Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Tractarian Church in Brighton

The Telegraph featured this column about St. Bartholomew's Anglican Church in Brighton, built in the nineteenth century under the guidance of Reverend Arthur Wagner, a Tractarian High Churchman:

The architect was the local Edmund Scott – not one of the Gilbert Scott clan. He worked with some ideas of the extraordinary man who paid for the church, the Rev Arthur Wagner (1824-1902).

Wagner’s father was a clergyman who had built St Paul’s, Brighton, where his son spent all his ordained life. In furtherance of his High Church ideals, Arthur Wagner built four or five churches in poor areas of Brighton, spending £70,000 (millions in today’s money). “To the shame of the 20th century”, as the new Pevsner puts it, three have been demolished.

Fr Wagner’s style of Tractarian churchmanship became known as London, Brighton and South Coast Religion (in joky reference to the railway company). Wagner favoured not only vestments but also incense. Four confessionals were installed, with little wooden onion domes.

Wagner was not, like others, taken to court under the Public Worship Regulation Act 1874, but he risked prosecution, arguing for his position in books with titles such as Reasons for Disobeying on Principle.

St Bartholomew’s is, if anything, rather frightening in its monumental blankness. It would have been even more overpowering if plans had gone through to extend it eastward with a Lady Chapel at an upper level, beyond three round arches piercing the high east wall.

That plan came to nothing when its sponsor, Fr Arthur Cocks, went over to Rome in 1910. All that relieves the blank of the east wall, from the original plans, is a vast and strange crucifix, painted and incised on encaustic tiles. More easily regarded as beautiful is a baldacchino, 45ft tall, over the altar, added in 1899, of green and pink marble and white alabaster. A green marble pulpit on red marble columns looks down over one side of the nave. In 1911, at the lower level of the east wall, were added some hideous figurative mosaics.

Referencing the parish's website, St. Bartholomew's is still a haven for Anglo-Catholic liturgy in the Church of England, but is most famous for using classical Viennese settings of "the Mass". Today, for example, they performed Mozart's Mass (Missa Brevis) in F (K192)--the Benedictus:

You can see more pictures of St. Bartholomew in Brighton in the Wikipedia article and on the parish website here. And take a look at the vestments!

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