Sunday 17 January 2010


If you're in Rome, and you get the chance, you mustn't miss the restored chapel of the English College. A really beautiful, excellent, fabulous, job has been done. I was very lucky to have been given a tour (with Fr Ray) by one of the tutors, a priest of our diocese, who expertly commented on the work.
In the tribune of the chapel are a series of illustrations demonstrating the attachment of countless Englishmen to the church, to the extent of giving their lives for the faith; these (often very bloodthirsty) pictures date originally from the mid sixteenth century; the last pictures show the martyrdom of several young alumni who must actually have been known to the first students who saw these pictures. Congratulations are due to all concerned for this excellent initiative.
It was a shame, however, that the opportunity was not taken at the same time to improve the liturgical arrangements in the chapel: the reordering work done by the same architect at St John's Wonersh was far more successful.
However, getting into the chapel is not easy, unless you know somebody there.

If you were to continue a few more yards along the Via de Monseratto, you will encounter another event. This is an exhibition concerning the work of the English Catholic martyrs of the Reformation. If you visit it, you will be charged 5 Euros. I suggest you go and spend the money on a coffee.
Two charming young Italian ladies will relieve you of your money and equip you with a badge. This is the high point of the visit. It's all down from here—literally, as the exhibition is in the basement. I cannot imagine how much money was spent on this event: there are beautiful boards throughout of excellent quality describing the course of the English Reformation in English and Italian, amply equipped with photographs—beautifully done, and, it would appear, with no expense spared.
But there is nothing that is new or interesting to anyone remotely familiar with the subject. It would be much better to go and buy a book, and then at least you will have the book to keep.

It is described as an 'exhibition', but there was not one single exhibit. Not one. There was an empty case which was supposed to have contained a book, but this had been removed.
Imagine for a minute just what this exhibition might have contained. The English College has lots of really fascinating stuff; St John's Wonersh, I am sure, would have been happy to lend its pewter recusant chalice, its fabulous recusant vestments, one (a blue chinese silk stole and chasuble still in its Mediaeval shape) having probably belonged to Whalley Abbey before, with the other liturgical colours added in a border around the vestment. There is lots of stuff at Stoneyhurst, more at Oscott (I understand, though I have never seen it)–this could have been really first rate.
Frankly, the only thing I thought even slightly interesting was the patch of Roman road that somebody (presumably Mgr Bryan Chestle) had uncovered.
I left the exhibition within five minutes, and in a bleak frame of mind. My companion slammed the door.
That evening I impaled my finger on something sharp in my pocket. It was the badge.


Fr Ray Blake said...

"My companion slammed the door."

Not deliberately, Father!

Though I must say I thought the "Exhibition" somewhat condescending and empty of content.

You too hard, as there was actually a second exhibit, which was present. It was a plaster cast of an alabaster of the Trinity.

Roman priest said...

My own sentiments exactly Father. I went with another cleric. It seemed to me to be the setting for an exhibition, rather than an exhibition itself. At least the pilgrim book was there the day we went. Such a shame.
And your comments on the chapel are perfect.