Church of St Anselm and St Cecilia, Lincoln’s Inn Fields

The Taking Stock initiative, which began in 2005, aims to assess the historical and architectural importance of every Catholic church and chapel in England and Wales, categorised by diocese. The project is a partnership between the Patrimony Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, individual dioceses, and Historic England. It is part-funded by Historic England.

From the parish website:

“Our postal address is 70 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2A 3JA. The post code for satnav or google maps is WC2B 6DX.”

From the website Taking Stock:

“An eclectic design of the early twentieth century by F. A. Walters. The church is contemporary with the Edwardian development of Kingsway, and in common with other original buildings facing that thoroughfare, is faced in Portland stone. The church replaced, and incorporates fittings from, the Sardinian Chapel in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the grandest of the old Catholic embassy chapels. Walters’s church was damaged by wartime bombing; its west end was refaced and south aisle rebuilt in the early 1950s by Stanley Kerr Bate.  Although somewhat dwarfed by its neighbours, the church holds its own as a prominent building in the Bloomsbury Conservation Area.

In the reign of James II a house at 53-54 Lincoln’s Inn Fields was occupied by Franciscan friars, who opened a chapel in February 1688. This proved very short lived; the chapel was destroyed by a mob after the flight of James II in December 1688. Soon afterwards, the restored buildings were occupied by the Portuguese ambassador and (by 1715) by the Sicilian ambassador, who built a new chapel (known as the Sardinian chapel after the Duke of Savoy exchanged the Kingdom of Sicily for that of Sardinia). This chapel was badly damaged by fire in November 1759 and subsequently rebuilt, only to be wrecked by a mob during the Gordon Riots in June 1780. The building was again repaired, and reopened in 1781. In 1798 the chapel was acquired by John Douglass, Vicar Apostolic of the London District, for public Catholic worship (legalised by the Second Relief Act). It reopened in August 1799. Architecturally, it was the grandest of the former embassy chapels in London.

In 1852 the chapel became a mission church, dedicated to St Anselm, with the additional dedication to St Cecilia following in 1866.

Sadly, the church was demolished in 1909, as part of the comprehensive redevelopment associated with the laying out of Kingsway. A site was obtained for a replacement church facing directly onto the new thoroughfare, and the stipulation of the London County Council was that it should (like its Edwardian neighbours) be faced in Portland stone. The architect for the new church was F. A. Walters, and the builders James Smith & Son of Norwood. The foundation stone was laid on 10 June 1908 and the completed church opened on 6 July 1909 (800 years after the death of St Anselm of Canterbury, as recorded over the doorway).  As at St Patrick’s Soho Square, fittings from the eighteenth century chapel were incorporated in the new church, including the font, an altar, the organ (of 1857), arms of the House of Savoy, and a painting of the Deposition. Walters’s design was in the early Renaissance style, ‘as being most in accord with the traditions of the old church’ (The Tablet, 17 July 1909, 115), although it has a more North European than Italianate character.

The twentieth-century church has been afflicted by damage and disaster almost as much as its Georgian predecessor. On 11 September 1941 it was damaged by bombing; the restoration of 1951-54 by Stanley Kerr Bate of Walters & Kerr Bate involved the refronting of the church, in a plainer and rather less interesting manner, and the rebuilding of the south aisle. Then on Christmas Day 1992, it was again badly damaged by fire. Following extensive repairs, it was reopened by Cardinal Hume in March 1994.”

From the website of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster:

“Bishop Nicholas Hudson (Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese of Westminster) gave a homily at the opening of the Holy Door of Mercy at St Anselm and St Cecilia, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, 20 December 2015.”

From Wikipedia:

A Holy Door (Latin: Porta Sancta) is traditionally an entrance portal located within the Papal major basilicas in Rome. The doors are normally sealed by mortar and cement from the inside so that they cannot be opened. They are ceremoniously opened during Jubilee years designated by the Pope, for pilgrims who enter through those doors may piously gain the plenary indulgences attached with the Jubilee year celebrations.

In October 2015, Pope Francis (pictured) broke with tradition in having each Roman Catholic diocese throughout the world designate one or more local Holy Doors during the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, so that Catholics could gain the plenary indulgences granted during the Jubilee year without having to travel to Rome.”

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