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Bequest enables artwork restoration

THE recent discovery of concealed art on the walls and ceiling will enhance the building and worship experience at St Gregory’s Catholic Church.

The artwork was discovered as part of the church’s project to renovate and restore the entire sanctuary.

Parish Priest Father Alexander Austin had already suspected there was artwork underneath the white painted walls and ceiling of the East End Apse after a church parishioner had presented him with an old postcard of the interior of the church. The postcard was found during the church’s preparations for its 150th anniversary in 2016.

Father Austin said: “It’s just very exciting isn’t it. It means it’s a much more beautiful building than we realised.”

Men from a church interior decorating company were in recently on scaffolding to investigate what the original patterns and colours were like in the artwork.

The church originally thought they could remove the paint for the entire wall and roof area of the East End Apse of the church. But they discovered five coats of paint on the highest wooden part of the ceiling, which he said set like concrete making it too difficult to get to the original stencilling art. So the church plans to reproduce the artwork underneath the paint by painting on top of it.

They found the fewer coats of paint lower down the wall of the building next to the stained glass windows, which will likely allow them to fully restore and uncover the artwork there.

The restoration of the artwork in the East End Apse will likely take two to three months and looks to start in the autumn or next winter.

Father Austin added: “It’s going to enhance the building so much.”

While the church dates back to 1860 the age of the artwork underneath the painted walls and ceiling is unclear, but likely circa 1900 or before.

The church received a £40,000 bequest specifically designated for the restoration of the art. But the cost of the art restoration may likely exceed the bequest amount.

Father Austin said: “It’s all part of the Catholic tradition. It uses the senses to help people to come closer to God. They learn through stained glass windows, the use of art and the church building. It will help people to raise their hearts and minds to God.”

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