Behind the high altar is a beautifully carved stone ornamental screen
called a reredos.
The word reredos comes from an Anglo-Norman 14th century term areredos
behind and dos
back, from the Latin dorsum
is also known as an 'altar-piece'. A reredos can be simple or elaborate.
In St James's Church the reredos has several religious symbols. The
central panel has a cross in marble. When St James's was first built,
it is unlikely that there was a cross on the high altar. In those
days this marbel cross would have been seen as unacceptable in a 'Protestant'
church. A cross in marble on the wall, though, may have been thought
better. If the altar cross is removed from the high altar, as it is
in Lent, the reredos cross provides a very obvious focus for the church,
drawing one's eyes towards it. Above the cross there is an apex stone
showing a dove carving, representing the Holy Spirit and peace, with
and fern leaf decorations. The inset panels of the reredos have decorative
tile patterns, shown below.
The cross is flanked by carvings of bread and wheat, and wine and
grapes. The altar is the focus of the celebration of the eucharist
or holy communion, when bread and wine are taken and shared. The depiction
not just of the final products of bread and wine, but also of the
ingredients wheat and grapes further remind us at the Harvest Festival
that at the eucharist we use the fruits of the harvest in the Church's
principal act of worship.