Lion mosaic installed at The Bishop's Ranch

Posted on December 9, 2008
Sandra and Dick McCray

During Thanksgiving week, a new piece of art was installed and blessed at the Bishop's Ranch. The mosaic, depicting a lion resting on the rolling hillsides of the ranch's countryside, is the brainchild of Sandra McCray from Boulder, Colorado.

McCray is the mother of Julia McCray-Goldsmith, ministry development officer of the Diocese of California, and the piece was a gift from McCray and her husband Richard. The creation and installation was a family enterprise.

"Last Christmas I recommended that she do a piece to fit in a small niche inside the new Swing Pavilion," McCray-Goldsmith said, "but she was uninspired by the spot." McCray-Goldsmith invited her mother to look around for another setting where she might want to make an installation, and the two walked outside the pavilion. There, between the pavilion and the dining hall was a rock wall, and McCray looked no further. "That is where I would like to put a mosaic," McCray said.

McCray, who works mostly with landscape and zoological themes, started looking at the colorful countryside surrounding Bishop's Ranch. She was inspired by the rich colors and the sweeping vista. In order to duplicate the colors that inspired her, she and her husband had stone shipped literally from around the world to their studio in Boulder. The centerpiece of the mosaic is a huge and peaceful lion that seems to dominate the countryside. Inspired by Aslan from the Narnia books of C.S. Lewis, McCray handmade beautiful millefiori glass to represent his footprints.

According to Sean Swift, executive director of the Bishop's Ranch, the lion actually fits quite well with the lore of the place. "Back when the Franciscan friars were here, they were taking care of an elderly sister. One night, she seemed quite animated and told the brothers that she had seen a lion that looked like the MGM lion. Well, the brothers, not really buying it, said, "Well of course you did.""

As the legend has it, there was a circus nearby that had lost a lion, and the sister's sightings were confirmed. McCray loved the story so much she put a small figure of a nun in the lower right corner of the mosaic.

Aunts, uncles, and cousins came for Thanksgiving week to help with the installation, and on Friday, November 28, the Rev. Pam Higgins of Holy Trinity in Richmond and Swift joined the family in a dedication ceremony and luncheon.

The next time you are at Bishop's Ranch, be sure to walk over to the new William and Mary Swing Hospitality Pavilion to get a look at this remarkable mosaic.