Lionel Thomas, The Lion and St. Mark, 1957
Photo: Howard Ursuliak

Lionel Thomas

The Lion and St. Mark
, 1957

395.0 x 370.0 x 25.0 cm
Commissioned by the architects Gardiner, Thornton, Gathe and Associates, 1957

Located on the exterior south wall of St. Mark’s Theological College, Lionel Thomas was commissioned to make this sculpture by the architects Gardiner, Thornton, Gathe and Associates for the opening of the new building in 1957. Thomas’ work depicts St. Mark, the namesake of the Catholic theological college.

St. Mark is traditionally believed to have been the author of the second Gospel in the New Testament. Thomas’ sculpture shows the Saint holding a quill pen in one hand and a scroll in the other, ready to write the Gospel. St. Mark looks to the brilliant sun for inspiration, which is meant to symbolize the light of Christ. The lion, which symbolizes St. Mark, correlates with the opening of the Gospel which tells the story of St. John the Baptist, “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” John the Baptist is described as a leonine being, “clothed with camel’s hair and with a girdle of a skin about his loins” (Mark 1:3).

The welded bronze and gold sculpture, whose lines are reminiscent of the technique of cloisonné, is set off the wall and designed to reflect the afternoon sun, casting shadows on the white wall of the building. This effect adds an important dimension to the work and creates a sense of depth.

Lionel Thomas (1915-2005) was born in Toronto, moving to Vancouver in 1940 with his wife and artistic partner Patricia (née Simons) where he began his teaching career at the Vancouver School of Art. He taught at UBC in both the Fine Arts and Architecture Departments between 1950 and 1980. He worked primarily as a painter until the mid-1950s, after which time he began to focus on murals and sculpture. The painted mural The Pacific Rim (1969) by Thomas and his wife, Patricia, hangs in the new student union building, The Nest.