January 12, 2016

Gary Bevans, Replica Sistine Chapel

view from the street

At the outside the church of the English Martyrs in Goring-by-Sea, a suburb of the city of Worthing on England's south coast, doesn't look like a church in the traditional sense, it rather is a 1970s rectangular functional edifice ¹.

At the inside however, it's ecclesial character is unmistakable and it takes extra style because the building's barrel vault is a replica of the Sistine Chapel in Rome,

picture courtesy of Gattina, from her travel blog

Life and works

This decorated vault has been created by Gary Bevans, who belongs to the parish. Born in 1954, at a young age he already showed an artistic talent, but he couldn't go to an art academy, since after school he had to find work. Bevans became a sign writer, painting signs on pubs, shops, trucks and so on, a profession in which artistic qualities come in handy of course.

In 1987 he joined a group of parishioners in a trip to Rome. Visiting the Sistine Chapel, he observed that the Chapel's ceiling in terms of size and shape was almost the same as the ceiling of his parish church in Goring-by-Sea. They both are 44 ft (13.4 m) wide, but the one in Goring is shorter

This resemblance gave him an idea. he would provide his parish church with a replica of the Sistine Chapel. Since he already had offered some paintings to the church, included one that paraphrased Michelangelo's Last Supper, the parish priest Fr. Enda Naughton knew Bevan's qualities as a painter and may have stimulated him to do the paintings.

Gary Bevans and father Enda Naughton

The bishop also agreed, so in 1987 Bevans began his project.

He used plywood panels, altogether some 120, undercoated with primer and provided with a simple sketch of the scene to be painted. These panels were lifted up the scaffold and then screwed to the ceiling. Once attached,  the scene on the panel was elaborated with acrylic paint.

Like Michelangelo Bevans often had to do the painting while in a supine position.

still from a 360’ panoramic view (see documentation)
reprinted here in agreement with the author
click to enlarge

Parochians could help to finance the project by adopting a panel (for around 20 GBP) and many were ready to contribute in this way.

Working in the evenings and in the weekends, it would take Bevans  years to complete this very special artwork, that covers a surface of 3500 sq ft (325 m2). The  original one in Rome covers 5000 sq ft (465 m2).

the Last Supper
courtesy Gattina

A unique replica

Completed in 1993, Gary Bevans replica is a major achievement, which might be the only copy in the world of the original.

France had another copy, made around 1970 by Irial Vets on the ceiling of a chapel in Saint-Vincent-la-Rivière in France, but this creation was whitewashed when the chapel was sold after its creator died.

And then for the film The agony and the Ecstasy (1965) with Charlton Heston as Michelangelo, a replica was painted by Ferdinand Bellan (1897-1976), a piece of scenery that may have been sold to a private party and maybe still exists.

The Sistine Chapel in Rome in a panoramic view

The website of the Vatican has a presentation of the Sistine Chapel in Rome in a 360٥ panoramic view

* a 360’ panoramic view  of Bevans' creation
* website of the church, with information for visitors
* UK website fully devoted to the Sistine Chapel replica
* the replica got a lot of publicity in the UK (newspapers, TV) and the New York Times also had a rather informative article
* Sistine Chapel Reproduction UK, a video by Mary's Dowry Production (47'44", YouTube, downloaded May 2013), at the occasion of the replica's twentieth anniversary. This video is also available on DVD

¹ The parish in 1937 bought a piece of land with a barn, built in 1771, that served as church. When the barn became too small, in the late 1960's a new church was built on the site, opened in 1970. The Barn currently has a social function

Gary Bevans
Replica of the Sistine Chapel in English Martyrs Catholic Church
Goring Way, 
Goring-by-Sea, Worthing, West Sussex, South East England, UK
can be visited in summer from Easter till end october,
tue-fri 10-16, sat, sun after mass


  1. Very nice ! A pity that it is not more known !

  2. It's amazing and I've visited several times. I am always stunned by his talent but I'm also in awe of his commitment to his faith. I have several of his original drawings and I love them so much.