Private Eye used to refer to the newsreader Anna Ford as Small But Perfectly Formed. The same is true of a new exhibition at Westminster Cathedral, commemorating the centenary of the consecration of that church.
What strikes you as you enter is a massive and gorgeous monstrance by Omar Ramsden, a characteristic product in Art Nouveau/Arts and Crafts. Go and wonder at it. It encapsulates the entire tragedy of Westminster Cathedral. When the cathedral was planned, there was not enough money to do what many desired: to make it the last great English Gothic cathedral; nor, indeed, to go for the Baroque (although they managed it beautifully down at Brompton). So, instead, a curiously spurious red-brick Byzantinism was aimed at, enabling much of the decoration to be added by future generations. But the church could have been designed wholeheartedly in the style of that wonderful period 1880-1910. It was possible to do such a thing; we of the Patrimony did it down by the sea, in S Bartholomew's, Brighton. Ramsden's monstrance would have fitted perfectly into such a church.
The next thing to catch my eye was a superb Spanish sixteenth century cross, 'Toledo', designed to do duty both as a processional cross or as an altar cross. Late medieval in feel with dashes of the Renaissance and of the Moorish. I last saw it, so to speak, at Lancing, where we had an even better example ex dono Henry Martin Gibbs, with the Assumption on the back; it is still used there on the High Altar of the Assumption.
Presiding over the whole is a terracotta bust of Mr Archdeacon Manning, dressed for all the world as if he were a Romeish cardinal. A shame there is no matching bust of the late Mrs Manning. The exhibition also has a cope of his, allegedly worn at Vatican I, with the motto Malo mori quam foedari. The caption, showing a rare flash of humour, translates this as "I prefer to die rather than compromise"!