Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Brompton Oratory, London

The Brompton Oratory was founded by John Henry Newman (later Cardinal Newman, now Blessed Newman). He was a leading figure in the 19th century English Catholic revival and established a community of priests at the Oratory. The church first opened its doors in 1884 but the dome and facade were not completed until the 1890s.

Brompton Oratory, London

Like many famous churches in London, photography is not allowed inside (see the on-line church tour here). Of course, we got something so much better since we attended Sunday Mass there. In addition to the excellent music from a boys' choir and an intelligent (though very brief) sermon, we received Jesus in the Eucharist.

The interior is extremely ornate, including 12 larger-than-life statues of the Apostles that came from Siena Cathedral. Many other decorations were donated by churches on the continent or modeled after Roman decorations. The final external work was the Newman Memorial which went up in 1896, six years after Newman's death.

Newman Memorial

Who was John Henry Cardinal Newman?
Born in London in 1801, John Henry Newman grew up in the Church of England. In his teens, he decided to dedicate his life to holiness. In the 1820s he went to Oxford and became an Anglican priest. He became a leading figure in the Oxford Movement which sought to restore more Catholicity to the Anglican Church. In 1843 he left his Oxford post and, with a small group of followers, lived a life of prayer and reflection in a converted stable block just outside of Oxford. An Italian Catholic priest came in 1845 and received Newman into the Roman Catholic Church. Newman went to Rome to study for the priesthood and was ordained in 1847. He returned to England and established the first English Oratory in Birmingham. He sent a fellow convert to establish Brompton Oratory in May 1849. Newman continued to write and was made a cardinal in 1879 by Pope Leo XIII. He lived for the rest of his life at the Brompton Oratory. His funeral procession drew a crowd of 15-20,000 people. He is currently in the process of being declared a saint.

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