The Kelham Rood is a beautiful life-size bronze sculpture of Christ on the Cross together with free-standing figures of St John and the Virgin Mary, and is the work of the British sculptor Charles Sargeant Jagger (1885-1934).
The sculpture is on permanent loan to St John the Divine from the Society of the Sacred Mission. It stands on the south side of the nave and is a focus for Christian devotion and prayer, particularly during Holy Week. The suffering of Jesus and his love for St John and Mary is quite affecting in this work; Jagger's skill as a sculptor, which he normally applied to war memorials, emphasises the humanity of Jesus.
About the sculpture
The Kelham Rood was originally commissioned by the Society of the Sacred Mission (SSM) for its chapel at Kelham Hall in Nottinghamshire and completed in 1929. It was designed to stand at the top of a brick arch over the chapel sanctuary.
When the SSM moved out of Kelham, the Rood was moved to the Society's Priory in Willen, near Milton Keynes, where it stood in the garden.
By the early 2000s the Rood had become weathered and was in need of restoration, and it became apparent that the sculpture deserved an indoor setting. The SSM was originally founded in the parish of Kennington in 1891, and seemed appropriate to install the Kelham Rood inside St John the Divine where it would offer a public focus of prayer at the Society's birthplace. Jagger's sculpture was restored by Rupert Harris in 2003-4 and today it is on permanent loan to the church of St John the Divine, Kennington.
Charles Sargeant Jagger saw action in the First World War, serving in the Artists' Rifles and in the Worcestershire Regiment at Gallipoli and on the Western Front. He was wounded three times and was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry.
The Kelham Rood is one of Jagger's finest works. His depiction of the Crucifixion is especially moving and some think that the Rood reveals his preoccupation with the problem of suffering.
Jagger sculpted a number of war memorials in Britain and around the world. His works convey the tragedy of war with his statues of young soldiers who have faced loneliness and death.
You can see some of his public sculpture around London today:
§ the Royal Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner
§ the Great Western War Memorial on platform 1 at Paddington Station