Saturday, 31 August 2013

London Churches 8 - The London Oratory

Exterior of the Oratory

Having spent some time looking at the Catholic churches of the West End, Holborn and the City, I have decided to move to the other side of London, to Kensington, and consider what is perhaps the grandest of the London Catholic churches, the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, better known as the Brompton (or correctly, London) Oratory. This very large and imposing building is located in the heart of the 'museum district' of South Kensington, and is, arguably, their equal in terms of the artistic treasures it contains (I would say it is superior, as these treasures are still being used for their intended purpose of Divine Worship and Devotion, rather than the slightly melancholy spectacle of liturgical artifacts sealed up in glass cases, never to be used again, such as we see in the neighbouring V&A Museum).


The Interior

The London Oratory was founded in 1849 by a number of clergy who had initially joined the then recently-established Bimingham Oratory, founded by the Blessed John Henry Newman. Most notable among these was Fr. Frederick William Faber, noted hymn writer, preacher and spiritual writer, who became the first Provost of the London community. In keeping with the Oratorian principles laid down by St. Philip Neri which involved mission to urban areas, the first London Oratory was located in a former commercial premises near Charing Cross (its previous uses have been described as a whisky-store, gin shop an dance hall). In 1852, a new site was puchased on what was then the edge of the city, in a small village called Brompton, near Kensington. A house and temporary church were built, and an appeal was started to fund a permanent structure.


Fr. Faber

The present church was designed by Herbert Gribble, and was the largest Catholic church in London until the building of Westminster Cathedral in 1903. The cupola stands some 200 feet in height.


The Sanctuary, during celebrations for Newman's Beatification

Perhaps the greatest stroke of genius was to build in a Baroque style at the height of the Gothic Revival in architecture. At this time, many churches on the continent (particulary in Italy) were being rebuilt or re-ordered in the prevailing fashion, and many Baroque altars and other features were being ripped out and sold at knock-down prices. The Oratorians took advantage of this market in 'architectural salvage', and this has resulted in many of the fine elements installed in the church.


The Lady Altar
(former High Altar remove from an Italian church)

The new statue of St. Wilfred
 The tradtion of installing fine artwork in the Oratory contiues to this day, with recent developments being the new chapel of Blessed John Henry Newman, a new Calvary statue, and a new statue of St.Wilfred for the chapel dedicated to him.
The Calvary
The Newman Chapel



St. Wilfred's Chapel was, for many years, used by the late Monsignor Alfred Gilbey, the formidable fomer Chaplain of Cambridge Universiy, who celebrated Mass there in the Usus Antiquior each morning.


Monsignor Gilbey
The building to the left of the courtyard in front of the clergy house contains the Little Oratory, a chapel associated with a pious confraternity, the Brothers of the Little Oratory, laymen who work in association with the Fathers in a similar way to Oblates or Tertiaries.

Statue of Newman in his Cardinal's robes outside the Little Oratory


Interior of the Little Oratory

I tend to call in to the Oratory for a time of prayer and refection when I am in South Kensington, usually when I have been to one of the museums. One of the Oratorian Fathers, Fr. Patrick Doyle, is an old friend from university days, and I will also sometimes pay him a call, if he is in. Please pray for Fr. Doyle, as he is now suffering from severe problems with his eyesight, and is close to blindness.


Quarant'ore at the Oratory

Please visit the Oratory website, for lots more information than I can include in this, already quite long, post.


Altar of the English Martyrs in St.Wilfred's Chapel

There are a number of rather good restaurants in the area, and I would suggest seeking out one for lunch if you ever attend a Sunday morning Mass at the Oratory (the 9 a.m. Mass in celebrated in the Usus Antiquior, and the 11 am Mass is a Solemn Latin Novus Ordo Mass, done very well - all the Masses are said Ad Orientem, as the sanctuary has never been re-ordered). I am afraid I can't make any specifc recommendations, as the little Italian place I used to go to closed a number of years ago, but you are sure to find somewhere good.


Altar of St. Philip Neri

Our Lady, conceived without sin, pray for us.
St. Philip Neri, pray for us.
Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us.

