Yrsa Von Leister
Bronze and sheet copper statue, 1973
Queen Victoria Gardens
Baroness Yrsa Von Leister's winged figure reaches some three metres above the waters of a pond in Queen Victoria Gardens. Originally associated with ancient Egyptians' longings for immortality, the phoenix in Christianity has long been linked to resurrection and everlasting life. Von Leister sculpted the symbolic figure for the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Melbourne following the 40th International Eucharistic Congress, held here in 1973. Archbishop Cardinal Knox then donated the work to the Melbourne City Council for the support it had shown during the congress.
Von Leister flew to Australia to complete finishing touches to the rough-hewn sculpture prior to its unveiling. In March 1976, the Most Reverend T.F. Little gifted the sculpture to the citizens of Melbourne on behalf of the Melbourne Diocesan Historical Commission. He said, 'The ... phoenix is accepted throughout the world as symbolising everlasting life. It glorifies Him who is truth and eternal life.'