Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Rolling Back the Tide of Post-Conciliar Iconoclasm: Newly Revealed Wall Painting at the Oxford Oratory

A friend and parishioner at the Oxford Oratory, has drawn my attention to a spectacular development in its ongoing restoration project: the white paint has been removed from large sections of the church walls to reveal the original decoration and wall paintings. The murals of scenes from the life of St Aloysius were painted by Gabriel Pippet between 1902 and 1905.

Whitewashing over wall paintings has often been a measure taken by those who wish to remove images from churches. Applying a coat of paint is cheaper and quicker than replastering the surface! Islamic iconoclasts at Hagia Sophia, Protestant Reformers in 16th-century England, and, it seems, Catholic iconoclasts of the 1970s all resorted to this method of obliterating sacred art to hide the beauty of the Church.  

The good news is that very often, this actually preserves the images underneath, and the white surface can be removed to reveal what was beneath. This has just been done with great results at St. Aloysius to reveal scenes from the life of the patron saint. 
Here are some before-and-after photographs: I encourage you to go to, to read the account written by the Fathers of the Oratory themselves about what has happened.  
Due to dampness and the ravages of time, it was not possible to save all the original paintings. Still, the goal is to restore the remainder of the church using the revealed imagery and decoration as a model for a full restoration. I have no doubt that they will do a good job. Do consider donating to this excellent cause!
An old photograph of St Aloysius prior to the 20th-century iconoclasm

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