St Mary's Church on Mulberry Street is a true hidden gem. You need to head down Brazenose Street and then turn right after the first section of buildings.
Built in 1792, St Mary's is the Catholic mother-church of the whole of Greater Manchester. Dedicated in 1794 it served, what was, the poorest quarter of Manchester.
It is easily missed due to its red brick design, easily mistaken for a factory or mission house, were it not for its ornate stone doorway depicting two angelic hosts.
Inside, to the right of the High Altar, you will find a shrine called Our Lady of Manchester.
See photo 3 for service times.
St Mary's (Hidden Gem) is a unique 19th Century church in the city centre with its exquisite interior architecture and colours attracting a number of visitors and worshippers.
The Catholic church is famously renowned for the Adams Station of the Cross treasure which is an attraction for the visitors and recognition from high profile organisations including top UK Universites' theology and arts departments, art galleries including London Royal Acadamy of Arts, the Royal family and politicians.
Unfortunately, taking of photos inside the church is not permitted and please see the website's photos.
Wandering down Brazennose Street, I spotted a sign post to 'The Hidden Gem' I'd walked past it, but retraced my steps, and was pleased that I had.
St Marys Roman Catholic church is known as 'The Hidden gem' and the Catholic Mother Church of Greater Manchester, and is considered to be the oldest Post-Reformist Catholic church in Greater Manchester. The Relief Act was passed in 1791, construction of this church began in 1792. The church was opened on November 30th 1794. The adjacent presbytery has remained occupied since 1794
The site of the church was chosen, to serve the residents of one of the poorest quarters of Manchester. It was also an area of much trouble. An area of open meadowland, poor quality housing had been hastily constructed to house the rapidly increasing population.
In 1883, Father Henry Gillow, decided that the church needed a make-over. A new roof and programme of re-decoration went ahead-whether to save money, or 'Trusting in the Lord' Gillow opted for this project work without a Master builder to oversee the work. It wasn't long (2 years) before the roof fell in in a spectacular fashion, damaging most of the walls. The church was locked, and an alternative site was looked for. However, The Manchester Plague and Father Gillow dying of Typhus in 1837, led to the decision to re-build on this site. The architect, Matthew Ellison Hadfield completed the construction.
Father John Newton was appointed as the priest of the new church in 1869.
He employed a Preston sculptor, Mr Lane, to carve the intricately decorated high altar, side altar and shrine to Our Lady, which are seen today.
In 1872, Herbert Vaughan became the second Catholic Bishop of Salford. He also was recognised as being the originator of St Marys nick name of the "Hidden Gem"
"No matter on what side of the church you look,
you behold a hidden gem"
Well, starting at the entrance is one of its gems;
The red brick exterior forms a contrast to the attractive stone entrance way, with its columns and ornate archway with its carvings and a stone bas relief (pics 4 and 5) which shows 2 angels holding a medallion of Agnes Dei. Below this, is the inscription
"Ascendamus in momtem Domini. Et adoremus in loco Sancto eius"
Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord (Isaiah 2:3).
(And) Praise Him in His Holy places (Psalm 150:1).
The entrance porch has a mosaic floor, with 'Ave Maria' depicted in blue tiles.(pic 2)
Inside, there are more Victorian sculptures and carvings
Lanes marble High altar is "surmounted by a reredos of Caen stone, on top of which are the figures of Angels.
The life size figures of the reredos are (from left to right): Our Lady, St. Stephen, St. Patrick, St. Peter, above the tabernacle Our Lord, with his sacred heart, St John the apostle, St. Hilda of Whitby, St. Augustine of Canterbury and St. Joseph".
To the left of the high altar, is a side altar of marble and Caen stone , with a life-size Pieta. Around the top are the figures of angels.
The shrine of 'Our Lady of Manchester' is to the right of the high altar.
This shows scenes of the Nativity and The Presentation at The Temple
To the right, is a stained glass window representing Our Lady and her prayer, the Magnificat.
One of the main attractions of St Marys is its artwork of Professor Norman Adams of The Royal Academy - The Fourteen Stations of the Cross, which were painted in 1994, and presented to St Marys in 1995. Apparently he considers these to be his Greatest work.
Two books sold at the church - St Mary's Adams station of the Crosses and The History of Manchesters Hidden Gem offer more information about this popular church.
Apparently, in these times of fewer church goers, St Marys attracts a large congregation, with a diversity of worshippers. The church is open 7 days a week for services and confession etc.
I enjoyed looking around this church, and its atmosphere, so much, that I headed here again on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately it was closed-a notice outside stated that - This Church is closed Sunday afternoons - as the street is so lonely with all the surrounding offices being closed.
Open Mon-Saturday 10.00 -16.00
No photography or videoing inside (but I'm afraid I Couldn't resist one quick shot-pic 3)! I did leave a small donation....
A large sign standing outside the church is a reminder of 'A sign of the times'
" KEEP ST MARY'S SAFE
ALL DAY - ESPECIALLY FOR THE ELDERLY and CHILDREN
ONLY GIVE MONEYTO THE OFFICIAL CHURCH COLLECTIONS
OTHERWISE IN CHURCH OR AROUND CHURCH DOOR
YOU ENCOURAGE THOSE WHO CAN BE A
REAL DANGER TO OTHERS!"
Another sign requests " Please DO NOT bring bicycles into the church" (along with no photography/videoing in the church)
The Hidden Gem is Mary’s Roman Catholic Church built in 1794 and restored in 1993 to 1994 at a cost of £750,000. It is administered by the diocese of Salford and is located in a street, surrounded by modern buildings, at the back of John Dalton Street.
The name ‘hidden gem’ came from a description by a visiting Bishop. The interior has some interesting paintings and some beautiful stained glass windows.
Inside there is a selection of books and information cards for sale.
See picture 2 for Mass and other service times.