The Catholic Church of St Thomas of Canterbury in Fulham, which is Victorian architect A W N Pugin's only complete parish church in central London, re-opened this week following extensive restoration work. The church now benefits from new vivid interior decoration reflecting the architectural principles of the Gothic Revivalist architect. A new altar, modelled on the church's 19th century interior carvings has also been consecrated, replacing a plain stone altar dating from the 1960's. On Sunday, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor presided at a special Mass, attended by over 900 people, for the consecration of the new altar which marked the re-dedication of the church. In his homily, the Cardinal quoted the psalm response: 'How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord God of Hosts' and. reminded the congregation that "we are living stones building the Body of Christ". Parish Priest, Fr Norbert Fernandez said: "As we prepared to embark on the restoration I always remarked that the beautiful church would be a reflection of the people who hallow it, just as the people are blessed and inspired by the beauty of the church. St Thomas's, Fulham, has a great diversity of people, rich and poor, many nationalities, cultures, and languages and we are all delighted that our church has at last been restored to its original decorative glory." Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin was born in London, 1 March, 1812 . In 1834 he was received into the Catholic church . Pugin became an advocate of Gothic architecture which he believed to be the true Christian form of architecture and is today best remembered for his work on churches and on the Houses of Parliament The foundation stone of St Thomas was laid on 16 June 1847 and the church opened on 30 May 1848. At the time of the design and building of the Church, architect Augustus Welby Pugin was working on drawings for the interiors of the Houses of Parliament. From 1960 onwards, a series of campaigns of work sought to adapt the use of the building to a revived post-conciliar liturgy. The present work has to included adapting the use of the building to a revived post-conciliar liturgy. At the same time it has dealt with a number of practical issues including renewing decayed plaster; and providing new heating and electrical systems. Beyond these tasks, the parish has also sought to return to the vividness of Pugin interiors at their best. There is no evidence for Pugin's original decorative scheme for St Thomas: it is reported that "colouring" of the interior only began some years after his death. Accordingly, the present work uses motifs used by Pugin and his immediate followers in a new scheme which starts at its simplest furthest from the altar with painted bands and stencilled flowers outlining the reveals of arches and windows. Only towards the chancel, and in the immediate area of the tabernacle, does the decoration become more intense: diapered lozenges and fleur- de-lys, the marble and encaustic flooring and the painted star-bursts and monograms of the holy name in the ceiling "combine to form a splendid whole" (as Pugin wrote in his True Principles, 1841, p.58). The decorative scheme reflects the liturgical arrangements while, at the same time, bringing back into relief many of the qualities of Pugin's work that had become diluted over the years; not least, the fine stained glass is now framed in colour, allowing it to shine with a new vividness. Source: Archbishop's House
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