“The Centurion at Prayer,” Knott Memorial
“The Centurion at Prayer” depicts in three-quarter profile, with his hands folded and head bowed. His lance rests against his far shoulder and he wears a white mantle around his shoulders over his armor.
The inscription reads, “VERILY I SAY / UNTO YOU / I HAVE NOT / FOUND SO GREAT / A FAITH NO NOT / IN ISRAEL Matt 8:10”. The verse refers to the story in the Gospel in which a centurion approached Jesus in Capernaum asking him to heal the soldier’s servant. Jesus told him that he would come to his house, but the soldier begged him not to because he was unworthy of such a visit. The inscription records Jesus’ wonder at the soldier’s faith and humility.
The dedication reads, on the left: “IN MEMORY / OF”; in the center, “JAMES KNOTT”; and on the right, “1859-1906”. Knott was a hotelier who commissioned Judson Hall, immediately to the west of Judson Church, from Stanford White.1
The figure, for which two sketches exist, is based on the figure of St. Longinus in a sketch for a mural by Mantegna of 1488, according to the La Farge Catalogue Raisonné. One of the La Farge sketches shows the Centurion in the architectural niche of the north side, with his head at the spring line, contained within the circle of the Greek cross, suggesting that at some point, the figure was considered for this area of the church. This sketch bears an inscription stating that it was copyrighted in 1908. The other sketch show the figure in the niche of the east side, as it was ultimately executed.
© 1995, Julie L. Sloan, used with permission
- Baker, Stanny, p. 173.