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Westminster Cathedral – part two of my March ‘Jollies.’

April 22, 2016

Westminster Cathedral.

Westminster Cathedral (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Westminster Cathedral (c) Jane Risdon 2016

My visit to Westminster Cathedral is the next part of my March ‘Jolly, ‘which I really hope you’ll enjoy as much as I did.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

Following a wonderful visit to Westminster Abbey we walked up the road to Francis Street, it was raining, and the street was busy with late afternoon shoppers and tourists, but nothing could ruin my first view of the largest and most important Catholic church in England and Wales.

I have no idea why but I can’t recall having seen it when I lived and worked in London. Again, I put it down to youth and the excitement of the ‘Swinging Sixties,’ and imagine my mind was on music, fashion, and all that went with living through those wonderful, crazy times. Well, that’s my excuse.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

Later this year a novel I’ve co-written with award-winning author Christina Jones, about life and times in the 1960s, is due for publication via Accent Press. Keep an eye out if you are interested in the music, fashion and general vibe of those times.

The Cathedral is set back from the road and couldn’t be more different to the Gothic Westminster Abbey. The bricks are red and the style of the cathedral is early Byzantine.  I just knew we were in for a special treat.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

So, here’s a little history for those who enjoy it and for those who don’t, please just skip to the photos.

1248: A weekly market and annual fair are authorised to be held by the Abbot of Westminster in Tothill Fields future site of the Cathedral.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

1651: Following the defeat of Charles ll at the Battle of Worcester, the defeated Scottish prisoners are quartered in Tothill Fields. 1,200 of them are buried there.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

1665: Tothill Fields is used as a burial site during the Great Plague (Black Death).

1834: Tothill Fields Prison is opened on the site of the future Cathedral.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

1850: The Diocese of Westminster is created by Pope Pius lX at the Restoration of the Catholic Hierarchy, with Nicolas Wiseman as first Archbishop. After centuries of discrimination and persecution, Catholics were given full rights as citizens in 1829. In the decades following immigration (from Ireland, above all) swelled the numbers and confidence of the Catholic community, so that when Pope Pius lX restored the Catholic dioceses and bishops in 1850, it was ready to assume a prominent role in the life of this country.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

1867: Initial purchase of a cathedral site near the present Cathedral for £16,500. 1868 – more land is purchased for £20,000.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

1883: Tothill Fields Prison is demolished.

1884: Cardinal Manning buys part of the site of Tothill Fields Prison for £55,000, offset by the sale of land purchased in 1867-68.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016                       

Cardinal Manning had hesitated about spending any more money following the purchase of the site in the rapidly developing area of Victoria, preferring that is should first be used for schools and the relief of the poor. Cardinal Vaughan had no such qualms.

1885: Herbert Vaughan, third Archbishop of Westminster, begins building on the prison site, with John Francis Bentley as the chosen architect. The first foundation stone is laid on 29th June. 

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

Cardinal Vaughan’s first preference was for a Gothic Cathedral or a Roman style basilica, but subsequently adopted the early Byzantine style, for three reasons: Firstly, there would be no possibility of comparison with the exquisite and authentic Gothic architecture of Westminster Abbey, and secondly Byzantine churches allow for a large, uncluttered space, most suitable to the Catholic liturgy, and thirdly because decoration in Byzantine churches is applied (rather than integral to the architecture), they can be built quickly and relatively inexpensively, while decoration is left to the resources of subsequent generations. 

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

The structure of the Cathedral is complete. First regular celebration of daily Mass and Divine Office on the Cathedral. Edward Elgar conducts his first London performance of John Henry Newman’s ‘The Dream of Gerontius.’

1906: Unveiling and blessing of the Baldacchino at Christmas Midnight Mass.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

1910: Consecration of the Cathedral.

1918: Eric Gill completes the Station of the Cross.

1930: The body of St John Southworth is enshrined in the Chapel of St. George and the English Martyrs.

1935: The Lady Chapel mosaics are completed.

