Saturday, 31 May 2008

Work gets underway

Returning from my travels, I find the Cathedral nave already swathed in scaffolding; although the sight-lines to the sanctuary and processional routes are being kept clear, it is a considerable disruption.

Today is the Priestly Ordination of Edward Houghton and Thevakingsley Arulananthem - as well as a 'Day with Mary' devotions, and seven baptisms! The busy life of the Cathedral continues despite the scaffolding!

Saturday, 17 May 2008


This detail from our statue of St Peter signals yet another break - until the end of May. I'll continue the blog when I return, but issue advanced (and regretful) warning that the blog will conclude in June, as I prepare for a new post.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Hitchcock and Westminster Cathedral

Alfred Hitchcock featured Westminster Cathedral in his 1940 thriller 'Foreign Correspondent'. Johnny Jones, the hero, is attacked by a Nazi assassin, who attempts to throw him from the Campanile. Jones steps aside in time, and the evil thug plunges instead to his death.

The film shows the entrance onto Ambrosden Avenue, now used for the Gift Shop, but in those days the principal public entrance to the Cathedral.

As Jones enters the Cathedral (the interior is not shown), it is pleasing to note two Daughters of Charity approaching, in their old wimples. This shows accurate local knowledge - the Daughters of Charity Convent is nearby in Carlisle Place.

The 'accident' is reported in the Press, with a helpful broken line marking the unfortunate assassin's trajectory.

Hitchcock was a Catholic, having attended St Ignatius Jesuit School in Enfield. Following his death in 1980, a Memorial Mass was held at Westminster Cathedral.

The Millennium Cross

The Millennium Cross was erected in the Piazza to mark the Holy year 2000, as a visible proclamation of our Christian faith. Many Christians of all denominations contributed to it - most notably Her Majesty the Queen.

It was unveiled at a magnificent ceremony attended by Church leaders, and Prince Andrew. For many people, it also served as a memorial to the lately deceased Cardinal Basil Hume.

The cross was a striking image from Victoria Street; the Cathedral does not reveal its identity easily to unsuspecting passers-by, and it provoked much interest and comment.

The cross was removed at the end of the year and taken (by helicopter) to Ampleforth Abbey in Yorkshire where - minus titulus - it stands as a memorial to Cardinal Hume.

The Guild of St Gregory

The Cathedral Altar Servers are organised in the Guild of St Gregory, which exists alongside the larger national body of the Guild of St Stephen. Here they are, above the porch of the Cathedral, in 1910.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

The Howard Connexion

A fine, large print of Cardinal Philip Howard (1629 - 1694) hangs in Clergy House. A Dominican, he is buried in Cardinal Cormac's titular church, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, in Rome. The Howard family, which includes the Dukes of Norfolk, is one of the oldest English families and holds the premier Dukedom; despite high office under successive English monarchs, they retained their Catholic faith. Over the generations, the Howard family has had close connexions with Westminster Cathedral.

Henry Fitzalan-Howard (1847 - 1917), the 15th Duke, was a major supporter of the Catholic Church in the years following Catholic Emancipation, and founded the Catholic cathedrals at Arundel and Norwich. He was a significant contributor to funds for the building of Westminster Cathedral.

Miles Fitzalan-Howard (1915 - 2002), the 17th Duke, was a familiar figure at Westminster Cathedral and patron of several of our fundraising appeals. A warm and generous man, he provided considerable personal support to several Administrators (including me). On many occasions he welcomed the Friends of Westminster Cathedral to his home at Arundel Castle, and was a close person friend of Cardinal Cormac, who had previously been Bishop of Arundel and Brighton.

Edward Fitzalan Howard, the current Duke, continues the family tradition of support for Westminster Cathedral. Above, he and the Duchess view Elgar's manuscript of the Dream of Gerontius in the sacristy in 2003. The occasion was the centenary of the first London performance; on that previous occasion, the 15th Duke had been present in the Cathedral - a report is here. Looking on is Archbishop Michael Bowen, emeritus Archbishop of Southwark.

One of the highlights of the visit came when the Duke inspected the Howard plate or, as he jokingly called it, the 'family silver'. Above, Fr Tim Dean describes the pieces to the Duke.

The Howard plate was bequeathed to Westminster Cathedral by another illustrious member of the family, Cardinal Edward Henry Howard (1829 - 1892). Having served on the missions in India, Cardinal Howard became Archpriest of St Peter's Basilica in Rome. It is interesting to note that at that time there were three English members of the Sacred College (Cardinals Howard, Newman and Manning).

