Page 10, 28th March 1986

28th March 1986
Page 10
Page 10, 28th March 1986 — Pugin

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Locations: Liverpool, Nottingham


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It is perhaps inevitable that very few Catholic cathedrals are included in this new and enlarged Historic Houses, Castles and Gardens. In general they are less heavy with history than their Anglican counterparts.

For the first time, however, Westminster Cathedral is mentioned as is the uniquely splendid Cathedral of Christ the King in Liverpool.

A case might have been made for the inclusion of the Catholic cathedral at Nottingham if only because its exterior has so recently and so successfully been renovated.

The result is a total transformation, since the removal of years of grime and dirt now reveal the full splendour of the cathedral's' architecture and stonework.

As with so many other Catholic churches and cathedrals, that of Nottingham is intimately bound up with the life of that extraordinary and eccentric genius, Augustus Welby Pugin.

Pugin was received into the Church in 1834 and became consumed with an intense desire to restore the Catholic Church in England to the Gothic glory which had been its own in preReformation days.

Indeed Pugin was accused by many of his professional colleagues of becoming a Catholic more because of his love for pre-Reformation Gothic architecture than for any other reason.

Pugin began the building of St Barnabas's, Nottingham, in 1841. What he finally produced — a Gothic church in the lancet style — is considered as one of the best specimens of his designs. And the latter were regarded by experts as the most sincere, the most faithful, and most Gothic work executed in England since the fifteenth century.

Pugin's eccentricities included violent anti-feminism, whereby hangs a tale. Inside today's Cathedral, much of Pugin's original interior furnishings have been altered to facilitate the liturgical renewal initiated by Pope St Pius X which gathered such momentum in the 1960's. There is no Rood Screen. Pugin's original Rood now hangs above the High Altar.

When showing some visitors the Rood Screen in his own day, Pugin explained that it screened off "the holy of holies", and that "never is the sanctuary entered save by those in sacred orders."

At that very moment; to Pugin's horror, a priest appeared in the sanctuary to show the screen to two ladies. Pugin turned to a sacristan and said "Turn these people out at once. How dare they enter!" But the sacristan replied "Sir, it is Bishop Wiseman." Poor Pugin was mortified and, retiring to the nearest bench, burst into tears.

How marvellous to think that Cardinal Carlo Confaloieri, born in 1893, is still alive and Dean of the Sacred College. It will soon be 45 years since he was made a Bishop by Pope Pius XII, the only man to be episcopally ordained by the great Pius while he was actually Pope.

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