1948: The Cathedral domes are clad with copper, now an attractive shade of green by the way.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

1955: Statue of Our Lady of Westminster is placed in the Cathedral and in 1962 Mosaics in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel are completed.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

Chapel of St Joseph (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Chapel of St Joseph (c) Jane Risdon 2016

1964: Marble work of the nave and narthex is completed and in 1975 construction of the piazza is completed, opening views of the Cathedral from Victoria Street.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

1982: Pope John Paul ll visits and Mass is celebrated in the Cathedral.

1995: HM the Queen visits during centenary celebrations. It’s the first visit of a sovereign to a Roman Catholic liturgy since the Reformation.

2005: The body of Cardinal Vaughan is re-interred in the Chapel of St. Thomas of Canterbury.

Cardinal Vaughan (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Cardinal Vaughan (c) Jane Risdon 2016

2010: Pope Benedict XVl visits and a Papal Mass and blessing of the mosaic of St. David is held. The opening of the Treasure of the Cathedral Exhibition takes place.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

We were amazed at the numbers of people inside who were sitting in quiet contemplation and prayer and also at the long queue for Confession. With this in mind we kept a respectful distance and didn’t intrude where they were.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016 Waiting for Confession

 NOTHING prepared us for the amazing ceilings or the explosion of glitz and glitter all around us. After the grey stone of Westminster Abbey, this was such a surprise. In fact the camera had a job coping with the dazzling reflection coming off so many surfaces.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

It is a lovely building inside, quite surreal really. A stark contrast to Westminster Abbey. We spent most of our visit with our eyes turned upwards, marveling at the wonderful ceilings and each little chapel we entered almost made us gasp out loud. 

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

Westminster Cathedral, Cathedral Clergy House, 42, Francis Street, London SW1P 1QW

Tel:+44(0) 20 7798 9055

                                                                                                         Service Times; +44(0) 20 7798 9097

                                                                                                        http://www.westminstercathedral.org.uk

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

I hope you have enjoyed these photos and the brief history of Westminster Cathedral. Let me know your thoughts. All photos are (c) Jane Risdon 2016; All rights reserved. The next installment of my March ‘jolly’ follows soon. 

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

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17 Comments
  1. I have briefly visited the Cathedral. I don’t find it an attractive building from the outside. But, it is a place of quiet contemplation inside. I went looking for and was glad to find Cardinal Basil Hume’s tomb

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember going to Westminster Cathedral for midnight mass when I was a child. I loved its loftiness then but don’t remember it was so rich and beautiful – maybe because it was always dark when we went! A lovely post with great photos, Jane!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think they’ve been adding to it over the years and perhaps that is why you don’t recall so much. Of course as a child your attention is drawn to so much and it is possible you saw it but it didn’t register. Glad you enjoyed this. I am about to post my interview with Anna Legat. Do drop in and let he know what you think. Happy May 🙂 xx

      Like

  3. Great informative post and brilliant photos to pull it altogether. I’ve never been but this has definitely made me want to visit it in person on my next trip to London. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Annika, I do hope yu go, it is worth it. I took so many photos -far too many for here. The light and sparkles was a problem with the lens but it is such a lovely building, so do go and let me know what you think. 🙂 Thanks xx

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautiful photos, Jane! These will tide me over until I can see it in person. Saving my pennies!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh I am pleased you liked them. It was a nightmare taking any. Overhead bright lighting and all the bling on the ceilings and walls meant the light kept bouncing back on the lens and so some photos were not that great. So much to see in there. I do hope you get the dosh together soon and enjoy a visit. Let me know, we can compare notes. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I can almost hear the choir.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happy that you enjoyed my visit. Do come again. And of course there are other visits I have posted about if you care to take a wander around my blog. Most welcome. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great piece and I love the photos

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you enjoyed them Michael. It was a fab afternoon out, just after Westminster Abbey – quite a contrast.

      Like

  7. Absolutely beautiful, Jane! So glad you had such a lovely time!

    Liked by 1 person

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