Artists: Charlie Pate Sr. and Charles Pate Jr.
The Ascending Christ
Questions answered by Charlie Pate Sr.
How were you approached to work on this piece?
I was approached by the Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital as they were looking to have a sculpture of Christ to be placed in front of their hospitals in Greenville. They had already determined that it was to depict the ascension of Christ. They could probably answer better than I as to their decision, but I am sure it is about the power of that reality of this image.
Erik Whaley, president of Bon Secours St. Francis Health System Foundation, was the contact from the hospital as he worked with his board and donated/raised funds for this project. At first, they were looking for a life-size figure, and we convinced them it needed to be larger than life considering its placement. Erik and his colleagues were familiar with our sculpture Christ of the Sacred Heart at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, as well as other sculptures in the city.
What is the inspiration for the statue?
Charles and I both are believers in Christ, so we were excited to get to work on this project and prayed that it would be a sculpture that honored our Lord. We looked at paintings and sculpture throughout art history that depicted the Ascension and did drawings from a model of different poses and compositions to present to the hospital. Our inspiration was the power of the event itself, and then knowing they wanted classic sculpture, we always draw inspiration from past sculptors like Michelangelo, Bernini, Rodin, etc.
What materials did you use to create the statue?
My son and I made The Ascending Christ out of clay. A steel armature was made first to hold and support the clay that would weigh a lot since this was an over life-size figure standing at 12 feet including the drapery. We then had molds made as the last wax bronze was done at the foundry.
What was the process for creating this piece? How long did it take for the statue to be produced?
We begin with drawings first, then we make a maquette. After that is approved, we build an armature. The clay is heavy, so a steel armature is built to hold the weight of the clay. Then we build the sculpture out of clay.
The armature took about a month, and then the sculpture took about two and a half months. The foundry then begins the bronze foundry work, which takes about five months to complete.
What was your favorite part of the piece and why?
Upon my wife, Toni’s, suggestion, we changed the model pose to have Christ looking up. We originally had him looking down, so it looked like he was descending instead of ascending. Charles said we ought to have his feet off of the ground, so it gives his feet the feeling of ascension. When those things came together, it was an “aha” wonderful moment.
How has COVID-19 impacted the production and installation of this statue?
The sculpture was ready to be installed in March, but COVID-19 postponed the installation until May. The installation is complicated, seeing that it involves different sources to come together to erect such a heavy piece of bronze. The foundry, which is in Georgia, had shut down; everyone was unable to function with the unknowns of travel and safety concerning the virus.
When was it completed?
Located at Entrance B at the St. Francis Eastside Campus, 125 Commonwealth Drive, Greenville.