The church our school is affiliated to was built between 1880 and 1884. It is the church of the Congregation of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri. Popularly known as “Brompton Oratory” it is the second-largest Catholic church in London, with a nave exceeding in width even that of St Paul’s Cathedral (Anglican).
St. Philip Neri (1515-1595) founded the Congregation of the Oratory in Rome and it has spread throughout the world, now numbering some seventy houses, and some five hundred priests.
Soon after converting to Catholicism in 1845, St John Henry Newman became an Oratorian and brought St. Philip’s Oratory from Rome to England. The first English foundation was in Birmingham, then a further group of Fathers founded the London Oratory. They began in converted in King William Street, just off the Strand. After three years a property was found in Brompton on what was then the outskirts of London. At that time, it was a district of fields and lanes, on which house was built first, with a temporary church on the present site. To mark the silver jubilee of the founding of the Congregation an appeal was launched in 1874 to raise funds to build the present church. The foundation stone was laid in June 1880 and the present neo-baroque building was consecrated on the 16th April 1884.
An Oratory is first and foremost a place of prayer. St. Philip attached great importance to the beauty of divine worship and the power of sacred music to raise our hearts to God, and the Fathers of the London Oratory try to maintain this tradition.
St. Philip was particularly devoted to Our Lady. He used to say “My sons, be devoted to the Madonna.” This is why the founding Fathers of the London Oratory wanted their new church to be dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.