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Cover stories: issue 18.1 – Eddy and the Angels

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Lance in the confessional box, Eddy at the altar, coffee named after a drug… Deification or derision? Paul Maunder counts his blessings in Flanders

Photographs: Benedict Campbell
Merckx

A church in a provincial town in Flanders has absorbed into its space an array of relics. Not relics of the religion practiced at the church, but relics of a sport. Sacred cycling artifacts mingling with the iconography of Christianity.

 

This is Koers is Religie (Cycling is Religion), an exhibition curated by the Roeselare Wielermuseum in the Fathers’ Church, not far from the original museum building, which has recently completed a lengthy refurbishment. The curators have sought to draw parallels between religion and cycle racing, specifically professional road racing.

 

There are images of the cycling gods, including a portrait of Eddy Merckx surrounded by angels. The theme of suffering (something that is really rather popular in both religion and cycling) is portrayed through a display of cycling photography.

 

Read: a visit to the ‘church of cycling

 

The exhibition guide notes how cycling photography portrays the sport’s heroes in similar ways to famous works of religious art, like Michelangelo’s Pietà, which shows Mary cradling Jesus’ body after the crucifixion.

 

I can see the argument here – that pro cyclists are the martyrs we love to watch suffer – but to compare photographs of the Tour of Flanders to the Lamentation of Christ seems a bit of a stretch…

 

Losing my Religion, issue 18.1, on sale January 26