Parish Art

Holy Door Carvings

by Jenna Ebener

As I enter Our Lady of Fatima’s church, my eyes immediately lay upon two wood carvings on the holy doors. As my eyes are drawn to an image of a Madonna looking down on three children, I find myself picturing the apparitions in Fatima to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco. On March 31, I had the honor of interviewing Joseph Sikora, the mastermind behind and carver of these magnificent creations.

In 1970, Joseph moved to Germany to live and work after his military service. Thanks to an interest in a wood carving advertisement in 1980, he left eight years later with the training of an art that has led to 37 years of passion and commitment. Joseph’s expertise of this dying art has grown with the years, and he is immersed in projects. He opened his own studio in Louisville; is commissioned for various entities, such as Our Lady of Fatima; and spends time nurturing students as they develop their own passion for wood carving.

It was so fascinating to learn about just some of the intricacies of this art. It took three years of intense training until Joseph moved on from animals and began carving human figures, which opened the door to a whole other realm of learning. Look at your hand and notice the countless details from the curve of each finger to the wrinkles to the bone structure. After working under multiple carvers, Joseph developed the skill to truly capture the essence of a human body in his carvings. While Joseph’s projects are wide and often unique, such as carving details on furniture and replicating the style of others, he focuses a lot of his energy into making traditional religious carvings.

The carvings of the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima are one of many religious projects Joseph has created. Yet, each one is so unique and packed full of meaning and symbolism. Look at the carvings on the holy doors. Take note of the curve and directions of the children’s hands and their facial expressions. Observe how Joseph has captured the differences of each of the children as they receive the young Madonna with acceptance, awe, or openness. See how the images are lifelike yet not glamorized. Grasp how the past and the present are intertwined as the apparition of the past connects with the skyline of the present.  Note the splashes of gold and how the clouds above the skyline complement the clouds Our Lady is resting on. Pay attention to the addition of lilies on the Madonna and three roses by the children in order to further symbolize Mary and capture the presence of the Holy Trinity. Know that every single detail was intentional and purposeful. Together, each detail creates the entity that is the culmination of the events at Fatima combined with Joseph’s vision. Open your eyes to the hidden meanings and breathe in the presence of God.

The thoughts and research that went into these beautiful carvings are astounding. Six months of creating this vision included researching, making numerous sketches, choosing the type and thickness of wood, and then actually carving and shading the images, which included over 30 types of tools and countless layers. One of Joseph’s visions for each piece that he creates is that it portrays a positive message and takes on a life of its own. Needless to say, as you gaze upon the carvings just as the three blessed children in Fatima gazed upon Our Lady, it is obvious his vision is complete.

The carvings were installed on October 20, 2016.