Friday, 30 August 2013

The Credo again

Rgarding the discussion about chant settings for the Credo, which has recently been taking place between myself and Zephyrinus, here are two further, less well-known settings given in the Liber Usualis.

You are probably unlikely to here these very often, unless you have a knowlegeable choir or schola in your parish. I think both these settings are rather beauiful.

Credo II

Credo IV

Catholic Hymn - Who is She that Stands Triumphant?

I was really pleased to find a video featuring this old hymn about the glories of the Catholic Church.

They don't write like this any more.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Credo I

I see that Zephyrinus has just put up a post about the Nicene Creed, and has included a Youtube video of the chant for Credo III (usually sung in conjunction with Mass VIII - the Missa de Angelis).

Not to be outdone, here is my reply - Credo I, as typically sung with most of the other Mass settings.

London Churches 7 - St. Mary Moorfields

Entrance to the church

St. Mary Moorfields is the only Catholic Church which actually lies within the boudaries of the Square Mile of the City of London. The modest entrance, set among a row of shops close to Liverpool Street Station, hides a most magnificent interior.

Church Interior

The following history is taken from the parish website:

The roots of the parish of St Mary Moorfields go back to several chapels that sprang up in the area in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Catholic worship in those days was illegal.
The chapels were known locally as ‘Penny Hotels’, as people had to pay a penny to a man behind a grill in the door before they were allowed in.
These were hard times for Catholics. In 1736, for example, the Gordon Rioters attacked the chapel in Ropemakers Alley, ripping out its altar, fittings and crucifixes. Following the Catholic Relief Act of 1791, Catholics were permitted to worship in public. And in 1820 the first church of St Mary Moorfields opened in Finsbury Circus. As the permanent seat of the Vicar Apostolic, it served as Cardinal Wiseman's pro-cathedral from 1850 to 1869.
The church was pulled down in 1899 and replaced by the present church in Eldon Street, which was opened on 25th March 1903. The architect was George Sherrin, who also designed the dome of the London Oratory as well as several Underground stations.
The Sanctuary
 Perhaps the most striking features of this beautiful church are the classical columns framing the Sanctuary, and the High Altar, modelled in the form of a sarcophagus to recall the ancient practice of celebrating Mass on the tombs of martyr-saints in the catacombs of Rome (the reason why Saints' relics are enclosed in, and sometimes also placed upon, the altars of Catholic Churches).

The High Altar on Good Friday

St. Mary Moorfields has, in recent years, become another church supportive of the Usus Antquior Mass, thanks largely to the help of the current Parish Priest, Canon Peter Newby.

Canon Newby

 For several years now, the church has hosted the Latin Mass Society's Holy Week liturgies, which were previously held at Maiden Lane.

Easter Vigil 2011, with some familiar faces

Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis.

London Churches 6 - St. Etheldreda's, Ely Place

Church Exterior

At the other end of High Holborn, near to Smithfield Market and the Holborn Viaduct, lies Ely Place which is home to perhaps the most historic Catholic church in London.

Entrance to Ely Place - St. Etheldreda's lies between the buildings on the left

St. Etheldreda's is a Medieval building, dating from.1250, which was once the chapel of the London residence of the Bishops of Ely (hence Ely Place), and is, I believe, the only pre- Reformation church in London to be restored to full Catholic use.

The picture below shows a model of how the church originally looked, and fitted in to the complex of buildings that made up the Bishop's palace.

Following the Reformation, it was decided to retain the chapel for Anglican worship. Years later, in the Georgian period, the whole of Ely Place was redeveloped in the style of the period, and the remains of the old palace were demolished. Once again, however, it was decided to preserve the chapel.

Interior of the upper church, looking east

By 1873, the chapel had become redundant and was due to be sold by auction. At this time, Cardinal Manning had charged the Rosminian order with the task of establishing a mission to the poor in the slums that then existed around Holborn. Successfully overcoming a rival bid fom the Welsh Presbyterians, the order purchased the chapel, and St. Etheldreda's once again became a Catholic church. Subsequently, much work was undertaken to restore the church to its original glory, and this continues, to some extent, to the present day.

Interior of the upper church, looking west

For a much more detailed account of the extensive history of this church, please see the parish website.

