Back to Top

Viking Heritage

Churchie’s rich history and longstanding traditions date back to 1912 when William Perry French Morris founded the school at Toowong, before relocating to the present site in East Brisbane in 1918. Canon Morris based the school’s ethos on the patron saint, St Magnus, a Viking Earl known for his Viking strength of character and his qualities as an educated man with a Christian nature. Churchie’s four tenets of scholastic attainment, personal development, spiritual awareness and community service build on the characteristics and attributes displayed by St Magnus.

Of all of the signs and symbols that have become synonymous with Churchie over the years, St Magnus, the Viking saint, must surely be one of the most enduring.

The boys and young men of Churchie are surrounded St Magnus’ presence every day. We have his statue high on the north wall of the Canon Jones Memorial Chapel and the roof itself is modelled off the hull of a Viking ship. We have Magnus Hall, Magnus Quad and Magnus House. We have the Viking Café, Vintage Vikings (Old Boys) and The Viking yearbook. At major sporting events, Eric the Viking makes an appearance and Viking references adorn team names and rowing boats. The school crest features the Viking axes and now a statue of St Magnus features prominently in Magnus Quad, greeting all who visit the Senior School.

In choosing St Magnus as patron saint, Churchie’s founder Canon Morris ensured that all students who pass through the school are inspired by the faith and conviction of St Magnus, a man who rejected a life of violence and privilege to give himself to the service of others.
 
In 2017, the 900th anniversary of the martyrdom of St Magnus, Churchie proudly unveiled two stunning works of art that embody the enduring, central place of St Magnus in the heart of Churchie.
 

The Spirit of St Magnus

A stunning bronze sculpture in Magnus Quad now greets everybody who passes by, striking both in physical size and the boldness of its features. The work was unveiled on 10 August by School Council Chairman Daniel O’Connor and The Honourable Paul de Jersey AC, Governor of Queensland, and blessed by Senior Chaplain Father Bryan Gadd with the full Senior School and special guests in attendance. Also present was the sculptor Dr Rhyl Hinwood AM, who previously crafted the sculpture of Canon Morris near the Jackson building.
 
Providing an insight into the work, Rhyl explains, ‘It is hoped that as young men stand beside the cast bronze life size figure of St Magnus today, they might identify with his life of heroic nobility as they embark upon their own life's path. I chose to give visual impact to the artwork by including the form of a great eagle, symbolic of the spirit of Magnus and inspiration for the school motto Alis Aquilae (on eagles wings). The luminous eagle, clad in armour richly embellished with Icelandic derived design, rises above the young Magnus to inspire today’s youth.’

 

Icon of the Holy Martyr Magnus of Orkney

On a wall behind the altar in the Canon Jones Memorial Chapel sits a new cherished addition celebrating St Magnus. A gift of the parents of 2017 Year 12 students, the Icon of the Holy Martyr Magnus of Orkney is a commissioned painting by Tamara Penwell, an esteemed artist known for her iconography work.
 
Holy icons are special religious works of art with origins in the Orthodox Christian Church. One of the challenges for the artist was that she was not familiar with St Magnus. This, however, presented an exciting challenge for Tamara:
 
Orthodox iconographers, unlike other artists, in their art speak on behalf of the Church and have the responsibility of not representing anything that contradicts the teaching of the Orthodox Church. So I faced the question of whether I could even undertake to paint the icon of St Magnus. I studied his life. Rather little is known of his life, but whatever I found out spoke of a remarkable man, truly Christian, transcending, even finding himself at odds with his circumstances and standing up to the Viking culture he lived in.
 
As is typical of icons, the work is rich with meaning, conveyed through colour, shape, gestures and objects. The red clothes (the colour of blood) and the cross in his right hand signify St Magnus as a martyr, someone who died for the sake of his faith. The gold halo and gold background represent the light of God, and in the top left corner, Jesus is reaching out from heaven in a gesture of blessing.
 
There are also symbols drawn from Viking heritage along with eagles that represent the connection with Churchie. However, quite literally, the most ‘Churchie’ thing is a light hearted reference to a forgetful Churchie student. Tamara explains:
 
The scene on the bottom left is one showing St Magnus as a young man surrounded by his uncle’s dogs. Fr Bryan emailed me a miniature from an illuminated manuscript showing that scene and remarked, ‘I like the detail of the shoes at the base of the tree. Although, in my experience, schoolboys usually mislay shoes one at a time.’ So I allowed myself a little joke and showed Magnus with one shoe on and the other left on the ground.

We invite all who visit the school to take a few minutes to marvel at the Spirit of St Magnus sculpture in Magnus Quad and spend some reflective moments with the Icon of the Holy Martyr Magnus of Orkney in the chapel.