But after more than a quarter of a century, the Manuscript of Monte Cassino is to be relocated as part of a multi-million pound overhaul of the area.
The Paolozzi work, a gift to the city by entrepreneur Sir Tom Farmer, is to be moved from outside St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral to a public garden off London Road while work is ongoing on the new St James quarter. The city council, which is redesigning Picardy Place over the next year to coincide with the demolition and replacement of the shopping centre, has suggested the sculptures go on display at Hillside Crescent rather than be put into storage.
However that could become their permanent home as the amount of public space outside the cathedral is proposed to be reduced under the current designs.
Born into a Scots-Italian family in Leith in 1924, Paolozzi was a leading figure in the 1950s Pop Art movement. The Manuscript of Monte Cassino, said to have been inspired by the giant sculptures in ancient Rome, was created for the site.
The artist, who died in 2005, said of the work: “On the site I can see these very parts of the landscape that were the back-cloth to my childhood. A great deal has disappeared, which makes it a privilege to add something significant to what might have become an urban gap.”
Donald Wilson, the city council’s culture leader, said: “This is a much-loved series by one of Edinburgh’s most prolific artists and we are determined to see it remain on public display. Rather than move the three-piece sculpture into storage, we are proposing to give it a temporary new home. Not only will this help us keep the sculpture safe during the redesign of the Picardy Place junction and provide greater access for road workers, it will provide local people with the chance to enjoy Paolozzi’s artwork in a brand new way.
“We have been speaking with members of the community about the prospect of placing the series along nearby Hillside Crescent. Discussions will also continue with others who have an interest, from the Paolozzi Foundation and the cathedral, to Sir Tom Farmer.”
A spokeswoman for the city council said: “The make-up of the public realm in front of the cathedral is still to be determined.”