London’s Westminster Cathedral turned out to be a hidden Gem

Westminster Cathedral
The stunning Westminster Cathedral
Westminster Cathedral
Westminster Cathedral

I lived in London for a couple of months years ago and got to explore more than just the usual main tourist spots of this bustling city. It took me quite a while to get used to the wet and cold weather of London so I ended up dressing in thick layers even at the start of autumn. Walking through London on one of these cold windy autumn mornings I took refuge from the icy wind in what turned out to be a hidden gem.

The red and white striped brick and stone Westminster Cathedral stood out against the clear blue sky and looked very inviting.

Westminster Cathedral in London is the mother church of the Catholic community in England and Wales and is dedicated to the “Most Precious Blood of Jesus Christ”.

Westminster Cathedral
Westminster Cathedral

It hardly appears on any tourist pamphlets and I wonder why not as this is definitely an amazing Cathedral. Throughout the exterior, the lavish introduction of white stone bands in connection with the red brickwork  produces an impression quite foreign to the British eye.

John Betjeman called it “a masterpiece in striped brick and stone in an intricate pattern of bonding, the domes being all-brick in order to prove that the good craftsman has no need of steel or concrete.” 

The elaborately decorated archway of the entrance
The elaborately decorated archway of the entrance

Entering through the elaborately decorated archway I was definitely not disappointed by the interior. The main structural parts of the building are of brick and concrete, the latter material being used for the vaulting and domes of graduated thickness and complicated curve.

Westminster Cathedral
The stunning vaulting and domes of this grand Cathedral
Westminster Cathedral
Love the low hanging chandeliers among the arches

Following Byzantine tradition, the interior was decorated with marble and mosaic. The chandeliers are low hanging with their soft light reflected off the gold in the mosaic that covers most of the small chapels along the nave.

The chapel of the Blessed Sacrament
The chapel of the Blessed Sacrament

The chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, on the north side of the sanctuary is enclosed with bronze grilles and gates through which people may enter. The Blessed Sacrament chapel is dedicated to the Blessed Mother with a small baldacchino is suspended from the vault.

the Lady Chapel
The Lady Chapel

In the Lady Chapel on the south side of the sanctuary the walls are clad in marble and the altar reredos is a mosaic of the Virgin and Child, surrounded by a white marble frame. The conches of the chapel contain predominantly blue mosaics of the Old Testament prophets DanielIsaiahJeremiah and Ezekiel.

The chapel of Saints Gregory and Augustine
The chapel of Saints Gregory and Augustine

The chapel of Saints Gregory and Augustine is next the baptistery, from which it is separated by an open screen of marble, is roofed with simple barrel vaulting and contains vibrant mosaics.

The chapel of the Holy Souls
The chapel of the Holy Souls

The chapel of the Holy Souls employs a more subdued, almost funereal style, decoration with late Victorian on a background of silver.

Westminster Cathedral
Westminster Cathedral
Westminster Cathedral
Inside Westminster Cathedral

The Cathedral was quite empty, probably what you could expect on a cold weekday morning but this created a very peaceful atmosphere. I got to walk through this quiet Cathedral and admired the gold icons and elaborate decorations of the different small chapels inside.

Unlike in a Gothic Cathedral at Westminster the narrow butresses and arcading vaulting is limited to the interior and specifically the nave of the Cathedral.

Westminster Cathedral
Such a peaceful atmosphere

The quiet Cathedral had such a tranquil atmosphere, the perfect place to sit down and just meditate for a while. Maybe I was also quite reluctant to exit into the icy autumn wind of London again.

Westminster Cathedral
Westminster Cathedral
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22 comments

  1. Another great post. I find Westminster cathedral a tad strange because I looks completely different to what you would associate with a “normal” English cathedral.

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  2. I was in London 2 weeks after 9/11. I had some time to kill on a rainy Sunday morning before meeting friends so I took the bus down here and went in. However, when I arrived, Mass was being said and it was a special tribute Mass to the victims of the disaster. I went in and the church was heaving with people, standing room only. I stayed for the last half of Mass, complete with incense and hymns. The pipe organ let loose to accompany the final hymn and I could feel it reverberate in my chest.

    I walked around afterwards to look but didn’t get as many photos as you have, just a few. Paid the 2 pounds to take the little lift up the bell tower for a look over London on a grey day. It really is a beautiful church inside, the mosaics and all the gold are stunning and totally unexpected.

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