Posted by: rbbadger | July 3, 2010

Westminster Cathedral at 100

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Most Precious Blood, otherwise known as Westminster Cathedral.  It is absolutely not to be confused with the Royal-owned and very much Anglican Westminster Abbey. 

Before the 1840s, Roman Catholics could not set up dioceses.  In fact, before the edict of toleration of the 1820s, the civil rights of Roman Catholics in the UK were restricted.  They could not vote, nor could they stand for election for Parliament.  After negotiations between the Holy See and the British government, dioceses were finally set up beginning in 1850.  Under the terms of the agreement, the Roman Catholic dioceses could not take the name of already existing Anglican diocese.  As there was already an Anglican Diocese of London, the Roman Catholic diocese took the name of the local neighbourhood of Westminster in which it was (and still is) situated. 

The cathedral was built from the years 1895-1903.  Under canon law, it is absolutely forbidden to dedicate a church if there is any debt remaining on it.  Finally, in 1910, it was dedicated by Francis Cardinal Bourne, Archbishop of Westminster. 

The Archdiocese put up a series of photographs for download and I thought I’d share a few of these with you.  First, we begin with the Cathedral exterior itself.  It is emphatically not a Gothic structure.  Rather, it is a Neo-Byzantine structure.

The interior of the cathedral is decorated with a number of beautiful mosaics.  The decoration has been going on for nearly a hundred years now and is not yet fully complete.  The vestments worn by Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the current Archbishop of Westminster, date back to the 19th century and were designed A.W.N. Pugin, a champion of the Gothic revival who, incidentally, played a role in the design of the Palace of Westminster, the home of Parliament.

Incidentally, the massive crucifix which hangs from the ceiling was originally meant to hang from the baldacchino (canopy) over the main altar.  The Belgian artists got their English and Metric measurements confused and thus created something so monstrously huge that it could only be hung from the celing.

There are also a number of small chapels in various places throughout the building. 



  1. Wow! That is one incredible building!

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