Westminster Cathedral - Monday 22nd April at 2.30pm
Monday 22nd April saw members and friends of the Guild meet in the Windsor Castle in Francis Street SW1. We walked the short distance to Westminster Cathedral: a building many had passed by, but only a few of us had entered.
Our Guide, Patrick Rogers is the Cathedral’s Historian. His enthusiasm was infectious and his knowledge superb.He explained the Cathedral is the mother church of the Catholic community in England and Wales and the metropolitan church and cathedral of the Archbishop of Westminster.
Patrick Rogers told us the land that the Cathedral was built on had been acquired in 1884. It had previously been occupied by Tothill Fields Bridewell prison.
Construction started in 1895. The style is heavily influenced by Byzantine architecture.
John Betjeman called it “a masterpiece in striped brick and stone in an intricate pattern of bonding, the domes being all brick in order to prove that good craftsmanship has no need of steel or concrete”.
The nave is very wide with many different coloured marble columns. Some of the marble was obtained from quarries used by the ancient Romans, but most came from Greece.
Unfortunately as we moved from our seats in the nave, and were about to walk round the Cathedral to look at the various chapels and wonderful mosaics – the organ started up. Sadly not ‘Carillon de Westminster’ (the final movement from suite no 3 (op.54) of ‘Pieces de Fantaisie’, was composed for it and dedicated to the builder)… but just a very loud noise. The organ was being tuned! This continued on and off for the rest of our visit
We learnt a great deal about mosaics, how they were designed and installed. The indirect method – where much of the mosaic was prepared face down on canvas, and the direct method where each glass tesserae is inserted individually directly into the putty.
My favourites were those installed between 1912 and 1916 and were heavily influenced by the Arts and Craft Movement. We saw this in the Lady Chapel and the chapel dedicated to St. Andrew.
“We were very lucky as part of the tour to be able to go behind the “roped off” areas. This is the view from behind the altar.”
Although I had visited the Cathedral before I had not had time to look at the Stations of the Cross in such detail. They are carved low relief in limestone. They were made by Eric Gill after he had become a Catholic.
Three of us ventured up the Viewing Gallery (there was a lift). It is 64 metres (210 feet) above street level. It was great fun to spot some of the sights in our ever changing city.
It was a fascinating visit, to a building that many of us might never have stepped inside to see…only a little disappointing that it was on that afternoon the organ had to be tuned.
Editor’s note: This was a fascinating tour. Not only (in the scheme of the City) was the Church young, but the building work is carrying on to complete to the original design, however they still have some artefacts in the church which predates it
Carving of Mary and Jesus from memory from the 17th century, but I am not 100% sure