The artist responsible for the Anointing Screen at the Coronation of Kings Charles III has reinvigorated the Apse at St Christopher’s in Codsall.

Aidan Hart spent 33 working days refurbishing the apse behind the sanctuary, which was in need of a refresh after being installed 22 years ago.

The apse can be described as the polygonal or semi-circular end of a church, usually roofed with a vaulted ceiling or a dome. 

At St Christopher’s it now features five figures - Jesus, Mary, St Christopher, St Dominic and St Clare.

St Christopher because he is the patron of the church. St Clare and St Dominic because their relics are inside the altar. Our Lady because she is Mother of the Church.

The inspiration for the design comes largely from early Roman apsidal mosaics, such as those found in Saint Prassede and Saints Cosmas e Damian Rome.

Parish priest Fr David Gnosill came across Aidan’s work on social media and approached the artist.

After a site visit, development of ideas, consultation with parishioners and the Diocesan Art and Architecture committee, a Faculty was granted to start the work.

“Just before Aidan started the work in May, he announced that he was going to Windsor Castle at the invitation of King Charles III,” said Fr David.

“Aidan had been responsible for designing the Anointing Screen that was to be used during the King’s Coronation and would be joining His Majesty in a reception at the castle. 

“We hadn’t realised who was working for us until that point. Aidan was working for the King, but then he would come and work for the King of Kings.”

Before Aidan created the mural at St Christopher’s the apse was painted purple and so has undergone a complete transformation. It now provides even more of a focal point in the church.

“Through beauty we praise God. Through beauty, we evangelise. Art expresses our faith, articulates our prayer, and reminds us of how we must live. Beauty lifts the faith of those around us,” said Fr David.

As we prepared to enhance the Sanctuary of St Christopher’s some were asking questions like: is the art a luxury?  Will it be a distraction from worshipping God? Why have the artwork, after all it won’t feed people, or stop wars. What about financial insecurity, cost of living increases, what will it achieve? 

“All churches today face the dilemma of how to allocate resources.

“For Christians trying to follow the example of Christ by caring for the poor and living simply, a focus on art can seem self-serving. The urgent needs of the world force us as church goers and artists of faith to ask what truly matters in each note, or paint stroke.

“Art, however, goes beyond luxury. Beauty is a human need as well. Our souls need feeding as well as our bodies.  We shouldn’t fear spending money on beauty. Spending money on beauty does not mean we neglect our care for the poor. The poor will always be with us; we will always have opportunities to take care of them. 

“Pope Francis noted that the poor need art and beauty as well.  ‘Some are living lives of great hardship, and so have even greater need of beauty’.  

“In the difficult current context that the world is experiencing, in which sadness and distress sometimes seem to have the upper hand, we need beauty more than ever. Beauty addresses our need for hope; Hope is functionally inseparable from beauty, for beauty is a reminder that there is hope and because beauty is always a source of joy, putting us in touch with divine goodness. 

“Thankfully, we had resources to carry out this work. The money spent is money well invested. 

“We form the buildings; in time the buildings form us.”

Aidan, who was assisted in his work at St Christopher’s by three student artists, has written a detailed explanation of this project.

Read Aidan's account

Photographs to accompany Aidan's account

The Apse at St Christopher's, Codsall

Photographs of the completed work by Mark Lear

The Apse at St Christopher's, Codsall (2)