If you want some good old-fashioned 'Eye Candy' this is the book for you. Beginning with a happy photograph of Benedict XVI, in whose honour the work is published, A history of St Agatha's Church Portsmouth gives you page after sumptuous page of pictures.
S Agatha's was one of the great late Victorian Anglo-Catholic churches, marking the begining of the era when Anglo-Catholics stopped saying "We are the heirs of 1548" and began to see themselves as Mediterranean Catholics who ought to be in communion with the Holy See. So Romanesque S Agatha's is the grand San Marco of Portsmouth! Fr Dolling at first thought of building a simple church; but then he realised that a dirty slum was the ideal place to build something spectacular. Therein lies the genius of the Anglo-Catholic Mission to the Periphery, the English urban slums. Bergoglioids, take note!
Hitler destroyed the parish; the Church was nearly destroyed by the town council soon after. As 'Bauhaus' Pevsner explained, it wasn't either old enough, or new enough, to merit preservation. As one councillor observed, it represented the Portsmouth of the Past, whereas the commercial development which was designed to swallow up its site represented the Portsmouth of the Future (that development has now of course been itself demolished ... you knew I was going to say that, didn't you?).
This book takes you through the building and decoration in the 1890s; the years of the Blitz; the restoration of the church under Fr Maunder; and today's Ordinariate High Mass therein.
You see, the congregation was able to bring its Church into the Ordinariate! So it now represents the optimistic Spirit of late Victorian Anglo-Catholicism and the triumphalist Anglo-Catholicism of the 1930s together with the exuberant Traditionalist Catholicism of today's Ordinariates!
This last is exemplified in the new painting over the Altar of the Shrine of S Agatha: S Agatha securing the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus from our Lady to give it to Pope Benedict, with the former Anglican incumbents in the foot of the picture, rejoicing in this the final fulfilment and justification of their heroic work and ministry.
So much prayer; so much beauty!
And for so little money!! £4+£2 for package and posting = £6 in all, from
Father John Maunder
9 East Street