Sunday, 14 February 2016

A Treasure Hiding in Plain Sight

by Lucy Smith

In the car park by the Cascades shopping centre lies a treasure hiding in plain sight. Just away from the roar of the A3 you will find the church of St Agatha's, Landport- a unique basilica in the Northern Italianate style. The church was conceived by Victorian social reformer and Anglo-Catholic Priest Fr. Dolling, who made great improvements to the Landport slum, and wanted to give something back spiritually to the city of Portsmouth. Whilst the church has faced uncertain times over the years- an explosion in 1940, use as a naval store, the destruction of the Lady Chapel, and threats from the council to flatten it for a nine lane highway- this Grade 2 listed building has undergone significant restoration by Fr. Maunder and St Agatha's Trust, and enjoys life under the Anglican Ordinariate. Year 13 visited the church on a PRS trip earlier this academic year, and spent an afternoon hearing about the history of this amazing building, with its breathtaking interior.

As I have done in recent years, I attended Procession and High Mass at St Agatha's on Saturday in celebration of the feast day of the church's patron, St Agatha of Sicily. If you have never been to a Mass of this nature before, I urge you to go: Fr. Maunder opened proceedings by inviting us to enjoy "our simple display of Anglican Patrimony", before a dramatic ritual that could only be described as anything but. Plenty of incense, fresh flowers, bells, hymns, and Mozart's Little Credo Mass played by a chamber group accompanied the Mass, as well as a homily by Theologian Fr. Lucie-Smith. Fr. Lucie-Smith spoke about St Agatha and her life: an early Christian martyr during the time of Roman persecution, St Agatha had refused a Roman governor marriage, remaining steadfast in her commitment to Christ. She was imprisoned, tortured by having her breasts removed by shears, and, ultimately, died aged only 20. Fr. Lucie-Smith remarked on her status as a lowly young girl, persecuted by those stronger than her, but, despite her apparent weaknesses, it is her name that is now remembered, whereas her torturers have all been forgotten.

All in all, it was a lovely way to spend a Saturday, and, as my companion Dr Richmond commented, it "felt like we were in Heaven." 

"If you are interested in finding out more about the history of St Agatha's, and present-day worship, please visit:

If you would like to find out more about the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, please see: 

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