Item details Handmade Material hand painted cast stone Dimensions Height: 9 Inches; Width: 4.5 Inches; Depth: 2.5 Inches This is a handmade statue of St. John of the Cross. I design, carve, and cast the pieces myself: they�re wholly original. I cast them in modified gypsum (a very strong building material) with bronze powder. After the pieces cure, we glaze and seal them. The pieces come boxed, can stand or hang (there's a hook on the back, and the back is flat and unpainted), and can go outside. Each piece comes with a history card stating: St. John of the Cross (1542-1591) was one of the greatest mystics and religious poets in Christian history. One of his most famous works is entitled �The Dark Night of the Soul.� The dark night refers both to a period of intense suffering and to a stage in a life devoted to contemplative discipline. John, like his close associate St. Teresa of �vila, was a Carmelite who tried to reform the order. For his efforts, John was imprisoned for nine months by fellow Carmelites in horrendous conditions: he was regularly beaten, nearly starved, and was allowed to see light for only a few moments a day. After living this dark night, he, near death, miraculously escaped. Through these ordeals John never gave up his goodwill and cheerfulness. The dark night, then, refers to a period of suffering and alienation, at the end of which one gains enlightenment. This statue, which was hand carved by Hank Schlau and hand painted by Karen Schlau, incorporates many of the symbols in John�s poem �The Dark Night of the Soul,� a poem about the stages of mystical prayer. The poem refers to the speaker leaving his house (his body, his senses) and climbing a ladder (contemplative prayer) until he gains inner peace (the flame of love at his heart) and reaches the final level of unification with �the beloved� (the divine), here depicted as a child. The poem, thus, is ultimately about rising from suffering to knowledge and peace. The three figures depicted in the small niches are, from left to right, three other Christian mystics: Meister Eckhart, St. Teresa of �vila, and Julian of Norwich.