Urban Enchantment: ‘Les Colombes’ at the National Cathedral

July 27, 2021

One of the most magical things about big cities is that they tend to attract amazing pieces of art. Beautiful, strange, and wondrous creations of the imagination can find homes in all kinds of places there, from fancy museums to abandoned warehouses to old and glorious churches. I especially love the large-scale, multimedia pieces that defy conventional standards of what art can be – and cities are the place to find them.

The Les Colombes exhibit by Michael Pendry is a perfect example of a large-scale artwork designed for city viewing. A combination of light, sound, and a winding column of more than 2,000 origami paper doves, it has appeared all over the world, including 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. Currently, it is being exhibited in the National Cathedral in Washington, DC – and that’s where I was lucky enough to go and see it.

Deceptively simple, gentle, but beautiful in its message and execution, the exhibit is a moving piece that was well worth the trip. It’s hard to explain the sense of connection you feel standing under the carefully folded doves, each one conveying a message of hope and unity from some person perhaps worlds away. My photographs do not do the experience justice.

You can read more about this beautiful artwork at the National Cathedral website (I’m definitely going to check out the yoga and storytelling videos!) and more about Michael Pendry on his personal site.


  1. Linda M Willson

    Dear Brittany:
    I think your photos are wonderful and I think most certainly they place the watcher THERE! I had seen and heard of this exhibition but had no chance of seeing it up close, but your pictures and description made me feel as though I were there. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to see the beautiful birds up close.

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