St John & St Mark Church, Bury

The sculpture of Christ

This is the story behind the sculpture of Christ that hangs above our altar

We were recently contacted by the artist Bonnie Leeman looking to trace the sculpture that her mother Cynthia Chapman had worked on in the early 1970's.

She supplied us with this photo asking if the sculpture was still here. This set us on a trail of uncovering more behind how this sculpture came to be above our altar.

The initial clay model was made by Leicester teacher and artist David Merriman, who had met our vicar Arthur Hulse whilst on holiday in Wales.

David said of the figure ‘I have attempted to portray a Christ in Majesty...He has risen superior to physical pain. In the face I have tried to express resignation, compassion and yet authority.’



The 9ft sculpture itself is constructed of fibreglass and a cold-cast coating of aluminium. It was made from the clay model by Derek Isaac & Cynthia and was dedicated in January 1972 by the Bishop of Manchester.


Derek and Cynthia, shown here, worked for a fibre-glass firm called Carlton Russell who made everything from shop fronts to charity boxes. Derek was also a talented wood carver and pattern maker. Cynthia, who had worked with Derek for 2 years, was aged 18 and the sculpture was produced over several months during their spare time.



David Merriman had previously designed the sculpture of Christ on the exterior of St Luke’s in Leicester. St Luke’s was built by the local community in 1966 and possibly it was this sculpture which inspired the commission from Reverend Hulse.

Worship at St Luke’s is ‘in-the-round’ with the altar in the centre of the room. The thorn work on the candlesticks, altar cross and processional cross at our church, which were also designed by David Merriman, bear a strong resemblance to the thorns above the altar at St Luke's.

Cynthia and Bonnie hope to visit our church soon to see for themselves the sculpture of Christ in place above the altar.



Bonnie, pictured below,  has an online gallery which can be accessed via http://bonniemarieleeman.daportfolio.com/