St Barnabas RC Cathedral

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Date of travel

March, 2017

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After the Reformation and with the break with Rome, Roman Catholics were persecuted and not allowed to openly proclaim their faith, until the First Catholic Repeal Act of 1778. Nottingham Catholics began to worship in a tiny chapel in the Lace Market. As the congregation grew, a new church of St John the Evangelist was built. This soon became too small and the parish priest began to raise funds for a bigger and better church on land bought just outside the city limits on Derby Road. Pugin was commissioned as architect and St Barnabas was built between 1841-4 at a cost of £15,000. When complete, it was the largest Catholic Church to have been built since the Reformation. It became one of the first Roman Catholic cathedrals in 1852.

The new cathedral is a church to be proud of with splendid Gothic Revival architecture and the richly decorated Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, so typical of the highly decorative work of Pugin.

Inside it is a big church with a feeling of space. Tall octagonal columns with painted and gilded bands lead up to pointed arches. Above are painted roundels with the initials of the apostles. Round the walls are the Stations of the cross with their original painted frames.

At the heart of the church beneath the central tower is the sanctuary with its stone altar and bishop’s chair, looking remarkably modern in design. The rood cross is suspended from the arch leading into the retrochoir, which contained the canons stalls, which are now replaced by modern seating. Beyond is the lovely stained glass rose window. The crypt below the high altar is not open.

Beyond the retrochoir are three chapels along the east wall. The northern most is devoted to Church Unity. The oak screen was originally from the baptistry. It has a simple but very stylish stone altar with angels and painted panels adorning the three blind arches on the wall behind.

Immediately behind the retrochoir is the Lady Chapel with a statue of the Virgin and Child above the altar.

The southern chapel is dedicated to St Hugh of Lincoln. The stone carving of St Hugh with his swan was carved by Eric Gill.

To the south of the retrochoir is the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament which is the highlight of the cathedral.
This is entered off the south aisle and flanked by statues of Joseph with the young Jesus and the Sacred Heart.

Every available space is painted. Painted angels support the wooden beams of the roof and there are the coat of arms of all the Bishops of Nottingham since 1851. The altar is surrounded by a painted stone canopy with angels and a cross.

The church is open daily from 7am to 7pm and there are often people in private prayer. This is a wonderful church and well worth finding. There is no parking by the cathedral. The post code is NG1 5AE and the grid reference is SK 567400.

There are more pictures “here.”:


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