The Howard plate is italian silver-gilt. Each piece is decorated in 17th century style with scrolls, foliage and clouds, and set with bloodstones. Most display the coat of arms of the Cardinal.

Earlier Scaffolding

The last time the interior of the Cathedral was inconvenienced by scaffolding was in 1995 when, for the Cathedral's centenary, the mosaic above the sanctuary was cleaned. The Administrator, Mgr Stack, was nothing averse to ascending on high - dressed, it would seem, for the job!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Work begins

Preparations for the scaffolding that will soon go up inside the cathedral, for the works on the vaults. Here the floors and marble columns are being protected.

We will have to get used to living with this disruption for months to come.

Manning House

Just two blocks from Clergy House, a fine Victorian building stands on the corner of Carlisle Place and Francis Street. Originally a Club for military officers, it was purchased by Westminster Diocese as the Archbishop's House for Cardinal Manning, second Archbishop of Westminster.

A plaque records the illustrious past of this building, now gutted and turned into modern offices.

It was from here that Cardinal Manning's funeral cortege set out in 1892, to take his body to Brompton Oratory for his funeral. His successor, Cardinal Vaughan, exchanged this building and the nearby plot of land for a larger one nearby - the present site of the Cathedral complex.

A painting in the Archbishop's Throne Room depictes Cardinal Manning's last audience, which would have taken place in 'Manning House.'

The etching above portrays the cardinal in the library of the same building.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Monsignor John Moyes

Mgr Moyes, the second Administrator of Westminster Cathedral (1904 - 1905), was the first priest to celebrate Mass in the new building, in June 1903. A great scholar, apologist and preacher, he was a member of the Papal Commission on Anglican Orders in 1896.

Above are shown the three English representatives of that Papal Commission: Mgr Canon Moyes, Father David Fleming OFM, and Abbot (later Cardinal) Gasquet OSB.

In a small booklet, which he kept on his desk, Mgr Moyes wrote a number of rules for his own spiritual guidance. Among them was the following:
"However much I may be absorbed or employed in other duties; however much I may suceed in them, yet my labour will be lost time and my sucess a failure if it does not include the Mass devoutly offered and the Divine office devoutly recited."

An early trip to the Terrace

A few images taken early this morning show that the Terrace is still in the early stages, but the recent spell of glorious weather has brought on many of the flowers and shrubs. In the back row, above, are sunflowers, already surging up.

In the fresh light of morning, the herbs promise abundance.

The Olive trees have lasted the winter well.

French lavender - less aromatic but more striking than its English cousin - adds a bright and fragrant note to the garden.

Provence comes to Westminster!

This is going to be a year for Nicotiana, the fragranced relative of the tobacco plant.

In the corner, Honeysuckle is about to burst into flower.

You can never go wrong with petunias while, below, even the citrus trees are making a good showing!

A Stamp of Authority

The Royal Mail issued six new stamps today featuring British Cathedrals, and there we are on the 72p stamp. According to the accompanying press release, the designers had great difficulty in chosing their six; they sought buildings representing different styles, as well as different parts of the country.

The launch took place - somewhat confusingly - at St Paul's Cathedral - to mark the impending 300th anniversary of its completion.

Monday, 12 May 2008

David Hill

I came upon this fine article about David Hill in the Cambridge University alumnus magazine.

Long recognized as one of Britain's most inspiring conductors, with the gift of injecting passion and a sense of fun into the most rigorous rehearsal, David Hill began his musical life in Manchester, gaining an organ scholarship to St John's, Cambridge. In 1982 he came to Westminster Cathedral in succession to Stephen Cleobury. He writes:
'Much of the John's repertoire - gregorian chant, renaissance catholic polyphony, Mozart and Haydn Masses - was central to Westminster... And the gutsy, incisive sound they had made since the days of George Malcolm was very much to my taste - the boys were a tad tentative at first, but before long I was thinking, God, this is a marvellous machine, cruising along like a finely tuned V8 engine.'

His Master's Voice

Choristers listen to Vatican Radio via 'Marconiphone' in 1931.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Free Spirits

I do love London: just now, sitting at my desk, the street outside was filled with roller skaters. Hundreds of them (taking several minutes to pass); they take to the streets every so often, just because they can! A great image of the Spirit who blows where he will ...

One more gift of the Holy Spirit

Sister Mericia has excelled herself once more; following last year's stunning Pentecost cake (see it here), we were treated to this stunning confection at Sunday lunch. While most of us gazed in reverent admiration, the new sub-Administrator had no qualms about diving in and demolishing the creation!

Come, Holy Spirit

The Cardinal confirmed thirty of our young adults at Mass today. Please keep them in your prayers.