Name: Westminster Cathedral
Denomination: Roman Catholic
Address: 42 Francis Street. SW1P 1QW
Please visit the website for times of services and details of other events.
Westminster Cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Westminster and the Mother Church for Roman Catholics in England and Wales.
For over a hundred years countless Christians and visitors of every faith and none have crossed the threshold of this holy place, sensing the presence of God and filling it with prayer and contemplation.
Our cathedral is a vibrant parish Church where the community is always being built and extended; a living house of prayer where Holy Mass is offered over forty times every week and the Sacrament of Reconciliation is available for six hours every day.
This great edifice was opened in 1903 and this year celebrates the centenary of its consecration. Designed by John Francis Bentley, the leading Church architect of his day it is inspired by the early Byzantine architecture of the Mediterranean.
Since 1930 the Cathedral has been home to a shrine of the English saint and martyr St. John Southworth. This Lancashire priest lived and ministered to the poor in the streets of Westminster. He died for his faith in 1664. The presence of his earthly remains in the Cathedral reminds the visitor that our ultimate destiny is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Westminster Cathedral is the home of a much-loved, world-famous choir which sings solemn Mass every day. People from all over the world come here to listen to great music from its remarkable and extensive repertoire.
History and Architecture
Westminster Cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Westminster and the Mother Church of the Archdiocese of Westminster. The foundation stone of the Cathedral was laid in 1895 and the building was completed and opened for public worship in 1903. The architect was J.F. Bentley. A piazza off Victoria Street, created in the mid 1970’s, has made the Cathedral one of the most distinctive buildings in London. The Byzantine exterior, with its stripes of red brick and white limestone, rises in a cluster of rounded windows, turrets and domes, and culminates in a lofty campanile of some 284 feet.
Upon entering, one stands between two huge columns of red Norwegian granite (whose colour symbolises the Precious Blood of the Cathedral’s dedication) and one’s gaze is first caught by the sanctuary straight ahead with its elaborate baldacchino supported on eight slender columns of golden yellow marble. There are nine chapels, each with its own character and style of decoration. There are many other notable features, including Eric Gill’s Stations of the Cross, the tombs of Cardinals Hinsley, Heenan and Hume.
There is also a crypt chapel, dedicated to St Peter, which can hold about 80 people for Mass and which contains the tombs of Cardinals Wiseman, Manning, Griffin and Godfrey; also in the crypt is the tomb of the last Ambassador of the murdered Tsar Nicholas of Russia. Visitors to the Cathedral can travel by lift up the campanile almost every day of the year. One of the most historic days in the life of the Cathedral was the visit by , Her Majesty The Queen for the Cathedral’s centenary in 1995 for Solemn Vespers in the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury and other national Christian leaders.
Activities and Social Outreach
The Cathedral is looked after by a host of people, lay and ordained. The Administrator (i.e. Cathedral Dean) is responsible, together with his Sub-Administrator and the College of Cathedral Chaplains, for the daily operation. The Cathedral runs a busy parish containing two schools, the Cardinal Hume Centre for young people at risk, and a large day centre and night shelter for the homeless called The Passage, which was founded by Cardinal Hume. The Cathedral Hall, to the side of the Cathedral on Ambrosden Avenue, is used for conferences, lectures and by a wide variety of groups.
The Cathedral enjoys an ecumenical Centre for Spirituality. A gift shop is found near the Cathedral entrance, inside, and a bookshop (St Paul’s), outside. Also on Ambrosden Avenue is found the Cathedral Choir School, which is home (together with the Master of Music, his Assistant, Organ Scholar and Lay Clerks) to One of the finest cathedral choirs in the world, and Archbishop’s House, the residence of the Archbishop.
Style of Worship and Doctrine
The centre of the liturgical life for Catholics is the Mass (the Eucharist), celebrated daily in most churches. All are welcome to Mass but Communion, ordinarily, may not be taken by non-Catholics. The Eucharist is the visible sign of sharing in the one body of Christ The Catholic Church upholds the Seven Sacraments (Baptism, Penance, Holy Communion, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick or Extreme Unction) but greatly recognises Baptism as a very special link with other Christian communities. The Catholic Church’s approach to the ecumenical movement, as given by the Second Vatican Council and in other documents since, is perhaps best found in the words of the Council itself: “Christ bestowed unity on his Church from the beginning. This Unity. we believe, subsists in the Catholic Church us something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time” (Decree on Ecumenism, 1964). The (1994) Catechism of the Catholic Church re-states these words, and adds: “The Church must always pray and work to maintain, reinforce and perfect the unity that Christ wills for her”.