Gary Bevans spent more than five years painting the world's only full-sized replica of the Vatican's Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Now he is returning as a permanent custodian of the church which contains the stunning work of art.

Gary, 55, will be ordained as a deacon at English Martyrs Catholic Church, Goring Way, Worthing, today.

The ceremony will be conducted by The Very Reverend Kieran Conry, Bishop of Arundel and Brighton.

Today, thousands of people from all over the world visit the church, which opened in the 1960s.

Gary, originally a signwriter by trade, attended St Andrew's High School for Boys in Sackville Road, Worthing.

He converted to the Catholic faith at the age of 17, but it was only after a pilgrimage to Rome that he decided to take on the monumental task of reproducing Michelangelo's ceiling.

Despite never having an art lesson in his life, Gary, then aged 33, approached the parish priest, Father Enda Naughton, with the idea.

Bishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, who later became Cardinal of England, was consulted, and he granted permission.

Blank plywood panels were screwed to the ceiling and Gary spent the next five years drawing and painting 500 figures.

He often worked through the night, enduring intense summer heat and bitter winter cold, to complete the work.

The ceiling was finally finished in 1993 and remains the only full sized copy in the world, although it is 30ft nearer the ground than the original.

Gary said the epic task, often working with only a single light at the top of his scaffold tower, led him on a spiritual journey which prompted him to become a deacon.

He said: “I still look up at the ceiling and wonder how I managed it.

“I check it now and again to make sure everything is okay, and it is holding up well.

“I haven't had to do any major repairs, just the odd bits and pieces.

“I am always working in churches so it seemed a natural progression to become a deacon.”

The ordination will be attended by his wife, Theresa, and daughters Emily and Bernadette.

Gary, who lives in Goring, Worthing, will now assist the parish priest, Father Liam O'Connor.