Primarily, St Michael’s is a place of worship and prayer, where Mass is held, and confessions are heard. In the ‘Old Church’ the Blessed Sacrament is reserved at the altar, and the white light burns to denote Christ’s presence. This is an area of particular devotion, quiet and prayer.
Our worship on Sundays takes the form of a 10.30 a.m. Sung Mass, celebrated in the main part of the Church. We strive to make our worship as beautiful as we can, yet accessible to all. Mass is said on other days at times found on the notice boards and in the weekly bulletin, but primarily on a Friday at 11 a.m. You will be most welcome to join us at any time.
From its beginnings, St Michael’s has stood in the Catholic tradition of the Church of England, believing the Reformation to be no more than a reform and that there is unbroken continuity with the Church founded in this country by Saint Augustine (597) and earlier Christians. This is emphasised by the name ‘Mass’ for the service given by Christ, and in the devotions and ornaments found in the Church. However, we are, of course very glad to have with us people of any Christian tradition, or none.
St Michael’s is acknowledged as being one of the finest Victorian churches in the country and is Grade I-listed. In Simon Jenkins’ book, ‘England’s Thousand Best Churches’, it was placed within the foremost one hundred. Affectionately dubbed ‘the cathedral of the back streets’, it is a profoundly moving building, consisting of two churches made one. The first was designed by G F Bodley and built in 1861-62, and this is now the south aisle of the cathedral-like nave, completed in 1893-95 to a design by William Burges.
St Michael’s is noted for its fine architecture, sculpture and woodwork, as well as its magnificent collection of stained-glass windows, in the south aisle by the pre-Raphaelites, William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, Ford Madox-Brown, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Philip Webb, and in the north aisle by Kempe & Tower. Our guidebook gives more information. Whenever possible we will arrange guided tours for groups, on request.