Network Rail has banned an image of St John the Evangelist from appearing in Rochester station in Kent, which has just been reopened after a £26m refurbishment. The company, partly funded by taxpayer money, argued it was "overtly Christian" and that it would offend "multi-cultural values".

The image of the saint, who is believed by Christians to have been one of the apostles of Christ, was to be positioned at the station entrance with other iconography inspired by Rochester's ancient Christian cathedral. The display was a reference to the city's heritage as one of the oldest Christian ecclesiastical cities in the UK. Rochester cathedral, founded in 604 AD, is the second oldest in Britain, after Canterbury.

The censorhip comes after the ban by some cinema chains of an advertisement which showed the Archbishop of Canterbury and other priests reciting the Lord's Prayer on the grounds that it might have caused offence.

The Bishop of Rochester, James Langstaff, said: "This is the Lord's Prayer issue all over again. Having worked with other religious groups, they do not find Christianity uncomfortable at all. I don't think they will be offended but rather respect our expressions of faith."

The art work was produced by artist Katayoun Dowlatshahi, 47, whose father was a Muslim. She stated: "I don't think it's the right decision. We should be allowed to celebrate our Christian heritage. In the context of Rochester's past, it was not the right thing to do."

Meanwhile, a Network Rail spokesman said that the company told Dowlatshahi to remove some of the planned images to "create a balance".