Is this a joke?

I am having a hard time believing that this is true.

Please.. someone write to me to tell me this is NOT TRUE.

From Damian Thompson:

This cross between a public lavatory and a Christian Science Reading Room used to be a Catholic Church: St Anne’s, Laxton Street, near King’s Cross. Although it has been put out of its misery, it’s still listed in an “Ugly Churches” Flickr group. Now we hear from the Bishops’ Conference that it’s being considered as the central London base for the Ordinariate. Someone nip this plan in the bud….

Again… it is hard to believe that such a thing could even be suggested, much less given consideration.

I hope that this is simply Damian getting it wrong… picking up a bad joke, perhaps.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Rob Cartusciello says:

    Dominus Flevit.

  2. dominic says:

    The original source for this report appears to be the Tablet

    I am aware of two “underused” Catholic churches in Central London (both of them chapels of ease, one hosting one mass on Sundays, and the other, I think, two: neither of them great works of architecture, but still….better than that) that might be more suitable (St Josephs, Bunhill Row, and Sacred Heart of Jesus, Horseferry Road), if they might found to be available for the use of the ordinariate.

    As to whether this is a joke, or rumour-mongering….I fear quite possibly not.
    But as to whether it will go ahead ….I also suspect not.

    But, please note carefully the wording in the original report – it refers to the church being used as a base NOT for the Ordinariate as such (or as it’s “principal church”/de facto cathedral – but only its local, central London group.

  3. anj says:

    Welcome home, separated brethren!

  4. Sixupman says:

    You should see the church, newly built shared with Methodists, Nelson & Colne, Salford Diocese< UK!

  5. asophist says:

    Why is so much of modern church architecture so ugly. Or, if not downright ugly, just odd, distracting, and uninspiring? In fact, I’m going to coin a word: disinpiring. That is, not only does it not inspire (as in “uninspiring”), but it actually prevents or destroys inspiration. I’ve seen too much modern church architecture for which “disinspiring” would be an appropriate adjective. It fits the Laxton Street horror depicted above.

  6. shane says:

    Yes, it is rather odd to put the ordinariate H/Q in a spaceship.

  7. MarkJ says:

    Meanwhile, beautiful Catholic churches are being closed around the world, some even turned into nightclubs…

  8. aladextra says:

    Let’s give them St. Ethelreda’s! We have to be nice to the new guy! Plus it used to be Anglican until pretty recently. It’d be appropriate.

  9. smcollinsus says:

    First of all, if there is anybody who can make such a simple place beautiful, it’s a group of Anglicans! Our AU parish used the office-front of a warehouse for over a year. It’s amazing what some traditional pews and decoration can do.

    Second, I’ve seen MUCH worse buildings! Compared to American skyscrapers made of smoked glass and Catholic churches that look more like a recycled Pizza Hut, this little building is a jewel!

    It’s all in perspective.

  10. Titus says:

    Yes, it is rather odd to put the ordinariate H/Q in a spaceship.

    It looks rather like a larger, fancier version of the Tartus. Would you like to join the Ordinariate, or just place a very big telephone call?

  11. pelerin says:

    I don’t think I have knowingly been past there and if I have then I would not have recognised it as a Catholic church. I agree with Brad about a plain Cross. Protestant churches have plain crosses – we have Crucifixes – except for churches such as the one illustrated.

    I had thought the era of when Catholic churches started to show a plain cross whether outside or inside was over. However earlier this year I visited a new church just consecrated and saw that outside there is just a plain cross in a rectangular recess and inside next to the ‘butcher’s block’ altar was another plain cross with the cross-bar at an angle. Wandering around I found a small room off the main body of the church and there on the wall was a large magnificent Crucifix which I guess came from the old church this one replaced. What a pity it had not been placed in the main body of the church. And what a pity architects are still designing protestant style Catholic churches.

    dominic mentions that the London former church was being considered as a base for the ordinariate and not as their main church.

  12. Athelstan says:

    If I were a Magic Circle bishop hoping to do everything possible to make life on this side of the Tiber unpleasant for these new reactionary Ordinariate refugees (as they must see them) …well, this would seem to be a swell trick.

    On the other hand, we must bear in mind that the kind of clerics we are talking about here might actually think this building attractive – look at what else they’ve built over the last fifty years.

    Surely there must be an disused WW2 bunker or pillbox that could be had cheaply instead?

  13. Starkiller says:

    Hmmm. Not a jewel of architectual splendor, no, but not a bad looking little church.
    To me, bad is Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. It’s so awful that the Press call
    it the yellow armadillo. Now THAT is bad. I have to say that the only confirmation of
    the article I found, was the Tablet article mentioned above. Nothing on the Bishop
    Conference website.

  14. PS says:

    As a practical matter, this seems like a tiny building to house even the London wing…

  15. CharlesG says:

    I think the Ordinariate should take a long term view. Sure this is an ugly structure, but at least it gets the Ordinariate real estate in central London. Once the Ordinariate is more established, they could do some ameliorating renovations and perhaps, in the longer term, replace the building with a more worthy structure — I vote for Gothic myself.

