THE RESTORATION OF CORPUS CHRISTI
The Hidden Gem
Having stood since 1874 as reparation for the sins committed against the Blessed Sacrament in the 16th century, Corpus Christi was designed to be the Eucharistic Shrine of the diocese, and a glittering jewel in the Catholic Church’s crown. Upon opening its doors, the church quickly became the centre for Eucharistic devotion, and played host to well-known names such as Parish Priest Fr Francis Stanfield, creator of the hymn ‘Sweet Sacrament Divine’, and Mgr Ronald Knox, whose famous sermons were compiled into the books ‘Between Heaven and Charing Cross’, and ‘Window in the Wall’.
Despite these illustrious beginnings, however, over time Corpus Christi began to fall into disrepair, its rich and colourful history muted to black and grey through the passing of the years. After significant periods of neglect, exposure to continued heavy pollution, and clumsy attempts at sandblasting and painting, the church and its dark dusty interior found itself in dire need of love, care and attention in order to restore it to its former glory.
It was at this point that His Eminence, Vincent Cardinal Nichols requested the complete restoration of Corpus Christi – a vast project that required considerable time and effort, as well as substantial support in the form of funding, donations and prayer.
A labour of love
In the spirit of renewal, the first phase of the restoration saw all the old, blackened paint in the Narthex being cleaned and stripped away, with the underlying brickwork restored and repainted. The Sacred Heart chapel was fully restored and decorated, along with its original stained glass and panelled ceiling. The Lady Chapel had its Altar returned and restored, and a new statue of Our Lady of Walsingham was commissioned to sit within the redesigned chapel, modelled upon the Holy House of Loreto. The statues of Ss Peter and Paul, St Patrick, the Pieta and St Mary Magdalene were restored to their original colours, having been clumsily painted over in preceding years. Lamps were replaced, pews were restored, and the roof of the tower spire was refitted, with the bell restored and rehung.
Thanks to generous donations from parishioners, new installations such as Stations of the Cross as well as vestments found their home in the church, with new floors, altar rails, chandeliers and doors being installed as well, amongst other welcome new additions, such as underfloor heating. A new chair lift needed to be installed, opening up the church once again to those with limited mobility, or in need of wheelchair access. Just as crucially, the entrance of the church was made more visible to all passers-by through the installation of glass and iron gates, making the main entrance more visually appealing and noticeable.
But perhaps the most significant element of the project has been the restoration and refurbishment of the sanctuary – its reredos and walls redecorated and gilded, its carved stonework highlighted and repainted, and its old paint cleaned off and stripped away. Today the sanctuary shines brightly with fresh colours and shimmering gold leaf, resembling the inside of a tabernacle and standing in constant reminder of the splendour and majesty of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Renewed faith and inspiration
On Sunday 3rd June 2018 – the Solemnity of Corpus Christi – His Eminence, Cardinal Nichols elevated the church to the dignity of the Diocesan Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament, making it a particular place of pilgrimage and devotion to the Eucharist.
What this restoration and renewal means for us as a Shrine is that we are always growing as a devotional centre in the heart of London, and always moving forward towards a revitalisation and rejuvenation of Catholic belief. Gone are the days of damp and darkness – today Corpus Christi is a place of renewed energy and light, welcoming all through its newly refurbished doors and offering itself as a beacon of hope for all those seeking guidance, comfort, reconciliation and divine inspiration.
New Glass Doors
Corpus Christi was build at a time when it was still illegal to build Catholic churches in prominent positions, such as main roads. Therefore many people walking down Maiden Lane completely miss Corpus Christi and walk past it. To help make the church more visible from the street and to help draw more people in, we would like to replace the wooden front doors with glass and iron gates that make the main entrance more appealing and make it more immediately obvious that this is indeed a church. We have already received permission to install these gates, but now need to raise the funds to have them made and fitted. To donate, please click here.
How can you help?
While the restoration project has since been completed, Corpus Christi is always in need of funds for its ongoing maintenance and upkeep. If you would like to lend your support to the church, there are a number of ways in which you can help:
- Make a donation. To donate to the Corpus Christi restoration fund, simply complete one of our forms from the church, or download one here. Donations can be made by cash, cheque or bank transfer, and can be either handed to the priest, dropped in the Presbytery letterbox, or posted to us directly. Donations can also be made via PayPal through our online Donate page. Please note: if you pay tax, remember to complete the Gift Aid form as well, as this will allow the church to receive a further 25p for each £1 that you donate, at no additional cost.
- Offer up a prayer. Aside from donations, prayer and support are just as important to the work we do at Corpus Christi. Your prayers are hugely valuable to us, and are instrumental in helping the church and our work move forwards.
Thank you, and God bless.
Fr Alan Robinson
Rector of the Shrine
Patrons: Joseph Fiennes, John Gilhooly, Patsy Kensit, Frank Skinner, Ann Widdecombe
“In the world we live in, faith, and a still and holy place to nurture it, has never been more important.”
– Lord Fellowes of West Stafford, writer of “Downton Abbey”, speaking of Corpus Christi
This Parish is part of the Westminster Roman Catholic Diocesan Trust.
Registered Charity Number 233699.