The Angel of the Waters at the Bethesda Terrace: the Most Powerful Symbol in the Park

Bethesda Fountain and the Angel of the Water

The Bethesda Fountain and the Angel of the Waters,, a statue created by Emma Stebbins in 1873

‘Now there was at Jerusalem by the sheep’s market a pool having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk: the blind, the halt, and the withered, waiting for the movement of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool and troubled it, and whosoever first stepped in after the troubling of the water was made whole of whatever disease he had.’

This is the description of the Bethesda Pool in the Bible that was the inspiration behind the Bethesda Terrace and its Angel of the Waters in Central Park.

The Angel is so full of meaning, both historically and symbolically, that it’s hard to to capture in a few short sentences.

On a simple, practical level, it represents the availability of clean water to the city via the Croton Aqueduct system. At the same time, in its simplicity, beauty and grace, it draws together all of the faiths that one expects to find in a democratic society.

In my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, I try to take this symbol of unity to a new level by having it spearhead the dawn of a new time, not just for the city and the country, but for the rest of the planet.

Perhaps Calvert Vaux, the architect of the Terrace and the Mall, captured it best when he suggested that this beautiful statue be dedicated to Love.


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