The plain 1950s church in Essex harbouring stunning displays within its walls

  • Hannah Pettifer went to visit Our Lady Fatima Church in Essex, to see what made it so special

From the outside, this church looks like any other. But hidden inside is an extravaganza of colour.

Its windows are made of thousands of pieces of coloured glass, faceted like diamonds, so that when the light hits them, it's refracted, sending shards of colour throughout the church.

It is one of the reasons Our Lady Fatima Church in Harlow, Essex, has been awarded a Grade II* listed status - despite being only 60 years old.

Built in 1958, it was the first church in the UK to use this dalle de verre glass art technique.

The inside of Our Lady Fatima Church in Harlow, Essex. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Originating in France, one-inch thick coloured pieces of glass are cut into patterns and fixed into position to create a spectacular mosaic.

The artworks cover two thirds of the church walls and depict stories of the Bible.

Father Bogdan Kot said: "Not everybody reads the Bible, so we've got the Bible here inside. We've got the Old Testament, we've got the New Testatment.

"It's a beautiful way of inviting people to ask questions, to experience the Bible in colours, in stories."

The windows in Our Lady Fatima Church are made of thousands of pieces of coloured glass. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The glasswork was designed by Charles Norris, who, alongside being a glass artist, was also a Benedictine monk.

Historic England has described the Roman Catholic church as an inspiration in contemporary church design.

At the time it was built, it was seen as highly innovative and paved the way for many other churches to follow.

Our Lady Fatima was the first church in the UK to use the dalle de verre glass art technique. Credit: ITV News Anglia

But the building itself was also groundbreaking.

It was the first in the country to be designed in a T-shape, bringing the congregation closer to the altar.

The Grade II* listing gives the building better protection access to funding.

At the time the church was built, Harlow, a new town, was in its infancy.

Its architect, Gerard Goalen, had been building factories for the town's industrial estates when he was commissioned.

What resulted was a masterpiece of design, recognised for its innovation both then and now.

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