This page is dedicated to the Cathedral Church of St John the Evangelist, Chapel Street, Salford. I was given permission to publish this by Fr. Brendan Curley, Administrator of the Cathedral so I hope this meets with his approval.
In June 1890, St John's Cathedral (picture) , the Mother Church of the Salford Diocese, was solemnly consecrated by the second Bishop of Salford, Herbert Vaughan. Forty-six years earlier in 1844, the foundation stone had been laid by Dr. James Sharples, Co-adjutor Bishop to George Brown of the Lancaster Vicariate. The church was blessed and opened for divine worship by Bishop Nicholas Wiseman of London, but the most solemn liturgical rite of consecration had to be deferred for 42 years until the immense capital debt had been paid.
The church is a remarkable tribute to the vision and faith of the founding fathers who planned and commissioned this great edifice more than one hundred and fifty years ago.
Designed to take its place among the great cathedrals of our day, St John's is remarkably faithful to pre-reformation traditions. Mr. Matthew Hadfield, the architect, drew inspiration from some of the great churches built in the ages of faith. The West Door is a copy of the West Front of Howden Church in Yorkshire; The Choir (picture) and Sanctuary(picture) are a replica of the handsome Abbey Church of Selby; the decorations of the groined roof are copied from the church of St Jacques at Liege; the delicate steeple, the tallest spire in Lancashire, is reminiscent of the ancient church at Newark in Nottinghamshire.
All in all, it is a symphony of line and colour, of aesthetic inspiration and of functional effectiveness harmoniously blended. Small wonder that it commands the admiration of the citizens of Salford for its stirring beauty and bold designs.
Cathedrals are built to declare before men the mighty things of God. If a day should dawn when we cease to create these monuments of faith, the Faith itself will be in jeopardy. As long as the urge to build cathedrals remains as strong and stronger than the desire to build Towers of Babel or munition factories then we can be assured oof the enduring vigour of the spirit of man.
Cathedrals are built not only of steel and stone. They rise out of the sacrifices and endeavours of many generations.
The first Catholic Church in this area was established in the year 667 about quarter of a mile away down Chapel Street where Trinity Chuch now stands. It lasted for nearly four hubdred years. In 1053 it was replaced by a second church which lasted until 1384. What exactly happened to the second church is not known. Possibly it fell into a state of disrepair and became unsafe to use. Whatever the reason, this particular site ceased to be a place of worship for nearly one hundred and sixty years. A tiny chapel was built near the present site of the Cathedral between 1382 and 1425, partly on what is now Ford Street and possibly on what is now the site of Done Turf Accountants, just opposite what is now the Church Inn! On the site where the present baptismal font now stands, a second chapel was built which was used between 1424 and 1535. This was also very small, the building being less than ten yards square.
The present day Trinity Church, originally Catholic, was completed in 1535. In 1568 it became Church of England and has remained so to the present day.
The Present and Future
The importance of the Cathedral as a parish church has declined over the years as the demolition of many homes in the area has had its effect. A second phase of these changes is now working through as 50's and 60's built high rise flats are also demolished. With some rebuilding and adaptation, the congregation has started to rise again but it will never have anything approaching the numbers it once had.
However, as the Cathedral has declined as a parish church, so it has grown as the Mother Church of the Diocese. It is fitting that the Catholics of the whole Diocese should feel a growing awareness and attachment to this Cathedral as, in a real sense, their own church.
The Cathedral has always been used for ceremonies and functions which overlap parochial and deanery boundaries. Diocesan associations of different kinds have been drawn to the Cathedral for their important gatherings. Such bodies as the Union of Catholic Mothers, the Society of St Vincent de Paul, the Catholic Stage Guild, the Rescue Society are familiar names. Recent years have seen the spiritual life of the Diocese becoming more and more the life of the Cathedral itself. The emphasis for this comes from the deeper involvement of the laity, under the inspiration of the Bishop, in the varied levels of Catholic life and activity.
Reflecting this are the gatherings at the Cathedral of those active at a liturgical level, especially Eucharistic Ministers and Readers. From a broader pastoral level come such diocesan groups as Justice and Peace and Marriage Encounter.
Our Catholic schools have always played a vital role in the maintaining and developing of the Faith in the Diocese of Salford. The Cathedral offers itself to both sides of the educational programme. For those on the receiving end as students, there is the liturgical service each year for the Diocesan Youth, as well as the special Diocesan School Leaver's Day. At the other end of the education spectrum is the development of sessions for the Catholic Teachers of the Diocese. An opportunity is now offered for Foundation Governors of all Catholic Schools to attend a celebration arranged to assist them in the increasing responsibilities they have to face.
Ecumenism has become a feature of Catholic life as a whole. This too finds a response in this Cathedral. For those who are already proposing to come into full communion with the Church there is their first welcoming to what will be their Mother Church in the future. This is the service which marks an important stage in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. It is a point at which the Bishop in the company of their parish priest accepts them to complete the course of preparation.
On a more regular basis are the formal ecumenical encounters and the Church Unity Services. An outstanding feature is the popular Taize hour (on the First Friday of each month at 7.30pm). This started back in about 1983 when Father Philip Nathaniel, (then our assistant priest at St Vincent's, Norden and later Bishop Kelly's Secretary and now in Peru) got together with Fr Brendan Curley of the Cathedral and Father Terry Drainey (later serving in Africa and now returned to England), to start these wonderful services. (You may not I have a particular affinity with them. This is what makes these pages semi-official since I can put my own bits in too.) The Cathedral also plays host more and more to Sacred Concerts which draw audiences of mixed faiths.
The Cathedral Choir consists of around eighteen men and women singers, who sing each Sunday at the 11 o'clock Mass and on other special occasions. They have a few places available for able and experienced singers, so if you're interested, do please get in touch with Martin Barry, the choirmaster. His home page is here.
The Cathedral runs a choral scholarship scheme and more details of this can be found here.
Erected September 29
Apostolic of the Lancashire District
Sponsor of the Catenian Association
Born in Morecambe, Lancashire November 23 1938, ordained priest February 18th 1962, ordained Bishop April 3rd 1984, Now Archbishop of Liverpool
Born in Coventry 1938,
Trained for the priesthood at Oscott
College, Sutton Coldfield. Ordained
priest at St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham
in 1964. He was closely involved in
education and prison chaplaincy work. In
1995 he chaired a working party for the
Bishop's Conference on child abuse which
lead to the pastoral document Healing
1967-1999 (3rd Oct)
Rev John Dale,
St John's Cathedral,
250 Chapel Street
Telephone 0161 834 0333