|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.
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 5½ 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
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
Replica of the Sistine Chapel in English Martyrs Catholic Church
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
Very nice ! A pity that it is not more known !ReplyDelete
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.ReplyDelete