Chance to try Pope's throne for size
A PAPAL throne made for the late Pope John Paul II's momentous visit to the country more than two decades ago is to go on public exhibition for the first time.
The huge solid oak chair, built with extra thickness to stop assassins' bullets, was constructed by noted Scots furniture maker Tim Stead, who died five years ago at the age of 48.
Kept safe for the past quarter of a century by the priest who commissioned it, the elaborately decorated chair will now form part of a retrospective of Stead's work at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. The bonus is that the public will be encouraged to sit on it.
Alan Bennell, the exhibition organiser, said: "Unlike many craftsmen, Tim used to put up notices encouraging people to touch and use his works. So people will be encouraged to sit in the chair and how could anyone resist?"
The chair was used at Murrayfield stadium in Edinburgh in 1982 when more than 45,000 young people crammed into the venue to welcome the Pope.
The visit was immensely important for the Scottish Catholic Church and 300,000 pilgrims turned out for a mass in Bellahouston park in Glasgow.
However, the visit was cast into doubt by security fears following an attempt on the Pope's life months earlier.
When the Vatican decided to go ahead, Catholic priest Ryszard Holuka, who was secretary to the Scottish cardinal, Gordon Gray, was given the task of finding a suitable platform for the papal bottom. He visited Stead, who at the time was building a reputation as a talented furniture maker specialising in the use of native Scottish wood.
His widow, Maggy, said: "It was specially made for the Pope and only used once. It had to have a seat back that was at least five centimetres thick, with no openings so he couldn't be shot in the back."
The RBGE exhibition, With the Grain: The Life and Legacy of Tim Stead, opens today to coincide with the publication of a new appreciation of his life by author Giles Sutherland.
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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