Most biographies record today as the anniversary of the death of Cardinal Wiseman, first Archbishop of Westminster. However, according to the inscription by his tomb in the Cathedral crypt, yesterday was the day.
Cardinal Wiseman, of course, died before the Cathedral was built. His funeral took place at St Mary Moorfields (by Liverpool Street Station in the City), and he was buried in a grand ceremony at St Mary's Catholic cemetery in Kensal Green (near Paddington). A contemporary illustration from the Illustrated London News (below) shows the size of the gathering. In 1907, Cardinal Bourne gained permission from the Home Secretary to remove the remains of Cardinals Wisman and Manning to the newly opened Cathedral.
Cardinal Wiseman lies directly beneath the High Altar, in the small chapel of St Edmund. His tomb is the only gothic monument in this otherwise Byzantine Cathedral, and was designed by Edward Pugin, son of the more famous Augustus Welby Pugin.
Panels around the monument depict scenes from the Cardinal's life; firstly, his consecration as Archbishop by Pope Pius IX in 1840 (below).
Below, Cardinal Wiseman presides over the first Provinical Synod of Westminster at Oscott in 1852, when John Henry Newman preached his famous 'Second Spring' sermon.
Friday, 16 February 2007
Wiseman was an extraordinary man, and one of the key figures in the revival of Catholicism in this country. Born in Spain to Irish parents, he studied at the English College in Rome, becoming its Rector in 1828 at the astonishing age of 25. A fine linguist, he was given charge of the Vatican's arabic manuscripts (I recall his exotic collection of books still in the library at the English College, whch included his volumes of 'Hindoo'). In 1850, he became the first Archbishop of the newly erected Diocese of Westminster, and a Cardinal.
During his life, his preaching, writings and example did much to advance the Catholic cause in England, and he was widely respected as a churchman and a scholar. His Cardinal's hat still hangs above his tomb, although it is much the worse for wear (tradition dictates it must stay there until it falls to the ground, at which point the great Cardinal's soul may at last enter paradise!).