The West Window, featurng the monks of the nearby Charterhouse, martyred during the Reformation

The East Window (note also the altar set for Usus Antiquior Mass)

The church consists of a magnificent upper chapel, similar in design to the chapels of medieval Oxbridge colleges (except that coventional pews, facing east, have been installed, rather than the 'collegiate seating' of stalls running parallel to the nave), and dominated magnificent stained glass windows at each end, and also featuring statues of a number of the English Saints martyred during the persections that folowed the Reformation. There is also a lower church, or crypt, at ground level, which is very atmospheric.

Composite picture showing the upper and lower churches and statue of St. Etheldreda

Sadly, this church is another that was touched by scandal in recent years, following the revelation that a former Rector, Fr. Kit Cunningham, had been involved in abusing children when a missionary in Africa in the 1940's. Fortunately, it would appear that St. Etheldreda's is recovering from this 'blot' and once again becoming a popular and active place of worship.

This is another church where Mass is regularly celebrated in the Extraordinary Form, with Low Mass on the First Friday of each month, and occasionally at other times.

Sancta Etheldreda, ora pro nobis.

The Beheading of John the Baptist

The 29th. of August recalls one of the more gory events in the New Testament. St. John, Our Lord's cousin was gratuiously murdered as a result of the machinations of the mother of Salome, who was attempting to gain influence in the royal court, even stooping to using her daughter as a sexual exhibition to gain the King's attention. Just as John's ministry had forshadowed Christ's own, so also his martyrdom as a result of the lust and corruption of others prefigured Our Lord's death for the sake of all sinners.

I am always keen to remember the feasts of John the Baptist, perhaps because he is one of the saints who tends to get forgotten (especially here in England, it would seem), despite his close relationship to Our Lord, and also because the ancient (now Anglican) parish church of Erith, close to my home, is dedicated to him.

St. John the Baptist church, Erith
The feast of the beheading in perahaps also a time to pray for those who become caught up in situations where they are coerced into committing gratuitous acts of violence.

Sancte Ioannes Baptista, ora pro nobis.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

St. Ephrem the Syrian, pray for us

Fr. Tim has recently put up a very interesting post concerning the Syrian Saints, in particular St. Ephrem, which I found most interesting and informative. Although I was aware that Syria was a site of considerable activity in the early Church, I am not that familiar with the Syrian Fathers, so it is good to be given another, very appropriate, Saint to invoke when praying concerning the current, quite grim situation in Syria and the Middle East generally, and the possibility of British troops getting caught up in yet another conflict.

The quotations that Fr. Tim includes in his post show that St. Ephrem preached a lot of sense, and I would strongly recommend asking his prayers at this time. Please do go over to The Hermeneutic of Continuity and read the full post.

St. Ephrem, pray for us; pray for Syria; pray for peace. Amen.

St. Augustine

Happy Feast!

Also my birthday, so plenty to celebrate today.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

London Churches 5 - St. Anselm and St. Caecilia, Kingsway

Exterior of the church on a very busy Kingsway

This beautiful church is located near to Holborn tube station, and is another with a historic association with an embassy chapel.

Church Interior

The following history of the church consists of extracts from 'The Church of St. Anselm and St. Caecilia - A Short History' by John K.A. Farrell, and is taken from the parish's section of the Westminster diocesan website:

