Beauty Returns to London's West End




This Sunday 12th February sees the unveiling of the restored sanctuary At Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane. 

After the Protestant Reformation, this 'hidden gem' in London's West End was the first Catholic Church in the country to be dedicated with the title Corpus Christi. It was built in reparation for all the sins committed against the Blessed Sacrament in the 16th century and since.

Corpus Christi was opened by Cardinal Manning on the 20th October 1874 with the intention that it would stand as a statement of what the Catholic Church believes about the Mass, i.e. the confection of the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of the Lord, and as “a sanctuary created specifically for the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament”. (Words of Cardinal Manning, from his homily at the opening of the church).

After a long period of neglect, exacerbated by considerable pollution in Central London, and clumsy attempts to clean the internal fabric by sandblasting, the interior walls and stone work were fully painted out with Artex and other modern paints in the 1970s. The church was looking tired, unloved and in much need of restoration to its former glory. Enter Fr Alan Robinson who has worked tirelessly to bring this project to fruition.

Fr Alan has been teasing me with some pictures of the work before it is revealed. This is what the Sanctuary has looked like as the restoration work has been in progress:


And here are some snaps of what it looks like now. The scaffolding is coming down as I type!





The dramatic transformation can be grasped by looking at the change wrought to the Shrine to Our lady of Walsingham which was restored in 2015 and blessed by Bishop Alan Hopes:



The famous hymns Sweet Sacrament Divine and O Sacred Heart were written by the parish priest Fr Francis Stanfield (1835-1914). It is also known as “the actors’ church” and is the home of the Catholic Association of the Performing Arts (formerly, the Catholic Stage Guild).

A very famous priest visitor to the parish over many years was Monsignor Ronald Knox. He first preached his Forty Hours Sermon in 1926, at the invitation of Father Kearney. This became a regular
feature in Mgr Knox’s diary from 1926 until 1956. These sermons were published by Burns and Oates in 1956 under the title “The Window in the Wall”, and the charming and touching dedication of this book is, “To the memory of Father Kearney and to his successors.”

You can read all about the history of the Parish here.

For decades the Latin Mass Society has celebrated Mass at Corpus Christi. A young adults’ prayer group meets there weekly and it is a vibrant place of worship and an oasis of prayer and calm – open all day long for visitors, tourists, those who work and live nearby and shoppers to pause and pray.

Everyone is invited to join the Parish as they celebrate a Solemn Mass at 11:30 am on 12th February. The Schola Corpus Christi will be singing Byrd's Mass for Four Voices, as well as Motets by Lalouette. All most welcome!


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