Monday, November 03, 2008

All Souls at the Oxford Oratory

I thought readers might be interested to see something about the work of restoration going on in the Oxford Oratory church.
Back in the 1950s the Jesuits, whose church it was (hence the dedication to St Aloyesius Gonzaga) decided to paint the entire thing white and cream (on the walls) and brown) on the ceiling. What most people who worship there today had no way of knowing, until recently, was that under the brown paint on the ceiling are the most lovely stencils of the Blessed Sacrament, and the white paint on the walls covers extremely fine marble. (The picture below shows a sample patch of marble which has had the paint stripped off, visible from the choir loft.)

Why anyone would want to cover these up is a mystery - something about noble simplicity I suppose - but this grotesque mistake is finally being rectified. Ronald Knox apparently said of the Jesuits' efforts that 'the saints look as if they are being sick out of their portholes' - referring to the heads of the saints in roundels around the sacturary.

As a result we had our Mass today in a sactuary full of scaffolding. This will work its way down the entire length of the church, which will be interesting. But the result will be worth the effort. Already, the ceiling in the sanctuary is reveiling its true colours.

I was there today with the Schola Beati Thomae Abelis, which gave I thought a pretty good account of itself, at a traditional Missa Cantata for All Souls. Fr Anton Webb, the celebrant, is of course himself a talented singer.

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