St George's Roman Catholic Church and a Fine Painting

  • 16 Jan 2012
  • Church Curiosities
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The present church in Sansome Walk was built in 1829, the year of the Catholic Emancipation Act, on the site of an earlier chapel of 1764. The architect was Henry Rowe, the builder of the Shirehall. A still earlier chapel stood at the corner of Pierpoint Street and Foregate Street and it was to the door of that chapel that the Mayor and Corporation accompanied James ll, but would go no further.

Though earlier repressive laws were repealed, there was still outbreaks of violence against R.C.'s well into the 19th century, and St.George's R.C. Church followed the pattern of other Catholic churches built at that time of having no windows on the ground floor level, as a safe-guard from the attacks of the mob. The facade too, though now dignified in Renaissance style, had a well secured entrance.

Over the altar is a fine and valuable copy of Raphael's picture of The Transfiguration. The original was ordered by Cardinal de Medici, who was at one time Bishop of Worcester, though as far as is known, he never came to Worcester. He intended it for the Cathedral of Narbonne, but it now hangs in the Vatican Gallery. Unfortunately, Raphael used materials which blackened in colour, and before the painting became obscure, the Pope allowed six copies to be made. The Worcester copy was made to the order of the 16th Earl of Shrewsbury at the beginning of the 19th century by one of the foremost artists of the day, and was presented by the Earl to the Jesuit Order when the church at Worcester was built.

When the Pope granted permission for the copy to be made however, he stipulated that to avoid confusion the canvas should not be in one piece,  and at the bottom of the picture can be seen the seam where the two portions are sewn together. The side panels which show on the one side St.Oswald and St. Wulstan, and on the other St.St. Ignatius and St. Francis Xavier, were added in 1880 (when the new chancel was built) and are the work of Joseph Bonvier, the London artist.