my view it seems to refer to government bodies, employers etc. I therefore thought the other ancient tradition of "free speech" should take priority here. What do you think? Contact us here.

Comment 11th Jan. 2014:

"Pleased that you didn't bow to pressure to remove negative comments. On my first visit to Ely Cathedral, I was appalled and really very upset by the statue. If you intended to portray a "lusty woman of the fens", fine, but please don't call it the Virgin Mary. Our Lady is the perfect model of humility and modesty - qualities which sadly are not promoted among young British women today." - Irene Mac

Comment 26th Dec. 2014:

"I had no idea that the statue in the Lady Chapel was supposed to be the Virgin Mary. I thought it was of Ethelreada. The Anglo Saxon blondeness of the hair must have misled me. She looks to me like a Viking warrior, or it might have been Boudeica. I am glad I have found as I have been misleading many people by telling them it is the wrong person." - Regards L Guebert

Comment 15th Jan. 2015:

"It’s (almost) unspeakably hideous. One of the most beautiful spaces on the earth has now been spoiled." - Andrew Motion

Comment 1st Aug. 2015:

"A previous commentator spoke of the need for a ‘modern Mary’, distanced from the unreal portrayals of centuries past. This statue, however, is not the answer to that plea. I have actually always felt that the piece was one of the most conservative renderings of Mary that I’ve seen from the last 100 years: it conforms to all of the disappointing clichés of her being white, blonde-haired and clad in fine clothes. The mother of Jesus was likely to have been 13-15 years old at the time of his birth, poor, dark-skinned, dark-haired and wearing simple clothes. That is the ‘modern Mary’ I look for: one that acknowledges the humility of a frightened girl, and makes no attempt to whiten, Westernise or glamourise the divine story. (Indeed, I find contemporary ‘white Marys’ a little uncomfortable; one would never paint Mandela or Luther King as a white man). Of course, there are many fine portrayals of Mary from history that are redeemed by the quality of their execution; this effort however is very-substandard. The features are poorly-rendered and the material looks cheap. A travesty, and one that is both artistically shabby and conceptually conservative, unchallenging and unimaginative." - Jack Butterworth

Comment 6th Dec. 2015:
knossos "This statue is posed in a manner similar to the Phoenician snake – goddess of knosos, which is why I find it so distasteful. While the snake goddess is bare breasted; similarly the bodice on the Ely figure appears to have been spray painted, narrowly concealing her nakedness. I am told that observing body language and demeanour can be useful in assessing possession cases. When a devil manifests during exorcism, it uses the person’s body to display the spirit within, and this figure does not display the demeanour of the grace – filled Mother of God. The statue is an accolade to the kind of worldly intellect which has lost all grasp of the sacred; the artist David Wynne must have had a good old laugh at our expense ( May God rest him.)"- Jean Lewis

Comment 2nd May 2016:

"I see our beautiful sacred Mother Mary dressed in white with a blue veil and beautiful long dark hair. A pure picture of goodness and peace. The one in ELY cathedral looks like the snake goddess in Knossos Heraklion. Her breasts showing, her hips thrust forward and what looks like a snake around her hips, snakes in her hair and her arms raised as though holding two snakes. What on earth !!! I thought Ely Cathedral was a Christian church. Obviously not any more." - Mike Howe

Comment 17th August 2016:

"I shall not forget seeing Wynne's uplifting statue of Mary. I have seen and enjoyed thousands of religious statues and carvings, in countless churches and cathedrals --- but to be honest I cannot recall any but a very few. This "Mary" is unforgettable, artistically and spiritually. Thank you, David Wynne and Ely Cathedral." - David Kipling, Canada

Comment 1st December 2016:

"I love the statue of Virgin Mary. Can't wait to get to England and see it in real life. I'm happy for you!" - Maria K

Comment 30th March 2017:

"Dear Ely Cathedral. Regarding the statue of Mary in Ely Cathedral: I'm not a devotee of religion, so you are free to do as you please in your own temple from my point of view. However, just from an artistic perspective, I think it's a rather poor piece of work. The forms are primitive without being simple, the colours garish, and the overall effect is that of a mass-manufactured, giant-size action figure. It also seems to have been made with complete disregard for its location. It looks wrong in the medieval architectural setting. If, like an Orthodox icon, it is intend to inspire a mystical sense of devotion and numinous, then it is laughable. What a waste of good stone!" - Sincerely, Austin Hackney.

Comment 21st January 2019:

"Dear Sir/Madam, I recently visited Ely Cathedral and I was struck by the beautiful, imposing statue of Holy Mary in the Lady Chapel. Wishing to know more about the artwork, I read your website and was bewildered by the negative comments and by the allegation that the Church of England cannot properly understand the mystery of the mother of Christ. I am a catholic but I feel to be in close communion with the church of England and I think that it is due time that we look at Christ's mother as the revolutionary author of the Magnificat..." - Pietro Gallo, Rome!