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Farm Street Church (Church of the Immaculate Conception)
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Farm Street Church (Church of the Immaculate Conception)

This is the principal London church of the Jesuits, St Ignatius Loyola's 'shock troops' of the Counter-Reformation, who preside here over a fine work of the Victorian Gothic Revival. It is arguably the finest Catholic church of that style in London, which is all the more creditable as the nave was built early in the Gothic Revival in 1844-9 and no fewer than three architects had a major part in designing the whole. The specific style is 14th-century Decorated, but represented here in an exuberant, 'flowing' manner. Much of the ornate effect of the interior comes from the numerous side chapels with their altarpieces and statues. In recent years much restoration has been undertaken to produce a mediaeval effect of painted surfaces and statues, and stained glass and sculpture. The roof has been excellently repainted, the benches have been re-varnished and, more remarkably, the roundels between the arches have been filled for the first time (in 1996) with mosaics, by Filomena Monteiro, which provide the full text of the Ave Maria in Latin, with accompanying symbols.



Farm Street Church (Church of the Immaculate Conception)

The interior looking east, which has been thoroughly restored in recent years, focuses on Pugin's high altar and on Hardman's east window.


Farm Street Church (Church of the Immaculate Conception)

Тhe west front in Farm Street, which incorporates a rose window, was modeled on Beauvais Cathedral.


J. J. Scoles designed the aisled nave and chancel. They are tall, eight bays long, and end in a fine nine-light east window, which was inspired by Carlisle Cathedral. There is a chancel arch, but as it is tall and shelters no rood screen, the interior is practically undivided. The high altar was designed by A. W. N. Pugin, the great master of the Gothic Revival. It was made of Caen stone, with much gilding. The reredos consists of crocketed pinnacles over gabled statue niches, with larger (and projecting) flanking niches and a still larger one in the centre to house the tabernacle. Above the altarpiece there are two mosaic panels, one of the Annunciation and one of the Coronation of the Virgin, made in 1875. The east window is filled with stained glass representing the Tree of Jesse, made by John Hardman & Company, 1912. The window was once lower than it is today; it was raised to stand clear of the altar and of the mosaic panels. The sanctuary was also raised to good effect to make the east end the clear focus of the interior. It was further embellished with panelling of dark green Genoese marble and Nottinghamshire alabaster. The marble sanctuary rail dates from 1901. At its south side (to the right) there is a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary, given in 1868 and placed under a tall canopy.

Farm Street Church (Church of the Immaculate Conception)

In 1996 the roundels between the arches of the nave were decorated for the first time: the central panels make up the text of the Ave Maria.


Farm Street Church (Church of the Immaculate Conception)

The rose window at the west end is filled with stained glass of the Passion, by Evie Hone, 1953.


To the right of the high altar there is the Sacred Heart chapel, which Henry Clutton added in 1858-9. The front of the altar has a brass relief of St Joseph by Pfeiffer and above the altar there is a mural painting by Molitor. Notice the two angels that flank the tabernacle: they were the work of J. F. Bentley when he was a clerk in Clutton's office. He went on to design Westminster Cathedral. Clutton himself added the outer south aisle in 1878, consisting of three chapels, whose altars were designed by A. E. Purdie. More flamboyant is the outer north aisle, by W. H. Romaine Walker, 1898-1903. The chapels on that side are placed at right angles to the nave, except for the octagonal Calvary chapel at the west end and the chapel of St Ignatius at the east. The Calvary chapel became a baptistery in 1966, when the church became a parish church for the first time. St Ignatius Loyola was the founder of the Jesuits and has a larger chapel, outside which an impressive black-clad statue is placed: black because of the Jesuits' habit or dress, which is rendered here in Polyphant marble. At the west end of the church, St Anthony of Padua's statue is equally striking in white Carrara marble. The (internal) buttresses for the nave in this aisle skilfully shelter the confessionals. In early days, confession was offered in various languages, reflecting, as Henry James said of St Maria Maggiore in Rome, 'the polyglot sinfulness of the world'. Although the church is named after the Immaculate Conception, it is widely known as Farm Street Church. Its west facade on that street, modelled on Beauvais Cathedral, is the one part of the exterior that can be seen to good effect. A rose is placed above the main west window, which has stained glass of 1953 by Evie Hone, depicting the Passion.

Farm Street Church (Church of the Immaculate Conception)

The great proponent of the Victorian Gothic Revival, A. W. N. Pugin, designed this high altar. His mastery of Gothic detail surpassed that of his contemporaries.



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