The Twentieth Century Society

100 Buildings 100 Years

1953: English Martyrs, Wallasey

Type: Place of worship
Architect: F X Velarde
Location: St George's Road, Wallasey, Merseyside

Francois Xavier Velarde (1897-1960) was largely an ecclesiastical architect who designed predominantly Roman Catholic churches. English Martyrs demonstrates his learned response to the requirements of both the Liturgical Movement and finding an architectural idiom that moved beyond the clash of styles that had marked church design over the previous century. The interiors of his churches express both a sense of transcendence and of ‘active participation’ in the celebration of the Liturgy. The single unitary internal space, with walls of bare brick, is crossed with a series of thresholds between narthex and nave, and between nave and sanctuary, the latter nearly always expressed with low level wrought iron railings that draw the participant forward rather than form the barrier of popular post Second Vatican Council (1962-65) clerical misconception. The use of plain brick, stone sculpture set in brickwork and elemental historic forms were legacies from his days at Liverpool School of Architecture under Charles Reilly, the use of strong colours from his Catholic piety and art school training. The architectural relationship between transcendence and participation in the liturgical worship makes Velarde’s churches exemplars of what contemporary church design should aspire to.

by Father Peter Newby

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