Thursday, 29 August 2013

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.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Matthaeus
    Thanks for sharing such a great information.Am looking forward for your net post.



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