Perhaps the most striking feature of the interior of our parish church is its altarpiece (or reredos) – the guilded oak screen situated behind the high altar.
The reredos was given in memory of Joseph Beausire, a member of a once well-known Oxton family, and was designed by George Frederick Bodley. Bodley was a highly regarded British Gothic Revival architect in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He trained under Sir George Gilbert Scott and his illustrious career included designing the master plan for Washington National Cathedral in the United States.
As you look at our reredos, you can see it has the triptych form (three panels hinged together so that they can be folded shut or displayed open) which dates from early Christian art, and which has been a popular format for altarpieces since the Middle Ages.
The central panel contains a number of figures. In the upper centre of the panel, we see ‘St Saviour’ – that is to say, Christ ascended to glory. His right hand is raised in blessing, and his left hand holds an orb surmounted by a cross, an emblem of his sovereignty over the world.
This figure of Christ is flanked by four of the great figures of the early Western Church: St Gregory; St Jerome; St Augustine; and St Ambrose. Beneath the figure of Christ is a depiction of the nativity, surrounded by four archangels.
The wings of the triptych bear the figures of St Werburgh (on the left) and St Cecilia (on the right). Each of them is flanked by angels.
St Werburgh was a seventh century Anglo-Saxon Abbess. She is the patron saint of Chester, and the church which is now Chester Cathedral was dedicated to her during the middle ages. The depiction of this saint on our triptych is therefore an expression of our unity with other Anglican Christians in our Diocese.
St Cecilia’s memory as a martyr has been celebrated in the church since the fourth century. She is the patron saint of church music. It is written that as the musicians played at her wedding she “sang in her heart to the Lord”. Her appearance on our triptych expresses the importance of music in our worship of God.