THE fact that today is the feast of the dedication of two of the five great Roman basilicas turns the mind to the whole subject of old and new churches.
The foundations of both St. Peter's and St. Paul's go back to the 3rd and 4th centuries; tradition has it that each was built over the site of the burial of the saint to whom it is dedicated. We are all as Catholics members of the congregations of the five major basilicas, which are specially associated with the Pope. The other three are St. John Lateran, St. Laurence Outside the Walls, and St. Mary Major.
Santa Maria Maggiore, the lastnamed, dates from the 5th century, so is about 100 years younger than the other four. Two minutes from it stands the church of St. Praxed —of the Robert Browning poem I quoted a few weeks ago and brought down upon my head an avalanche of letters!
IT is one year ago today since Bishop Cowdcroy went down to Sussex to bless and open the new church of St. Francis and St. Anthony at Crawley. when the Capuchin Franciscans also celebrated the return of the friars in 1859. They had been there much earlier — in 1250, in fact! When they came again to Crawley, they began in a coach-house, till Francis Scawen Blunt built them a friary on three acres of the old White Hart farm After the last war, Crawley became one of the first of the New Towns, and its population was to grow from 9,500 to 50,000. So the friars had to get busy to welcome a much larger Catholic congregation, and the new church in the new town rose on the site of the old.
When I was there quite recently, I was struck by the way in which the light and bright new church fits in with the busy and adventurous piazzas of the new town's shopping centre, at the head of which it stands, combining in its architecture many of the best features of the old with welcome aspects of the new.
F,VEN more exciting is the
prospect of an octagonal church—it has been described as "rather like a squashed threepenny bit "—projected for a triangular site in the High Street of West Wickham Kent.
Twice the town planning committee came down against the plans, which it considered " would not suit the neighbourhood "; but at last Beckenham Council voted by 21 to 7 in favour of the unusual design. The architect of this proposed new Catholic church is Mr. H. Bingham Towner, of Uckfield. He plans an all-glass front for the nave. Another description of the exterior is that it will be like a windmill.
I have so far seen only a photograph of the model; and to me the church looks more like a bigtop circus tent with a skylon spire sticking out from the centre. It will be the second somewhat novel church in the parish, for Fr. Laurence Callan and his priests of St, Mark's, West Wickham, already serve Our Lady of the Rosary Hayes, a rather gay, glass-fronted building with lighting from panels in its roof and pastel-painted interior walls.