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Eric Gill - Christ driving the Moneychangers from the Temple

A controversial figure, the devoutly religious Gill (1882-1940) was born in Sussex and initially trained to be an architect. He abandoned his studies in 1903, eventually establishing himself as a sculptor, producing works with precise linear simplicity. In 1914 he was commissioned to create the Stations of the Cross for Westminster Cathedral. While working on these, Michael Sadler - then the University's Vice-Chancellor - approached him to discuss a war memorial for Leeds. Gill revived a proposal rejected by the London County Council to commemorate their war dead, a freestanding bronze of Jesus and the Moneychangers. For Leeds, Gill suggested a stone frieze, with Christ expelling a group of moneychangers from the temple- though with some in contemporary attire. In doing so, Gill was suggesting that the merchants of Leeds had profited from the war.

Gill's relief was carved in five sections and was initially installed prominently on the wall beneath the University's Great Hall. It was dedicated by the Bishop of Ripon on 1 June 1923. The subject matter was very different from that normally expected of memorials - soldiers or mourning angels - and caused immediate comment. The Yorkshire Post described it as a 'curious monument which . . . promises to create much controversy' and other local press agreed the work was 'bizarre', 'puzzling', 'strange' and 'not appropriate'. Gill enjoyed the controversy and published his own defence of the work. Others rallied to defend it, including J R R Tolkien. Sadler himself steadfastly championed Gill's masterpiece as 'one of the finest things in modern art,' adding 'the carving will tell its own tale'. Subsequently, the weather took its toll on the work and ivy was allowed to grow over it, until the frieze was removed to a safer location in the foyer of the Michael Sadler building in 1961.