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A Guide to a church building, withreference to particular aspects of English Religious history

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A Guide to a church building, with reference to particular aspects of English Religious history The church of Downside Abbey, otherwise known as the basilica of Saint Gregory, is the largest of the neo-gothic style churches built after the reformation. The church was constructed in three stages under the designs of different architects: the transept in 1882 by Dunn and Hansom, the choir in 1905 by Garner and the nave in 1925 by Scott. Central to the life of any Monastic community, the Abbey serves both the monastery and also the school that bears its name being home to around 50 monks of the Benedictine order. At the beginning of the 17th Century, the Benedictine brotherhood in England fell to but one old monk but nevertheless the Order survived. 250yrs later, two Benedictine monastic houses existed in Europe but once again came close to extinction during the French revolution. ...read more.


The effects of the Dissolution of the Monasteries can still be seen today, in ruins of monastic buildings throughout the country. Most monasteries simply ceased to exist; their structures were torn down, and the stone recycled in new buildings in the local community. 300 years after the dissolution of the monasteries Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-1852) designed Mount Saint Bernard Abbey, the first church since the reformation to be elevated to Abbey status being a 'manifestation of a European Catholic sensibility in architecture'1 Pugin also completed designs for Downside Abbey, another demonstration of the international spirit in religious design at that time. Downside and other Catholic churches of the time signify the possibility of a new concept through which to view gothic revival architecture in the nineteenth century. The principal components of the great medieval church are displayed at Downside. The space is used for a variety of activities: services of worship, processions and ceremonies on special occasions, and more informal visits to shrines and chapels, which is a legacy of the old monistic way of life. ...read more.


The choir is a replica of Chester Cathedral which dates from the 14th Century with each canopy over the choir stalls containing a monastic or local saint. Angles support lower canopies holding emblems of Christ's passion on the one side and musical instruments on the other, making this a truly sensory experience to behold. However it would be wrong to suggest that only catholic churches were building such sumptuous buildings, the Gothic revival spread far wider, finding a place in Anglican places of worship also. The plight of the Catholics is within the very foundations of Downside Abbey. In the transept the shrine of St Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop of Armagh, the last martyr under the penal laws following the reformation, is held in an ornate gilt and oak casket and the stunning stained glass east window of St Benedict's chapel portrays the three abbots of Glastonbury, Reading and Colchester who were martyred in 1539. Periods of prosperity are also clearly displayed at Downside, with vestments and church plates dating from when the Order was in its home town of Douai, Flanders, giving a reality to its heritage. ...read more.

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