The stunning sanctuary paintings were completely covered over in the 1950s. Now we need your help to uncover these hidden treasures.
Hidden above the arches in the sanctuary of our church are two large murals, painted by Gabriel Pippet in the first decade of the twentieth century, depicting the life of St Aloysius Gonzaga, the patron of our church. With vibrant colours, gold leaf and exquisite pattern, the paintings represent some of the finest decoration of the Catholic Arts and Crafts movement.
We want to restore our church to its original beauty, and uncovering these murals is the crucial first step. These lost wall paintings will unlock the details of colours and patterns used by Pippet throughout the sanctuary, and as we cannot begin other major works until the decorative scheme is in hand, this project is the key to the whole restoration.
While we knew the Oratory church once had beautiful painted decoration, we had no real sense of the extent of it. A search in the Jesuit archives led to a remarkable discovery. There in a faded photograph were displayed the delicate lines and depth of detail characteristic of Gabriel Pippet’s work. In November 2022, we began a period of investigation into the Pippet decoration with the help of Cliveden Conservation, one of the UK’s leading experts in the conservation of historic wall paintings. After just an hour, small panels of colour, details of stencilling, gilding and the faces of the saints looked out from the murals once more onto the sanctuary of our church. They were in excellent condition beneath the layers of modern paint.
The elusive Mr Pippet
The relatively unknown artist, Gabriel Pippet, was born in Solihull in 1880 where he died in 1962. Influenced by his own family of Catholic artists, he also drew inspiration from the Pre-Raphaelites, the Arts and Crafts Movement, Byzantine decorative arts and Western medieval manuscripts.
Between 1913 and 1917 he became influential in wider Catholic artistic circles, illustrating books and taking commissions for churches. From 1922 to 1933, Pippet undertook his largest commission yet: the design and decoration of mosaics and wood carvings at the church of the Sacred Heart and Saint Catherine of Alexandria, Droitwich. His earliest ecclesiastical work was, however, St Aloysius’ Church, Oxford. From 1905 to 1907 he was engaged by the Jesuit fathers to decorate our Sacred Heart Chapel and the Sanctuary. In 1913, he painted the beautiful Paleo-Christian murals in our relic chapel.
How you can help…
Help us raise £20,000 to uncover and restore the murals. To support the unveiling of Pippet’s murals you can:
Make a general donation Your gift, no matter how modest, can help towards the cost of uncovering this crucial piece of our heritage. You can make a donation by cash or cheque, or make a gift online.
Sponsor a day’s work A gift of £500 will fund a day’s work on one of the two murals. This covers the work of two conservators, their materials and the scaffolding and other specialist equipment. Your name will be inscribed in our restoration Book of Sponsors. Please get in touch if you want to sponsor a day’s work: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Become a Pippet Sponsor A gift of £2,000 or above will enrol you in our select group of Pippet Sponsors where you will receive updates on the difference your donation has made, be invited on site to see the work progress and receive information about our future decorative work. Your name, or the name of the person in whose honour the gift is made, will be inscribed in our restoration Book of Sponsors. Please get in touch if you want to sponsor a day’s work: email@example.com.