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Brentwood Cathedral An introduction by the Rt. Revd. Thomas McMahon, Bishop Emeritus of Brentwood Photo: Cathedral Main Entrance

Welcome to Brentwood Cathedral. A Cathedral takes its name from the Greek word for chair, Cathedra, from which the Bishop presides as shepherd of the diocese. The Cathedral is therefore the centre and mother church of the diocese. Brentwood Cathedral is also, in a very special way, the parish church of those who live nearby and who worship here each Sunday.

Cathedrals were built to proclaim and celebrate the Christian mysteries in an environment of excellence and beauty, and so lift up the spirit. When we wish to express our experience of the sublimity of God, the most eloquent way is often in stone, music, colour, art, vestments - all enhancing worship and so combining to raise the heart and mind to God. In some way they supply a language to express what lies beyond words. A cathedral should try to offer the very best in these things for it is through beauty that we catch a glimpse of eternity.

Photo: The Cathedral interior looking towards the south aisle, showing the linear conjunction of the ambo, the altar and the Bishop's chair.

The new Brentwood Cathedral was dedicated by Cardinal Hume on May 31st 1991. The donors chose to remain anonymous and the money was given solely for this purpose. The architect Quinlan Terry was commissioned to build the new church in the Classical style.

Architecturally, he took his inspiration from the early Italian Renaissance crossed with the English baroque of Christopher Wren. This, it was felt, would be appropriate for the town and its conservation area, but above all it would provide the right space and light for the liturgy to be celebrated.

Work began in 1989 and was completed two years later. The north elevation consists of nine bays each divided by Doric pilasters. This is broken by a huge half-circular portico, which was inspired by a similar one at St Paul's. If you stand just in front of it, you get some idea of its giant scale!

Photo: The Blessed Sacrament Chapel. The east window was part of the original church, given in memory of Fr Joseph de Silver Tarares, Parish Priest of Brentwood 1854 - 58.

The Kentish ragstone walls have a natural rustic look, which contrasts with the smooth Portland stone of the capitals and column bases. The handmade traditional Smeed Dean brick of the clerestory leads up to the octagonal lantern, or cupola, the high point both of the outside and inside. It would be rare to find an ancient house, parish church, let alone a cathedral, that doesn't have a blend of styles.

A conscious decision was taken to retain part of the Gothic revival church of 1861 alongside the new classical cathedral. The east elevation juxtaposes the old and the new, linking them through the scale of the 1991 building and the sympathetic use of ragstone and Welsh slate roof tiles.

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