Prodigal Son Statue

No. 13 On The Map

Prodigal Son Statue

In an intimate setting below the lower wall of the Bishop’s Garden, to the west of the Pilgrim Steps, is the contemporary granite sculpture of a father embracing his son. The Prodigal Son statue, sheltered by an old weeping cherry tree, was carved of Belgian granite by Heinz Warneke.

Heinz Warneke was born in Germany in 1895 and emigrated to New York in 1923. Warneke’s work can also be found within the Cathedral. He sculpted the tympanum and the trumeau figure in the Cathedral’s south transept portal as well as some of the high vaulting bosses in the south transept. His Prodigal Son sculpture depicts a frequently retold parable from the New Testament. A plaque at the base of the sculpture relates the wayward son’s return: “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” – In Memory of Hennen and Mary Jennings.

The plaque in the garden bed below the Prodigal Son statue

Completed in 1938, the sculpture was exhibited at the 1939 New York World’s Fair and several major museums (including the Whitney Museum in New York) before finding a permanent home, when philanthropist Coleman Jennings purchased it in 1958 for the Cathedral. It was installed in the Bishop’s Garden in 1961.

The Prodigal Son statue blanketed by snow

The statue was moved from the head of the Rose Garden to its current location beneath the large weeping cherry tree in 2013 as part of a wider renovation of the Bishop’s Garden. The tree, the lower wall of the garden (which contains a small fountain), and the plantings that surround the statue create the feel of quiet garden room. Hellebores, hydrangea, astilbe, and holly grow around the base of the statue.

The lead fountain, that lies within the Bishop’s Garden’s lower wall, was designed by Alice Trowbridge Strong and dedicated on November 10, 1950. It is a memorial to All Hallows Guild member Rosalind Wright. The flowers cast around the edge of the lead fountain are: trout lily, May apple, fern, snowdrop, trillium, lily of the valley, twin leaf, iris, and jack-in-the-pulpit. Below the fountain lies an old millstone.

The inscription in the center of the Strong-Wright Fountain reads: In Memoriam to Rosalind Washburn Wright 1900 -1948 Through the Hands of Such As These God Speaks And from Behind Their Eyes He Smiles Upon The Earth – The Prophet

The Strong-Wright Fountain sits in the stone wall that forms the edge of the Bishop’s Garden Lower Perennial Border. Walk west along the wall towards Shadow house to admire the border filled with perennial plants that bloom in cool hues of purple, blue, pink, and white.

Help Us Keep The Gardens Growing

Partner with us to ensure that the 57 acres of gardens and grounds surrounding Washington National Cathedral continue to be a haven of peace and refreshment in the midst of the Nation’s Capital.


All Hallows Guild was founded in 1916 to provide for the care and beautification of the grounds of Washington National Cathedral. The Guild works closely with the horticultural staff to preserve this historic landscape and raises funds for renovation and renewal of the gardens.


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