The Sanctuary of the Church

The heart of the church, where Mass is offered three times a day. The altar was given in 1878 by Lord Bute, who donated the then very large sum of £1000 for the purpose. In 1966 it was moved forward and shortened somewhat, but it remains an impressive block of black veined marble. The stonework and paintwork on the sanctuary were restored in 2008 as part of the “Reaffirmation and Renewal” Campaign. The ‘SPN’s above the window stand for ‘St Philip Neri’, founder of the Oratory. The stars in between them come from the Oratorian crest.

The Bute memorial inscription, originally on the gradine of the altar

Behind the altar is the tabernacle, which is also part of the original furnishing of the church and once stood on the High Altar. Around the tabernacle is perhaps the most distinctive feature of the church, the reredos, crowded with statues of Saints and angels, and reminding us of the unity of the Church on earth with the Church in heaven.

A painting of the Sanctuary as it was, by Robeson

The fine crucifix dates from the early days of the church; it is now sited in the throne where the monstrance used to be placed for Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

The crucifix of the high altar

The marble and alabaster altar rails are another surviving original feature. The brass sanctuary gates are detailed with the IHS monogram and fleur-de-lis.

The Sanctuary in 1906

The choir stalls show signs of the previous owners of the Church—the bench on the Epistle side (left) has a carved IHS monogram, an abbreviation of the Holy Name of Jesus, which is much associated with the Jesuits.

The Choir Stalls on the Epistle side

The epistle side (right) choir stall has a carved AMDG: Ad maiorem Dei gloriam, the motto of the Society of Jesus, meaning ‘For the greater glory of God’. The Choir Stalls on the Gospel side

The ceiling has, at the central point, ‘SA’ monograms, standing for St Aloysius. There are images of monstrances and chalices containing the Blessed Sacrament.

The Ceiling of the Sanctuary

There are five stained glass windows in the sanctuary. From left to right, they depict St Cuthbert (holding the head of St Oswald), St John the Baptist, the Blessed Virgin Mary, St Joseph and St Mary Magdelene.

The windows of St Cuthbert and St John the Baptist The windows of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Joseph The window of St Mary Magdelene

Set into the wall of the Sanctuary is the ambry—a cupboard containing supplies of the three holy oils used in the Sacraments: the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of the Sick and the Sacred Chrism.

The ambry