19 November 2020, The Tablet

Nat Churches Trust showcases top Catholic churches

Nat Churches Trust showcases top Catholic churches

St Charles Borromeo, Hull.
Alex Ramsay

A new initiative by the National Churches Trust explores the hidden Catholic heritage of England and Wales by showcasing six of its most beautiful and historic churches and chapels. The buildings have been chosen from a shortlist compiled by former Tablet deputy editor Elena Curti in her new book, Fifty Catholic Churches to See Before You Die, profiled online.
Listed in chronological order, the list starts with All Saints Chapel in New Wardour Castle, Tisbury, Wiltshire, which dates from 1776, a time when public Roman Catholic worship was prohibited. Whilst most  chapels during these times were usually hidden in attics and barns, the eighth Lord Arundell concealed his in a wing of his Palladian mansion.

The most recent church featured is the church of the Blessed Sacrament in Gorseinon, Swansea which was completed in 1967. Completely round with multiple gables, this modernist church has walls pierced by dozens of glorious cross shaped stained glass windows containing images by the London born artist John Petts (1914–91).



Archbishop of Cardiff George Stack said: “Throughout the ages, Catholic people have dedicated their faith, time, energy and money, to building these sacred spaces, and with love and care adorned them with commensurate beauty. The transcendent architecture of churches is a witness to human destiny beyond this immanent world.”

Sarah Crossland, the National Churches Trust's Church Tourism Manager said: “With many churches currently closed due to Covid-19 restrictions, the Explore Churches ‘hidden Catholic heritage’ feature offers an opportunity to discover amazing church architecture and history virtually, from the comfort of your home. It is also aimed to inspire people to plan a trip once travel becomes possible.”


Other churches featured are St David’s church Pantasaph, Holywell, Flintshire; St Charles Borromeo Hull, Yorkshire; Sacred Heart and St Catherine Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire and St Monica Bootle, Merseyside.

Ms Curti said: “I was fascinated by the history of the churches: the resilience of the old Catholic families; the stories of martyrdom and anti Catholic rioting; how the Church slowly emerged from the shadows and surged in confidence during the Victorian period; and how poor Irish migrants contributed their pennies, and often their labour, to raise their places of worship.

“I want to raise awareness of these beautiful places of worship and encourage support for their conservation. After visiting my favourites, I hope that you will want to go out and discover some of your own.

“Many parish churches are closed outside Mass times so it’s a good idea to check their website or, better still, make a phone call ahead of your visit. This has become even more important during the Covid-19 pandemic.”



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