flamboyant Italianate church is a monument to the English
Catholic revival of the late-19th century. The Brompton
Oratory was established by John Henry Newman, who was later
to become Cardinal Newman.
When a London community of priests
(already founded at Charing Cross by Father Frederick William
Faber) moved to Brompton, then on the outskirts of the city,
this became its oratory. Newman and Faber were both
Anglian converts to Catholicism. In establishing a community
of secular priests, living without vows in a large city, they
were following the example of St Philip Neri.
The present building, based on
a church in Rome, was completed in 1884. Its fašade
and dome were added in 1890s. The architect was Herbert
Gribble, another convert to Catholicism.
Gribble was only 29 years old
when he won the highly prestigious competition to design the
Inside, the Oratory boasts a
nave that is 50 feet wide. The interior, rich in marble and
mosaics, has been progressively enriched since the building
was completed. Most of the eye-catching treasures of
Brompton Oratory predate the building and many of the pieces
were actually transported to London from Italian churches.
The huge marble figures of the
12 apostles were carved by Giuseppe Mazzuoli in the late-17th
century for Siena Cathedral. The wonderfully elaborate
Lady Altar was created for the Dominican church in Brescia
St Wilfrid's Chapel has an 18th
century altar imported from Rochefort in Belgium. Apart
from its grand Baroque architecture, the church has always
been noted for its superb musical tradition.
During the Cold War the Brompton
Oratory was used by the KGB as a dead letter box.