Tuesday, 31 March 2009

St Mary Bourne Street, London

Hidden away behind Sloane Square tube station, amidst the rows of stuccoed terraces, lies the small chapel of St Mary's Bourne Street.

There's nothing especially notable about the chapel itself, a competent version of Victorian Early English gothic, executed in red brick in 1874. Although it has some rich furnishings, and is a quiet and intimate space, what makes it stand out is its services.

For here is possibly London 'highest' Anglo-Catholic church: its mission to keep alive the catholic tradition within the Church of England. It's not everyone's liturgical cup of tea, but it attracts a varied and loyal congregation.

The services are elaborate in their ritual, rich in liturgy and especially rich in music. The high masses - sung, of course, in Latin - are wonderful experiences for lovers of divine music, and include Handel, Mozart, Bach, Allegri, Palestrina, Byrd, Tallis, Haydn - and many more. The vestments are equally sumptuous, and the whole spectacle is swathed in incense.

Strangely, the rumbling of underground trains beneath - they can clearly be felt through the floor - only adds to the feeling of mystery...
Bourne Street, Chelsea, London SW1W 8JJ Website

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