Are Divided On Merits Of
Statues In New Chapel Extension
By a Staff Reporter Mgr. Valentine Elwes—Royal Navy (retd.) and exNaval Chaplain in the late war—saw the first fruits of his 18 months' work as University Chaplain when the extension to the Chaplaincy was solemnly opened by Mgr. Masterson, Archbishop of Birmingham, on Sunday last.
An imposing ceremony in a somewhat unique setting. Exter
nally a huge Nissen-type but ; internally modern Baroque. The
High Altar flanked by large columns supporting crimson draperies carried out over the sanctuary by a gilded and haloed dove. (Who can blame these ex-Service tinder graduates for speaking of a divei bomber with its vapour trails 7) For fifty years the Old Palace of Bishop King in St. Aldate's has served the University of Oxford as a chapel, it clubroom, and a chaplain's residence, but the increase of Catholic undergraduates at the University has made an extension to the chapel necessary for some considerable time.
The original chapel seated no more than 150 and the unprecedented rise in the number of Catholic undergraduates,. from well below 200 before the war to not far short of 500, has necessitated a simultaneous Mass in two rooms as well as the chapel, and the relay of the conferences by loudspeaker.
The new extension, westwards into the garden, of the present Newman Room, now provides accom
modation for at least 400. The project has cost £5,000 of which £3,000 has still to be found.
All Catholic Oxford was represented at the opening. The celebrant at High Mass was the present chaplain, Mgr. Valentine Elwes, and two former chaplains, Fr. A. de Zulueta and Fr. Vernon Johnson, were deacon and sub-deacon. Another former chaplain, Mgr. Ronald Knox. preached and traced the history and growth of University Catholicity in Oxford. In attendance at the Archbishop's throne were the Prior of Blackfriars, the Master of Campion Hall and the Master of St. Benet's
MUCH DISCUSSED STATUES
The interior of the new building is strikingly decorated by Mr. Guy Elwes, architect brother of the present chaplain. and contains two much discussed statues of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady. in Caen stone, by Fr. Frank O'Malley, the Rosminian, a close friend of Eric Gill. sonic of whose work may be seen also at Mt. St. Bernard's Abbey at Coalville.
John Rothenstein, Mgr. Elwes told me, himself came to look at them, and commented favourably in public. But the 450 University students coming to Mass there are bitterly divided in their opinion, and the two 3-feet stone images have been the subject of speculation since their installation four weeks ago.
The Sacred Heart statue, bearing a crown of thorns (as described in Teresa Neumann's visions—a cap covering the whole head). has a spear standing upright against Our l.ord's side, Who points a finger at the wound. There is nothing else, but the wound was once painted vivid red against the contrasting white of the stone: the paint has now been removed.
Our Lady's statue, thinly robed in its upper part, has a finger held up in apparent admonition and, says Mgr. Elwes, is based on an ancient window in Oxford Christ Church.
Sympathisers with the work in Oxford tell me the statues are a reminder that similar outcry was heard when Eric Gill first set up his Stations of the Cross in Westminster Cathedral.
" But people get used to these things after a while; they grow on one, and the artist's meaning gradually evolves." 1 was told.