Random DJB Thoughts, The Times We Live In
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Les Colombes

As Saturday afternoon’s bright sunlight faded and darkness descended on the eve of Pentecost, I found myself in the nave of the Washington National Cathedral, fully enthralled with Les Colombes, the multimedia art installation of German artist Michael Pendry.

Andrew, Candice, and I had come to an evening exhibit walk, which is part of the public showing that began this month as the city opens up. Les Colombes means “white dove” in French, and the installation has three components: a flock of 2,000 origami paper doves hung in a winding column down the nave, a lighting display, and a mystical soundscape.

Just before Christmas, Pendry installed the Les Colombes exhibit in the grand nave of Washington National Cathedral. Across cultures and religious traditions, doves represent hope, peace and rebirth. Many of the over 2,000 paper doves that make up Les Colombes are inscribed with hopeful and prayerful messages. The doves were installed to encourage a feeling of optimism as we ended a challenging 2020 and began a new year. The Cathedral notes that “This sculpture is arranged to give new life to the Cathedral, embody our resolve to be kind to our fellow human, and to do our part in making a better tomorrow.”

Les Colombes has previously appeared in Salisbury Cathedral in Salisbury, England; St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London; Mount Zion in Jerusalem; Heilig-Geist Viktualienmarkt in Munich; and Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

What does the symbol of the spirit, the white dove, look like in our present days? Does this symbol still exist and is it still appropriate? Does it function properly when transformed into the 3rd dimension and what does that possibly mean for a modern art installation today ?

The spirit – a very abstract term in our modern hightech and consumer orientated society – apparently of little importance and difficult to understand. The installation is seeking an approach to the idea of the spirit, the “Holy Spirit” on various levels and angles with a full range of stylistic devices – a physical and emotional experience in unique spaces.”


Andrew, Candice, and I all felt a real sense of optimism as we entered the Cathedral for the first time in more than a year — a space where we’ve worshipped, made music, learned, and been inspired hundreds if not thousands of times since we moved to the city in 1998. We were not disappointed.

If you are in Washington and have the chance to see Les Colombes, I encourage you to do so. Hopefully the doves — simple yet powerful — can point us towards a more peaceful world.

More to come…


All images by DJB and Andrew Bearden Brown

This entry was posted in: Random DJB Thoughts, The Times We Live In


I am David J. Brown (hence the DJB) and I originally created this personal blog more than ten years ago as a way to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over I simply continued writing. Over the years the blog has changed to have a more definite focus aligned with my interest in places that matter, reading well, roots music, and more. My professional background is as a national nonprofit leader with a four-decade record of growing and strengthening organizations at local, state, and national levels. This work has been driven by my passion for connecting people in thriving, sustainable, and vibrant communities.


  1. jane schubert says

    indeed. we experienced a quiet relief with the homecoming to the cathedral to view this amazing and inspirational gift. the artist was present, which offered a special bonus. sitting; breathing; absorbing; engaging; plus much more. hope others are able to visit. go to cathedral.org to obtain tickets. we were there at 6 and the setting sun was particuarly beautiful, shining through the glorious windows. . one of our favorite hours in this magnificant structure.

    • DJB says

      Thanks, Jane. It is a gift, and I would have loved to hear the artist. Like you, that time of sunset is a special time to be in the cathedral. All the best to you and Bob. DJB

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