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London ‘actors’ church’ unveils new high altar

Corpus Christi is being renovated to reflect its role as a centre of Eucharistic devotion

The church of Corpus Christi in Covent Garden, London, has unveiled a new high altar as part of a major restoration project.

When the church was opened in 1874, Cardinal Henry Manning, the Archbishop of Westminster, said it would be “specifically devoted to the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.”

It was the first Catholic church to be named for Corpus Christi – the feast of Christ’s Body and Blood – since the Reformation. The church’s construction was intended as reparation for the offences against the Blessed Sacrament committed in England since the 16th century.

With the encouragement of Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the parish priest Fr Alan Robinson has begun to renovate Corpus Christi, sometimes known as “the actors’ church’’ because of its historical relationship with London’s Theatreland. The narthex and Sacred Heart chapel have been restored, and earlier this month the high altar was unveiled.

The back wall is now covered with gold leaf to signify God’s majesty, and three carved angels sit over the tabernacle as a reminder that heaven and earth come together in the Mass.

Angels above the tabernacle, before and after (Alex Dimminger)




Above the altar are 600 handcrafted and gilded stars.

The stars above the altar (Alex Dimminger)

Parish administrator Alex Dimminger said: “The way the sanctuary opens up into the heavens reminds us that we do not come to God alone.

“When we approach the altar, we join ourselves to the countless angels, saints, thrones and dominions who praise and glorify God on high.”

The next stage of the restoration involves renovating the nave, floors and pews, as well as updating the heating and lighting systems. The parish is accepting donations.

It also hopes to strengthen its identity as a centre of Eucharistic devotion. Fr Robinson has launched a Sodality (association) of the Blessed Sacrament. On the first Thursday of each month, a Mass will be celebrated with a choir and a different guest preacher on the Blessed Sacrament. Mass will be followed by Adoration and Benediction.


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