A Glimpse of Heaven

BookA Glimpse of Heaven

A Glimpse of Heaven

Catholic Churches of England and Wales

English Heritage


October 30th, 2009





The architecture and decoration of Catholic churches and their importance as part of our heritage has gone largely undiscovered and unappreciated. This book is a celebration of 100 Catholic churches in England and Wales, with lively and informative text and stunning photography specially commissioned for the book. Each chapter is devoted to a milestone in the history of the Catholic Church since the Reformation, with a brief introduction followed by a description of each church complementing Alex Ramsay’s photographs. The churches vary enormously in scale, date and location. The small, 14th-century chapel at Rotherwas near Hereford survived centuries of official persecution and more informal terror from local anti-Catholics. The 19th-century Church of St Everilda in Yorkshire was built after Catholic Emancipation, but though off the beaten track it still hid its interior magnificence behind non-committal, blank walls. The Gothic churches of architect Joseph Hansom strike wonder into the hearts of their visitors: at Manchester’s Holy Name he contrived a space of breath-taking vastness – architecture designed to shock and awe. Early 20th-century church architects adopted a lighter – and in some cases extraordinary – approach that gave Rochdale a church with a Byzantine dome and a wall of sumptuous mosaics. All these are important, architecturally, decoratively, historically and socially, and each has an additional powerful and poignant dimension because of their remarkable stories.

Christopher Martin tells the remarkable story of Catholic church architecture in England and Wales, a subject about which very little has been written. Catholic churches have too often been dismissed as merely ‘Victorian’. With superb illustrations by the well-known architectural photographer Alex Ramsay, this book demonstrates that many Victorian Catholic churches were masterpieces, that Catholics built churches and chapels of astonishing confidence even in the 18th century, and that in the 20th century Catholic church-builders grasped the architectural opportunities offered by the modern age with enthusiasm.

The churches in this important book are fascinating not only for their architecture but for what they tell us about the politics, history and drama of their times. This book brings a too-often ignored, and sometimes threatened, part of the nation’s heritage to a wider audience.

'It is essentially a popularisation in the best sense, clearly written, attractively designed and finely illustrated.'
The Journal of Stained Glass

'Together, Mr Martin and Alex Ramsey have provided an exceptionally valuable visual tour of our finest Roman Catholic churches, and it will for many years remain the standard work of reference on the subject'
Church Times

'its ravishing illustrations will come as a revelation to many for whom Catholic churches are a hidden world'

Author Information

Author, Ludlow.