The Portal of Paradise is the principal ceremonial entrance to the sacred space of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. For over half a century this central doorway was flanked with uncarved blocks of Indiana limestone waiting to take the forms of Biblical men and women who embody the history of the great monotheistic religions.

The Portal Carving Project began in 1988 with an international sculpture competition that brought British stonecarver, Simon Verity, to direct the venture. At the start, Mr. Verity was assisted by six apprentices. In 1993, Jean-Claude Marchionni, a master stonecarver from France, joined Verity in the project. In 1995, Martha Cooper began photographing the carvers during the project's final three years.

Major funding for the Portal Carving Project was provided by the Florence Gould Foundation, Irving Berlin Charitable Trust, Overbrook Foundation, The J. M. Kaplan Fund, the Darrin Family -- Drake Darrin, Timothy Darrin, David Darrin, and Peggy Darrin -- Dr. K. David G. Edwards, Robert Taggart and his wife Anna Marguerite McCann, and the Sheldon H. Solow Foundation. Support for this exhibition was provided by the Florence Gould Foundation. Prints by Baboo Color Labs, Inc.

Simon Verity Master Sculptor and Director of the Portal Carving Project

Mr. Verity is one of the most significant artists in contemporary and traditional stone sculpture. He came to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine following two decades of work in Britain as an engraver, carver, and grotto-builder. His work is found in public and private collections around the world, including The Victoria and Albert Museum, the Chicago Botanic Gardens, Bellevue Hospital, and The American Academy in Rome, and includes commissions from H.R.H. The Prince of Wales and Lord Rothschild.

Jean-Claude Marchionni

Jean-Claude Marchionni, of Vittel, France, brings over 15 years of experience specializing in stone-carving and restoration of historic monuments both in France and the United States. He has done restoration work on the Strasbourg Cathedral and the Musée du Louvre in Paris. In New York City, he worked extensively on the restorations of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, Grand Central Station and Rockefeller Center, and has produced new work for the Jewish Museum and the Huffington Library in Ohio.

Martha Cooper

Martha Cooper is a free-lance documentary photographer who specializes in photographing New York City's art and architecture. She is the Director of Photography for CityLore: The New York Center for Urban Folk Culture.