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Scotland unveils marble chair and altar

Stonemason Neil Reid works on a lectern, or ambo, to be used by the Pope in Glasgow (Danny Lawson/PA)

A Scottish stonemason is putting the finishing touches to the chair, altar and lectern to be used by Pope Benedict XVI at the Mass at Bellahouston Park.

Neil Reid, who has been building church altars for 18 years, said he was working “flat out” to make sure the project was completed in time.

The structures are made out of marble and were designed in 3D with the help of computer experts at Strathclyde University.

They are likely to be compared with the papal chair, altar and lectern (or ambo) made in wood for the Cofton Park Mass by teachers in Coventry.

Mr Reid, of Reid Carrara Ltd, served his apprenticeship under Tom MacMillan, who built the altar for John Paul II’s visit in 1982.

He said: “It is a real privilege to be asked by the Church to do this job. I’m really flattered that after seeing my previous work they trusted me with such an important task. I’ve been making altars for churches for 18 years now but this is the big one.

“I’m pernickety,” he said. “Everything has to be just right, but I’m like that whether I’m doing a piece for a parish priest, Mrs Smith from around the corner or the Pope.

“I can picture the altar in my head already but I can’t wait to get it finished and see it being used by the Pope at Bellahouston.”

Artist Niamh Quail, from Glasgow, was given six weeks to complete the design. She said: “I was told to design a chair and that was about it. I wanted to keep it simple but also to have a Scottish and religious aspect to it as well.

“The design is Celtic, incorporating a cross, within each of the four arms are three interwoven leafs representing the Holy Trinity, with the entire design having no beginning nor end.”

“Normally I would have one-dimensional sketches but with the CAD [computer aided design] we were able to make 3D models of the chair, altar and lectern together. It was great to see them like that and we were even able to put a model of the Pope in there too.

“When the Vatican saw the models and all the work that had gone into it they were really confident in what we were doing.”