The Church of Corpus Christi in Covent Garden, London, has unveiled a new high altar as part of a major restoration project.

When the church was opened in 1874, Cardinal Henry Manning, the Archbishop of Westminster, said: “A sanctuary has been opened to be specifically devoted to the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.”

It was the first Catholic church to be named for Corpus Christi – the feast of Christ’s Body and Blood – since the Reformation. Its construction was intended as reparation for the crimes against the Blessed Sacrament committed in England since the 16th century.

With the encouragement of Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the parish priest Fr Alan Robinson has begun to renovate Corpus Christi, sometimes known as “the actors’ church’’. The narthex and Sacred Heart chapel have been restored, and earlier this month the high altar was unveiled.

The back wall is now covered with gold leaf to signify God’s majesty and three carved angels sit over the tabernacle, as a reminder that heaven and earth come together in the Mass. Above are 600 handcrafted and gilded stars.

Parish administrator Alex Dimminger said: “The way the sanctuary opens up into the heavens reminds us that we do not come to God alone.

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