Sunday, 28 December 2014

Church of the English Martyrs, Goring-by-Sea

There is nothing on the outside that demands you visit the Catholic Church of the English Martyrs. It is a cheap concrete box built using the same system used for industrial sheds in the 1960s, located on an arterial road in a dull dormitory area.
So there is no preparation when you go in, raise your head and cast your eye over a complete reproduction of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. It is quite astonishing.
It all started when a local signwriter and frustrated artist, Gary Bevans, went on pilgrimage to Rome in 1968 and was inspired to reproduce it at home. How he managed to persuade the priest, his fellow parishioners and the church authorities that it wasn't going to be a huge embarrassing mess is a mystery.
He spent all his evenings over the next five years lining the ceiling with plywood, laying out the designs and painting in acrylic in the colours revealed after the original was cleaned. The result is about two-thirds the scale of the original.
Happily, the result is not a mess. Bevans may not be Michelangelo but it is a good job and goes a long way to reproducing the awesome impact of the original.
And the ceiling is not the only worthwhile work of art in this humble building. A series of etched glass windows commemorate the English Martyrs and many of the other windows are filled with re-used stained glass from a demolished convent, reset by Jeremy Goodman to designs by his mother, Annie Goodman, an architectural designer.