Church plans a new icon

The St Robert icon recently painted for St Robert of Newminster Secondary School in Washington.
The St Robert icon recently painted for St Robert of Newminster Secondary School in Washington.
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A FUND-RAISING mission is under way at a Morpeth church to provide a new memorial to the town’s own saint.

Parishioners at St Robert of Newminster Roman Catholic Church in Oldgate are collecting cash to repaint the statues of Christ the King inside the building and Our Lady of Lourdes in the grotto outside.

However, the main fund-raising focus is to provide a large icon of St Robert, for although the church is dedicated to the Newminster Abbey founder, there is no memorial to him inside.

Artist Cath Ferguson has been commissioned to paint the icon, based on one recently-completed for St Robert of Newminster Secondary School in Washington.

It is hoped the work will be finished in time for the feast of St Robert in June when the Abbot of Nunraw in the Scottish Borders will bless it. St Robert was a Cistercian monk and Nunraw is the nearest Cistercian monastery.

St Robert’s parish priest Fr Lawrence Jones said: “An icon is seen as a sacred work of art that is meant to help people connect with the spiritual world like a window into heaven.

“Our icon of St Robert will help us to connect with our local saint and parish patron. It will try to depict something of his life and personality.”

St Robert founded the Cistercian monastery at Newminster, just outside Morpeth, at the invitation of Ranulph de Merley in 1137 and became its first Abbot. Under his administration it prospered so much that it was able to establish three daughterhouses, Pipewell, Roche and Sawley.

The saint wrote a commentary on the Psalms and a book of medications.

Fund-raising for the icon will get into full swing on Saturday, with a festive fair at Morpeth Town Hall.

There will be crafts, bottles, a tombola, raffle, cakes, games, jewellery, books, refreshments and more. It will run from 10am to 3pm.