Signed in as:
Signed in as:
Be still... and let your eyes and ears and feelings join your heart and your spirit to experience the peace and beauty of this place. So much love and skill have gone into this holy place. And so many thousands of people over the past 130 years have been the “community of faith” in this Catholic church... dedicated to the hearts of Jesus and Mary, and later to Our Lady of Sorrows.
The church was set back from the road, built in the garden of the Servite Friars who came to England in 1864 and started this building in 1874, led by Fr Philip Bosio OSM, with J A Hansom as architect. Hansom also designed the tower and priory frontage on Fulham Road (1879-80). The church was opened by Cardinal Manning on 19 September 1875.
You came in through the colonnade passage, unique in English churches (Hansom again, 1894). A major renovation took place in 2006-2007. It really softens the spirit as you step into God's house from the busy highway. Did you notice the Annunciation window by the front door? Stupendous Fulham glass in a Burns Jones style – the Annunciation is opening mystery: welcome into the Christ-story!
Inside the church, you are in the narthex, a forest of columns. More than just a foyer! Move around. Notice the bronzes of the Redeemer and St. Peter (1872 by Mayer), the Virgin and Child... notice St. Antony for the poor, St. Theresa the Little Flower, and her patron The Holy Face (after Lorenzo di Credi, Shirley Fox 1895). Notice especially J. M. Swynnerton's Pietà (1896), exquisite and moving shrine where so many find consolation. Notice, too, the Baptistery, constructed in marble, bronze and alabaster in 1925 – full of bronze symbols of Passover and Resurrection. Go inside: it's like entering the Jesus-Tomb, from which the newly-baptised come out into the God-life.
Going round the church from the right, there is the Calvary Altar (1895, J S Hansom, the son), carved into fine alabaster and precious agate-onyx. These altars were used for Mass once, but are now lovely shrines of devotion. Then there is St. Joseph’s altar, with fine wood statue by former Servite Antonio Bulletti, and paintings by Guido Guidi. The next bay contains a modern shrine for Servite St. Peregrine, patron of cancer sufferers, with a fine embroidery of the saint who was close to Christ on the cross. There follows the Seven Founders shrine painted by Servite Fr. Simoni OSM, with a recent wooden statue of St Antony Pucci, parish priest of Viareggio in the 1890s, canonised in 1962.
Have you begun to look over your head? The windows are altogether special, too many to describe, but all with a story to tell. You should notice especially the 12 apostles around the highest part of the church nave. Many other saints are all around the church, reminding us that it is a people's place, consecrated by the holiness of God's people.
At the front, on the right, is the Seven Founders' Chapel, formerly the Holy Family chapel. This contains wall-paintings by Fr. Simoni OSM from the 1890s, and a painted wooden reredos of the Founders by Guido Guidi from Rome. The wooden statues of the Founders came from the former Servite church in Bognor Regis. Vacancieing this chapel to the main altar-sanctuary is one of J A Hansom's delightful foibles, a strainer transverse arch like the great arch in Wells Cathedral. And above is the choir gallery, containing the renowned organ by Henry Jones, built by Grant, Degens and Bradbeer in 1968.
Pause now at the altar-sanctuary with its fine alabaster altar. Behind it was an enormous Caen stone reredos by George Porter of Chelsea, removed in 1976 to have the altar facing the people. Now the oak-choir stalls are visible, used each day by the friars. At the centre is a crucifix from Begbroke Priory, Oxford made in the 1970s by artist Rosamund Fletcher, with a painting of the Burial of Christ above. And above you can see the glorious windows. In the centre, introduced by the Annunciation rose at the top, is the Crucifixion window from 1877, with the Sorrows of Mary all around. To the right, the Feeding of the Five Thousand, and to the left the Last Supper – Eucharistic themes, coupled with images of the Nativity and the Coronation of the Virgin Mary. These are Clayton and Bell windows by local artist W. Tipping of Edith Grove.
At this point, turn around and see the window at the back of the church. This west window was done in 1888 for the Canonisation of the Servite Seven Founders, and it is a Te Deum window of praise, showing the Trinity, the Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs and all saints, including Servite saints and English saints George, Augustine, John Fisher, Thomas More, with 6 later lancets of the Seven Founders beneath.
To the left of the altar-sanctuary is the Blessed Sacrament and Lady Chapel. It was added to the church by J S Hansom in 1890. It is a most precious and beautiful place, with Caen stone sculpture, marbles and alabaster. The altar sculpture shows the Seven Sorrows of Mary, as well as her statue of desolation with the swords of sorrow. The chapel contains the church's original Tabernacle of the Blessed Sacrament by Hardman.
Coming back along the north aisle of the church, we pass the confessional room, to find the Sacred Heart altar from 1889, Caen stone with marble column. Then there is the shrine for St Mary Magdalen from 1895, made by sculptor Swynnerton in Serravezza marble with Siena and Carrara marble surrounds. The next is St Philip Benizi's altar with tributes also to Servite saints Peregrine and Juliana. Don't miss the windows above these shrines, with many other holy people to remember. Around the church you may look out for St. Margaret of Scotland, St. Charles Borromeo (patron for the generous benefactor of this church Charles Robertson KSG), St. Gregory the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas…
We remember, however, that God's Church is built of “living stones.” It is the gathering place of God's people – so many, of all kinds and origins – forming the one, living Temple of the Holy Spirit! Through the Spirit, Our Lady of Sorrows keeps us together as a community of faith in Jesus Christ.