Author and journalist Elena Curti releases second book celebrating historic Catholic churches
Some of the finest Catholic churches in England and Wales are winning recognition and a new lease of life.
The cream of them feature in Another Fifty Catholic Churches to See Before You Die (Gracewing £14.99). This beautifully illustrated book continues Elena Curti’s exploration of historic churches, and her mission to make them better-known and appreciated. It is a follow up to her best-selling volume, Fifty Catholic Churches to See Before You Die, published in 2020.
Elena Curti said:
“Once again, exploring the Catholic churches of England and Wales has been a revelation. I have stood where the martyrs themselves celebrated Mass, visited early legal post-Reformation chapels with their understated exteriors, then seen the creations of wealthy patrons in the nineteenth century, who dreamt of the conversion of England.
“The great churches of the 1950s and 60s capture the excitement of liturgical change in the air, and with it a spirit of adventure in church design.”
Elena, a journalist at The Tablet for many years, has chosen 50 more personal favourites which, taken together, give the backdrop to the story of Catholicism in England and Wales. The churches are listed alphabetically by location, with history, architecture and artistic highlights.
Each has a compelling story, featuring courageous old Catholic families, visionary priests and religious orders, local patrons, and poor Irish migrants who contributed their pennies, and often their labour, to raise their places of worship.
Speaking about the Culture Recovery Fund that was awarded to 39 churches during the COVID pandemic, she said:
“Who would have thought that the Covid pandemic which brought so much misery and hardship has, in the end, brought benefits to 39 churches that were awarded £6.6m from the Culture Recovery Fund. It is hugely heartening to visit so many churches sensitively restored.
“The other side of the coin is that beautiful places of worship with very small congregations are still closing, while others are vulnerable as they have no resident priest. Imaginative thinking, as well as resources, is needed to save these buildings. I hope this will be the Church’s goal as it prepares to mark the 200th anniversary of the Catholic Emancipation Act in 2029.”
At the end of each entry Elena lists many more places of worship in the vicinity that are ‘worth a detour’. Also included are biographical notes of the principal architects and artists, and a glossary of architectural terms.
Elena’s selection includes:
In the foreword to Elena’s book, Sophie Andreae, Vice Chair of the Patrimony Committee of the Bishops’ Conference, reiterated the need for funding for church repairs.
“This Covid related injection of funding for repairs was literally a lifeline for those buildings supported but what is needed now is the reintroduction of a dedicated grants scheme for historic places of worship which targets repair.
“The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s current priority focus on engagement with people and provision of activities, rather than on funding repairs, makes it particularly challenging for Catholic churches to access Lottery funding because Catholic churches are sacred spaces, rather than all singing all dancing locations for secular uses with their central purpose as a places of prayer airbrushed out.
“As Elena Curti’s lively and informative text makes clear, all the churches included in this new volume espouse a sense of the numinous along with their history and architecture and it is this that makes them special and so well worth visiting.”
If you’d like to purchase a copy of Elena Curti’s ‘Fifty Catholic Churches to See Before You Die’, the book is published by Gracewing and retails at £14.99.
320 full colour pages
978 0 85244 999 8