THE Shrine of Our Lady in the
Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Gregory, Warwick Street, in the West End of London, is believed to be the first Lady Altar set up in an English Catholic church after the Reformation.
The parish priest, Fr. Reginald Fuller, says it is certainly the first shrine in the proper sense—that is, an altar around which great popular devotion has accumulated.
It was erected about the middle of the last century, and devotion to it had developed strongly before the century ended.
The first of the thousands of silver votive offerings which are a famous feature of the shrine were accepted by Mgr. Talbot, a friend of Cardinal Manning. in the 1880s.
The present statue of Our Lady came from France and appears to represent Our Lady as she appears on the Miraculous Medal. Its maker is not known.
It replaced an earlier one which was said to have been removed to a church in the East End of London, though there ate no precise records of this.
Many people have given veils for the statue and some of these are of considerable value. A well-known court dressmaker made a number and presented them recently.
The sanctuary contains mosaics put up in the 1880s by Bentley, architect of Westminster Cathedral, and they are believed to be his first work of this kind.
Also on the walls are many framed expressions of thanks for favours received. Some of these are from Catholics who served in the Allied Forces in the war, including Belgians and several Poles.
About 220 years ago, Warwick Street was the home of the Portuguese Embassy Chapel, one of those seven centres protected by diplomatic rights which proved such a consolation to London Catholics in penal times.
The Catholic Kings the embassies represented. recognising the valuable part they played in preserving the Faith in England, did what they could to meet the situation, often providing more chaplains than was necessary.
When the Portuguese Embassy moved to South Street, Grosvenor Square, its place in Golden Square was taken by the Bavarians.
The value of the Bavarian Embassy chapel was not overlooked by the Gordon rioters, who destroyed it together with other Catholic chapels and houses. With a new interior but an unprententious front, it was rebuilt, though it was not reopened until 1788.
It was to 35 Golden Square, a few doors away, that the Vicars Apostolic moved from Castle Street, Holborn. Bishop Bra mst on and Bishop Griffiths were followed by Cardinal Wiseman, who won the restoration of the Hierarchy.