After the Reformation, the Catholic faith was outlawed and practicing Catholics risked death and martyrdom during the reigns of Edward VI and Elizabeth. Until the C18th Catholics faced fines, loss of property and social exclusion. Mass was celebrated in secret. The Dukes of Norfolk remained faithful to the Catholic faith and had a small chapel in their house, known as The Lord’s House, on Fargate. By the early 1800s, Catholics were allowed to worship openly and a larger chapel was built in the garden of The Lord’s House. By 1845, the congregation had grown and so much that a bigger church was needed and the present church was built.
St Marie’s is a typical Victorian neo-Gothic church with a tall spire which was shrouded in scaffolding when I visited in October 2016.
St Marie’s escaped damage from bombing raids over Sheffield in the Second World War, although the stained glass windows in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament were blown out.
There was a major restoration in 1970 when the rood screen was removed and the mass altar moved forward. The church became a Cathedral in 1980 with the formation of the new Diocese of Hallam. The building was renovated in 2011/2 when the pews and other furnishings were replaced and everything was regilded. On a bright sunny day, the interior glows with all the gold.
The first impressions on entering the cathedral are light and space. Light streams in through the plain glass windows in the clerestory. The pillars of the arcades have gilded capitals and there are requests to the saints to pray for us painted round the outside of the arches.
The large west window was designed by Pugin. Below it is the modern sandstone font. The statue of the Virgin and Child above the north door came from the original church on this site.
Off the north aisle is the Mortuary Chapel. The painted tiles on the walls list the names of priests who served the Catholic community before the church was built. The picture is a Victorian representation of a priest’s death. The altar piece shows Mary receiving the dead body of Christ. At the back is an icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour.
In the north transept is the Shrine of the Sacred Heart, representing the burning love Christ has for all. Opposite is the Shrine of Our Lady, with images of Saints John, Dominic, Catherine and Winifred.
Beyond, set behind metal grille doors, is the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament which is kept for private prayer. The effigy of Fr Charles Pratt who was the driving force behind the building of the church is between the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament and the chancel.
The modern sandstone altar and Bishop’s Chair are at the front of the chancel. Inside the altar are the relics of many saints. On the front is the pelican pecking her breast to feed her young; a symbol of the Eucharist.
The reredos below the east window was designed by Pugin. The carvings record the virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.
There is an elaborate wood ribbed ceiling above the chancel with gilded angels. Hanging from the ceiling is the Rood Cross with the Virgin Mary and St John.
To the right of the chancel is St Joseph’s Chapel, separated by stone arcading with a metal grille between the arches. This is dominated by the massive reredos of St Joseph on his death bed. The painted tiles depict the six saints: Catherine, Barbara, Dorothy, Agnes, Clare and Margaret.
Stairs lead up to the Lady Chapel over St Joseph’s Chapel. This also serves as the Memorial Chapel to Polish Officers who gave their lives in the navy, RAF and underground army in the Second World War.
Set in an apse is a marble statue of Our Lady of Mercy. The window shows Mary being crowned in Heaven. There is decorative blind arcading round the base of the walls. There is a small basket of rose petals for the faithful to scatter in front of the altar.
This is a very attractive church, tucked away between the Crucible and Fargate. It is open daily 1.30-5.30. There are drop in guided tours on first Wednesday of the month, followed by an organ demonstration at 3.30. There are pre-booked tours on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2.30.
The post code is S1 2JB and the grid reference is SK 355873.
There are more pictures “here.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/churches/england/yorkshire/south_yorkshire/sheffield_rc/index.html