The Church of St Anselm and St Cæcilia stands rooted in a past which reaches back three hundred years. The present building, erected in 1909, is very much part of the famous Kingsway development of the Edwardian era. On 6th July, 1909, the last Mass was celebrated in the old Chapel of the Royal Sardinian Embassy. From the early nineteenth century, however, the Chapel had become quite openly, what it had been quietly and illegally for some time before, the parish church for British Catholics who lived in the congested area around Lincoln's Inn Fields. Known as the Sardinian Chapel from 1720, this nomenclature was last used in 1852. In 1853, the Chapel was called after its titular saint, Anselm, and in 1861, the Pastor, Father William O'Connor, added St Cæcilia as the second patron. The Chapel bore this double dedication to a saintly Archbishop of Canterbury, and a virgin martyr of the early church until its destruction in 1909. The present church, successor to the historic chapel, proudly retained the protection of St Anselm and St Cæcilia. Although the old chapel, which, with the Embassy, was an integral part of Lincoln's Inn Fields. was demolished in conformity to the London County Council's plans for the new Kingsway (indeed many seventeenth and eighteenth century buildings in the area disappeared between 1905 and 1910), the memories and traditions of the Sardinian Chapel still cluster about its successor.
The present Church of St Anselm and St Cæcilia preserves some of the architectural style of the old Chapel. In addition, it contains some striking reminders of the former Sardinian Chapel. Above the side entrance to the south on an interior wall reposes the Royal Sardinian coat-of-arms. Tradition maintains that the Lady Altar was the High Altar of the old Chapel. During the Blitz, on Wednesday 11th September, 1940 at about 1am, the south part of the Church was bombed with the result that the Lady Altar and the south aisle were damaged. After the war, the ruined chapel and altar were restored. In the church hangs a large painting of the Descent from the Cross reputed by Charles Heckthorn to have been painted by Benjamin West. Rudolph Ackermann, however, felt that the painting had been done by John Marcus Rigaud, RA. In either case, the prevailing opinion is that it was made to replace the altar piece destroyed in the Gordon Riots. In the old Chapel, it hung above the High Altar. 
According to an old parchment, which may date from around 1700, the altar stone of the High Altar in the old Chapel, and now in the Lady Altar of the present Church came with its relics from the Lady Chapel of Glastonbury Abbey. Nothing else has yet come to light to substantiate the document. With such treasures from its past, the Church of St Anselm and St Cæcilia is forever reminded that it is the living memorial of three centuries of struggle to maintain the Catholic presence in the area of Lincoln's Inn Fields. In a very real way, the present Church, situated as it is in the heart of the student and tourist district of Holborn and Bloomsbury, continues the ancient tradition of hospitality established by the earlier Sardinian Chapel, of a prayerful haven to all who enter.

The Lady Altar

This is another church which is nice to call into for a brief time of prayer and peace, and respite from the busy London streets.

Sancte Anselm, ora pro nobis.
Sancta Caecilia, ora pro nobis.

On a slight aside, if you are in the area, I would also recommend a visit to one of my favourite museums, the Sir John Soane Museum in nearby Lincolns Inn Fields. This is located in what was this Georgian architect's own home, and posesses many interesting and eclectic architectural, archaeoloical and artistic items.

London Churches 4 - Notre Dame de France, Leicester Square

Church Exterior
This is the fourth of the West End Catholic churches, and is located in the heart of the theatre district of London, just off Leicester Square. It is the home of the French chaplaincy in London, and is run by the Marist Fathers.

Church interior

It is a striking building with a circular ground plan, and lit principally by a central domed skylight. The shape is apparently the consequence of the building's history: the original structure was built not as a church, but as somehing called 'Burford's Panorama' - a sort of exhibition-cum-popular entertainment of the late 18th. Century, which was located in a large rotunda. By late Victorian times, this had become rendundant and was purchased in 1865 by Fr. Charles Faure, SM, who had been asked by Cardinal Wiseman to establish a church for London's  French community. A church, the first Catholic church to substantially use cast iron in its construction, was designed by the French architect, Louis Auguste Boileau, retaining the circular plan, and consecrated on 11th June 1868.

The church suffered severe bomb damage during WW 2, and although it was able to re-open a year later, full reconstuction was needed in the long term. This took place in the post war years, with the foundation stone being laid in 1953, and consecration in 1955. The round plan was again reatained. The building was decorated during the 1950's with work by eminent artists of the day.

The Sanctuary

Obviously this is a comparatively modern building, but nonetheless is not unattractive. The large, and airy space of the interior is quite imposing. The sanctuary is dominated by a large tapestry of Our Lady, which forms the equivalent of a reredos. I would recommend a visit if you are in the Leicester Square/ Chinatown area of London.

The tapestry

Liturgy is not really for the traddies, but good if you are in London and wish to hear Mass in French, and if you happen to be French, I get the feeling you would be made welcome here.

Our Lady's statue above the church entrance
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