Reredos

The ReredosA beautifully carved, wooden Reredos is situated in the Greeting Area or Narthex as a welcome, and as an introduction to the foundations of Christianity both in The Holy Land and in The British Isles. Designed by Temple Moore and made by Bridgeman of Lichfield in 1913, it once stood beneath the East Window as a backdrop to the Altar.

The Reredos comprises a central panel with Christ and the Twelve Apostles, each identified by the symbols with which their life was associated. Peter holds the Key of Heaven, John, ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’, holds the chalice he shared the poisoned cup of his execution, Andrew holds the diagonal cross on which he died and Simon the Zealot holds the saw that killed him etc. The instruments of Christ’s Passion are presented in shields.

The two side panels of the Reredos depict Northern Saints, Monarchs and Doctors of the Church who were instrumental in bringing Christianity to the North of England. The following explains the symbols that identify each of them and gives brief insights. The bishops wear mitres on their heads and all royalty wear crowns. The figures are numbered from left to right, as they appear on the Reredos, although their descriptions below are chronologically arranged.

Reredos Plaque


View of whole reredos

1---2---3-----4--5--6--Saints, monarchs, doctors, Christ and apostles--7---8---9----10---11----12









St. Athanasius [4] , Bishop of Alexandria from AD328 holds a book for his great learning and influence in the devising of the Nicene Creed. He championed the belief that Jesus was truly God and fully man, and defined the Holy Spirit as God.

As a Pope, Gregory the Great [6] (AD540-604) wears a Triple Crown and holds a Triple Cross. On his shoulder is a dove, a symbol of the Holy Spirit and his love of singing, having inspired the introduction of ‘Gregorian Chant’. It was Gregory [6] who, learning that golden-haired slaves for sale in Rome were Anglo-Saxons said, ‘Not Angles but angels’ and he determined there and then that their kind should become Christians.

Pope Gregory [6] sent a reluctant St. Augustine of Canterbury [5] to Kent, in AD596. He converted King Ethelbert of Kent, Father of Ethelberga [8] , and thousands of his countrymen to Christianity. However, The Reredos carving shows a different Augustine [5] , one who is holding a heart. That is the symbol of Saint Augustine of Hippo [5] who said, ‘You have created us for yourself, and our hearts cannot find rest until they find their rest in you’.

Paulinus [11] carries a staff surmounted by the ‘wheeled’ Paulinus Cross with its circular starburst. Paulinus came to Northumbria as Chaplin to Ethelberga [8] , Princess of Kent, on her marriage to the pagan Edwin, High King of Northumbria [7], whom he converted in AD 627.

Paulinus [11] then set sail on the rivers of The North to baptise Edwin’s [7] subjects. An ancient stone in Dewsbury had an inscription in Latin: ‘Here Paulinus preached and celebrated AD627’. Tradition traces the foundation of our Minster Church, to this occasion.

On the Reredos, King Edwin [7] holds a trowel and a church because he founded the stone built Minster Church in York, the Seat of Paulinus [11], the first Bishop of York. On Edwin’s [7] defeat and death in 633 Paulinus [11] and Queen Ethelberga [8] fled back to Kent.

James the Deacon [12] was a monk (note his hairstyle and bible) and he was a companion of Paulinus [11]. He continued missionary work in the North after Paulinus had returned to Kent, despite the return of paganism.

St. Oswald [9] was nephew to King Edwin. [7] In obedience to a vision of St. Columba, he erected a huge cross before he fought and defeated the Welsh, so retrieving the Kingship of Northumbria. His symbol is the cross he carries.

St. Aidan [1] was a learned monk at Iona, where Oswald [9] had been educated. Aidan [1] became Bishop of Lindisfarne and of Durham, and on the new KingOswald’s [9] orders, he preached Christianity to the people of Northumbria. His symbol is a Torch of Learning.

St. Hilda [2] is shown holding Rosary Beads. She was grandniece of King Edwin [7] AD614-680 and became Abbess of Whitby, where the first Synod of 664 ruled that the English Church would follow Roman Catholic ways rather than the Celtic Church.

St. Boniface or Wynfrith [10] 680-754 was an Anglo-Saxon Christian Missionary to Germany. He astounded and converted a pagan audience who were about to sacrifice a child. He chopped down their sacred oak tree, without himself being struck down. His symbol is an axe and a fir branch. Candles were put on a fir tree while Boniface explained about his loving God.

The Venerable Bede [3] 672- 735 was the most learned Englishman of his day, who wrote the ‘Ecclesiastical History of England’ upon which much of our knowledge of previous times is based. He is shown writing.

St. Aidan 1 St. Hilda 2 The Venerable Bede 3

St. Athanasius 4 St. Augustine of Canterbury 5/ Saint Augustine of Hippo 5 Gregory the Great 6

Edwin, High King of Northumbria 7 Ethelberga 8 St. Oswald (King) 9

St. Boniface or Wynfrith 10Paulinus 11 James the Deacon 12