Leigh Hatts  

Covent Garden’s Corpus Christi

Newly refurbished Corpus Christi in Maiden Lane

Cardinal Vincent Nichols has declared Corpus Christi Church in Covent Garden to be the Westminster Diocesan Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament.

When the delightful little Corpus Christi church in Maiden Lane was opened in 1874 it was only the second church in England to have the dedication.

St Juliana of Liege, who in the 13th century relayed God’s desire for the feast to a sceptical hierarchy, is depicted in a window.

The grotto-like building, a hidden gem, has ben beautifully restored.

The church features in Graham Greene’s End of the Affair.

Past worshippers include poet Francis Thompson and Radclyffe Hall whose novel The Well of Loneliness was the first to have a lesbian theme.

On Sunday the Mass of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi celebrated by the Cardinal included the hymn Sweet Sacrament divine written by former parish priest Francis Stanfield.

Those providing the music included two Royal Opera House singers.

The procession in Covent Garden

The Pontifical Mass was followed by a Corpus Christi procession round the market.

Going with Christ into the market place is  huge privilege and part of mission.

But it is fascinating to see how few recognise what is happening.

As the procession passed  under the wonderful high portal of St Paul’s Church there was an acrobatic entertainment continuing a few feet away. This was not bad manners. It was a lack of recognition and awareness.

The Maiden Lane church could make the procession an annual event and maybe follow the example of All Saints Margaret Street whose congregation gives out leaflets containing an explanation to puzzled onlookers as its procession passes along Oxford Street.

Procession passing between arcading as crowds shelter from sun
Entertainment continues as passing procession is ignored
The Blessed Sacrament in procession under St Paul’s Covent Garden grand porch
Corpus Christi service sheet

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