  16. frjim4321 says:

    Wonder what it looks like on the inside. Wonder if the flat roof leaks.

    Some problems with modern architecture (Wright, Flieshmann, etc.) include horrible leaking problems. “Falling Water” is aptly names.

    Leak-free roofs are the greatest argument for trad architecture.

  17. frjim4321 says:

    names = named

  18. Childermass says:

    Hmm, well I can recall times in my life when I would have been happy to worship in a church that looked like that. Has anyone seen the Catholic churches in Florida lately? Yikes.

  19. I don’t understand. It looks perfectly acceptable for the Ordinariate. It’s not like the Ordinariate is liturgically traditional.

  20. William Tighe says:

    I lived about a mile from this church, in Mecklenburgh Square, from August 1979 to September 1981, and I may have been there 3 or 4 times, once for the reception of a fellow research student into the Catholic Church, and twice or thrice for Chaldean-Rite liturgies, and my recollection of the interior is of a vast barrenness unrelieved by anything that could be termed “art” or even “decoration.”

  21. Luvadoxi says:

    /Users/Donna/Pictures/iPhoto Library/Masters/2011/03/15/20110315-200202/20101028-23.jpg

    I don’t know how to upload pictures so I don’t know if this will work, but the above is a picture of the Catholic Center at the University of Georgia. It’s been called, informally, “The Witch’s Hat on Lumpkin (Street).” Actually, inside it’s quite lovely and peaceful with Franciscan simplicity and stained glass–I like it, although it is a 60’s in-the-round church. But the outside–ugh!

  22. Tom Smith says:

    How about giving them the beautiful St Augustine’s Abbey in Ramsgate and the attached Pugin Church? It is now being vacated by the Benedictines due to decreasing vocations..and think of the symbolism! just where Saint Augustine brought Christianity to England, and down the road from Canterbury !

  23. Gail F says:

    I think it’s kind of cute. Certainly recognizable… Seems to me it could be a LOT worse.

  24. Emilio III says:

    Luvadoxi, that looks like a local path. There’s no server name prefixing it, so cannot be reached from the Internet.

  25. Ezra says:

    I don’t know if it’s the same picture that Luvadoxi was trying to post, but this is the Catholic Center at the University of Georgia.

  26. Fr. Basil says:

    The exterior doesn’t impress me, but we should not judge a book by looking at its cover.

    What is it like–or what can it become–on the INSIDE?

    And the Greek-Catholic church in Prague built at the time of the Emperor Joseph was NOT allowed to look as beautiful on the exterior as a Latin church.

  27. RichardT says:

    Although it currently looks ghastly, the basic structure has interesting possibilities and it looks like it could be turned into something rather good.

    You’ve got lots of tall windows going all the way up to the top of the building, with pillars in between – that’s a basic gothic structure. Think of the lady chapels on gothic cathedrals; weren’t some of them curved in the way this is? So replace those municipal window frames with something better, making the tops of the windows pointed rather than flat (covering up that concrete at the same time), put in some stained glass, a new door, and a few other tweaks, and it would look much better.

    Ideally then put a proper roof on it, although that costs money.

    I’m sure there are otherways that it could be made to look stunning by a good Catholic architect. For example I would like to see what Matthew Alderman ( could do with it.

  28. AnAmericanMother says:

    It looks sort of like a capsized tank with the treads waving in the air.
    But I agree with RichardT that it’s not unsalvageable. At least it has windows.
    A decent roof would help a lot (and avoid the flat roof problem). I used to represent architects and general contractors, and I can tell you that a flat roof no matter how carefully constructed ALWAYS leaks – eventually. Water will continually work to create a shorter path to the ground.
    And luvadoxi – amen and hallelujah on the Witch’s Hat, although it always reminded me of a hamburger joint, like the Brown Derby. It’s soooooo Sixties.

  29. Dave N. says:

    Hmmm…Perhaps we have finally located the inspiration behind this:

  30. Luvadoxi says:

    Thanks Ezra–that’s the same picture I had. And Father Basil, you’re so right. There’s a Byzantine Catholic Church in Conyers, Mother of God, which from the outside looks like a suburban ranch house. But inside, it’s covered with the most beautiful icons–walls and ceilings.

  31. RichardT says:

    Luvadoxi, there’s a fine tradition in England of churches that are beautifully decorated on the inside but look like nothing much on the outside. A relic of penal times, usually erected when Catholicism was legal but not really tolerated.

    However I don’t think that was the excuse for this one.

  32. AnAmericanMother says:

    I was thinking that something could be done with this building along these lines:

    The Temple Church

    Move the door, add a parapet and spire (with a proper roof in both cases), alter the window openings and put in decent glass, just a suggestion of buttresses and a narthex instead of a nave . . . and you have it.

  33. AnAmericanMother says:


    Point taken, but during penal times the object was NOT to call attention to the building.

    This building calls attention to itself . . . for all the wrong reasons.

Comments are closed.