In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth – the latter of which will be hanging over the congregation of St Peter Mancroft in Norwich later this year.

A 7m replica of our planet will be installed at the city centre church for a month in the autumn and will offer people a chance to view the Earth as if a tourist on the moon.

Eastern Daily Press: Gaia at the Eden Project in 2019Gaia at the Eden Project in 2019 (Image: Ben Foster and the Eden Project)

UK artist Luke Jerram has created the three-dimensional model (Gaia) from detailed NASA imagery of the planet’s surface, aiming to create the ‘Overview Effect’ - a phenomenon astronauts experience when viewing the Earth from space - which evokes a sense of awe and sense of responsibility for the planet.

Humanity has been staring at the moon for 200,000 years and it has inspired artists, authors and cultures around the world, but it is only since 1968 that we first saw Earth floating in space.

When visitors view Gaia hanging from the beams of St Peter Mancroft, the installation will rotate once every four minutes - 360 times faster than the real Earth – while a composition by BAFTA award-winning composer Dan Jones plays.

St Peter Mancroft is determined to make access free, and fundraising is currently underway to secure the cash for a number of events linked to the eye-catching sculpture, which visits Norwich from October 1 to 31.

Eastern Daily Press: Gaia hanging at The Natural History Museum in London in 2018Gaia hanging at The Natural History Museum in London in 2018 (Image: Luke Jerram)

Dr Peter Allies is a member of the St Peter Mancroft team bringing Gaia to Norwich, alongside Stephanie Grant, Dr Nicholas Brewin and Revd Dr Fiona Haworth.

He explained that the installation would complement St Peter Mancroft’s commitment to raising awareness about the seriousness of climate change and its implications for humanity in the future.

“It’s critically important that people take on board that the climate emergency is real and we hope to use Gaia to emphasise this point,” he said.

“We want to reach those who want to know more. St Peter Mancroft has an Earth Chapel which celebrates the beauty of the natural world and aims to increase awareness of the climate and environmental emergencies.

“We believe Gaia will present the Earth as a precious gift from God which humankind has damaged as a result of poor stewardship and will also emphasise that there is no conflict between science and faith.

“Science deals with observable facts and predictable forecasts, while faith deals with underlying beliefs and values – the two are complementary in developing solutions and targets for the climate emergency.”

Running alongside the installation will be an engaging and accessible programme of events to inform and educate the public and the church community.

The church will also work in partnership with the annual Norwich Science Festival which takes place next door at The Forum during the final week of Gaia’s tenure.

Events planned include evening lectures and discussions from a range of science and faith perspectives, schools visits, artistic, musical and cultural events and work alongside other churches in Norwich in line with the Diocesan Environmental Policy.

Eastern Daily Press: Gaia at Salisbury Cathedral in 2019Gaia at Salisbury Cathedral in 2019 (Image: Luke Jerram)

Sermons at St Peter Mancroft during Gaia’s visit will highlight particular environmental issues, and some of the project events will be streamed on YouTube for those unable to attend in person.

Other projects include building on St Peter Mancroft’s existing links to the local Extinction Rebellion group, working with local theatre groups, the UEA School of Environmental Sciences, the John Innes Centre, the Science, Art and Writing Trust and The Arts Council.

Artist Mr Jerram said: I’m hoping when people come and see this Earth artwork they will realise the beauty and the fragility of our planet and that actually it’s our only home and we have to look after it.

“We urgently need to wake up and change our behaviour. We need to quickly make the changes necessary to prevent runaway climate change.”

Eastern Daily Press: NNF17. Museum of the Moon. Photo: Luke Jerram.NNF17. Museum of the Moon. Photo: Luke Jerram. (Image: Luke Jerram)

The artist’s Museum of the Moon, a similar installation which was a 7m sculpture of the Moon, appeared inside The Forum as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival in 2017.

Half a million times smaller than the real thing with 1cm on the artwork representing 5km on the real moon, the sculpture hung from the ceiling of the city centre building and was also accompanied by a soundscape.

Eastern Daily Press: NNF17. The Museum of the Moon has landed at The Forum for the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. Photo: Emma KnightsNNF17. The Museum of the Moon has landed at The Forum for the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. Photo: Emma Knights (Image: Emma Knights)

Mr Jerram’s previous artworks have included the Play Me I’m Yours project, which saw pianos left on the streets of more than 55 cities from London to Melbourne and New York and his Park and Slide which saw huge crowds turn out to watch people hurtle down a giant water slide in Bristol.

Before travelling to Norwich, Gaia will be in London, Ely, Hull, Dorset and after Norwich will travel to Oslo.

Did you know?

· In Greek mythology, Gaia is the personification of the Earth

· The sculpture is 1.8 million times smaller than the real Earth with each centimetre of the internally-lit sculpture representing 18km of the Earth’s surface

· If you stood 211m away from the artwork, you would see the Earth as it appears from the Moon

· At any one time, there are several versions of Gaia touring the world and the sculpture is presented both indoors and outdoors

· The first time humankind saw the Earth as a planet floating in space was in 1968 with NASA’s Apollo 8 mission

· Created in partnership with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Bluedot and the UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres. The artwork premiered at Bluedot Festival in July 2018

Other unusual church and cathedral initiatives

1. In August 2019, a 55ft helter skelter was installed in Norwich Cathedral’s Nave as part of the Seeing it Differently project which aimed to give people the chance to experience the Cathedral in an entirely different way and open up new conversations about faith.

The funfair ride had a viewing platform at 40ft which allowed riders to get a closer look at the Cathedral’s medieval roof and its beautiful bosses.

Norwich Cathedral attracted criticism for the bold move with the Queen’s former chaplain the Right Reverend Dr Gaven Ashenden saying the helter skelter was “a mistake” and “unprofessional”, adding: “For such a place, steeped in mystery and marvel, to buy into sensory pleasure and distraction is to poison the very medicine it offers the human soul.”

The 10,000 visitors to the attraction disagreed, and the Reverend Canon Andy Bryant of Norwich Cathedral, speaking at the time, said: “I often do things that are very serious, sombre and even heartbreaking in the cathedral.

“But surely we also need to celebrate the whole of ourselves; we were also made for love, laughter and fun.”

2. Dippy, the Natural History Museum’s iconic Diplodocus cast, will be making the final stop on his national tour at Norwich Cathedral from July 13 to October 30.

3. In June 2019, Rochester Cathedral in Kent, the central aisle of the building was turned into a nine-hole crazy golf course in a bid to attract more children through its doors while at Lichfield Cathedral in September of the same year, the surface of the Moon was projected n to the floor and the ceiling used for illumination shows.

4. Liverpool Cathedral is the home of a permanent art installation by artist Tracey Emin created when Liverpool was the City of Culture in 2009 and Chester Cathedral has hosted a Lego exhibition, entitled The Deep.

5. Peterborough Cathedral will host a Gin and Rum Festival in its cloisters in July this year following the success of its earlier Gin and Prosecco Festival.