Featured on 27th November 2020
In 1903, The Fathers of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart, originally based near Lourdes, moved across Europe after being expelled from France. Father Joseph Dospital, was appointed to a mission at Droitwich and in 1909, the first Mass was said for the Sacred Heart Congregation. Shortly after a little church was built.
It had long been the desire of Mr Walter Loveridge Hodgkinson, who lived in Droitwich, to build a church as a thanksgiving offering to Almighty God. In fulfilment of this desire he donated the present church, building it in front of that original little church. The foundation stone was laid on 25 November 1919 and the church was dedicated to the Sacred Heart and to St. Catherine of Alexandria, as a memorial to Catherine, the late wife of Mr Hodgkinson.
The first Mass was celebrated on 24 November 1921, the anniversary of the death of Catherine Hodgkinson who died on 24 November 1906.
The mosaics, designed by Gabriel Pippet, are considered amongst the finest in England. He had spent time in Ravenna and Rome where he was most impressed by the mosaic decoration, and this influence is clearly apparent. The mosaicist, Maurice Josey, had been employed on the mosaics in Westminster Cathedral before coming to Droitwich.
The designs were carried out by Gabriel in full size cartoon form, with the outlines being transferred onto the walls and then each individual piece of mosaic fixed in place onto the plain white plaster walls, transforming the church into the fully decorated splendour seen today. He lovingly portrayed plants and animals and had an eye for quirky detail, puns and jokes. Hearts and Catherine wheels abound, an allusion to the church’s joint dedication. And his visual signature appears on the tympanum above a door on the west front: the Angel Gabriel and a tiny pipit bird.
Gabriel also designed all the stone sculpture outside and inside the church, the statue of Our Lady with the baby Jesus is just one of many statues and relief carvings in stone around the church.
Main photo: Helen@Littlethorpe(CC-BY-SA2.0)Learn more about Sacred Heart & St Catherine of Alexandria