Twentieth Century Society and NCT event

chruch architecture enthusiasts

See Robert Drake's Presentation

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Why is St Paul’s unique? 

  • A charismatic priest wanting a new style of worship with centrally placed altar reflecting ‘the liturgical movement’ stemming from the Continent
  • Opportunity for experimentation in services when in congregations in hall or temporary places with less Diocesan interference 
  • Meeting of minds  when Kirkby met Keith Murray (who had designed Royal Foundation of St Catherine chapel ) and then Maguire  
  • Revolutionary and austere design 

What is so special about St Paul’s interior 

  • First UK church to respond fully to liturgical reform agenda 
  • Bringing congregation closer to and involving them in Eucharist – at core of Kirkby’s approach 
  • Influence of centrally planned Renaissance churches, idea of harmony of man with nature  
  • Also Thaxted church (Essex) – large areas of floor space and light flooding in 
  • Diminishing cubes with ancillary spaces; 2 chapels, parish room, sacristy 
  • Minimum of decoration: just red lettering  and mosaics 
  • A modern not a baroque baldacchino at the centre 
  • A processional route clearly demarcated 

Challenges in getting it built 

  • Distinguished but conservative architects on London DAC- Albert Richardson & Corfiato
  • Cost cut from £50k to £40k Maguire could then cut out extraneous  detail as ‘cost cutting’ 
  • But possibly explains use of wire wool and other inexpensive materials 
  • Maguire used models – and model didn’t change much 
  • New Churches Research Group founded 1957- enormous impetus towards acceptance of churches like St Paul’s by hierarchy 

Post-war Architectural context 

  • Liturgical movement coming from Germany 
  • Ars sacra movement in France and pilgrimage church of le Corbusier especially Ronchamp – also a place of architectural pilgrimage. Kirkby visited these churches 
  • New churches research group in UK- Peter Hammond wrote ‘Liturgy and Architecture’  St Paul’s architects Maguire and Murray were key players  

Context of building St Paul’s Bow Common 

  • Huge extent of destruction of churches in WWII bombing – 90 CofE churches destroyed
  • Equivalent numbers or other denominations  
  • De-population post-1945
  • Pressure to pay for new churches in areas of population expansion (process started pre-war) 
  • Meant in East End for 2-3 churches destroyed only one new one built 

The Twentieth Century Society

Copyright Robert Drake & the Twentieth Century Society