The Abbey Church is the most important building at Worth, both in terms of size and significance. The monks gather here six times a day to create a rhythm of prayer that is the foundation of the monastic life. This sanctuary acts as a magnet for individuals who wish to pray alone, as well as for special services and meetings for Christians of different denominations.
The Abbey Church can seat up to 900 people, the largest capacity of any church in Sussex. The foundation stone was laid in 1964, the Church was consecrated in 1974 and the exterior structure completed in 2001. To achieve an open space on such a scale, the architect employed a bridge building technique never before used in a church. This modernist design by Francis Pollen is considered by many to be the finest example of 1960’s church architecture in Britain and is listed grade 2*.
Worth Abbey Church, designed by Catholic architect Frances Pollen (1926-1987) and considered one of the finest examples of 1960s church architecture, was re-opened for worship in a service on Pentecost Sunday, 12 June 2011 after a year-long re-furbishment project.
Noted for its striking circular design, the Abbey Church of Our Lady, Help of Christians is one of the largest Roman Catholic churches in southern England. It had been in daily use by the Benedictine monks of Worth Abbey, the pupils and staff of the 550-strong Worth School on the site and a sizeable local Catholic parish since it opened in 1974. The iconic building which was made familiar to many through the BBC television documentary ‘The Monastery’ in 2005. But it did not have permanent seating or fixed water stoups, which were integral to Frances Pollen’s design.
“Lack of funds prevented us from adequately furnishing the church and completing the interior until now,” said Abbot Kevin Taggart.
Generous support from the Abbey’s benefactors enabled the monks to engage the internationally-acclaimed designer Thomas Heatherwick, currently noted for his re-design of the London Routemaster bus, to re-create the interior space of the church. This includes a unique set of monastic choir stalls built from American black walnut wood with matching congregational furniture capable of seating up to 676 worshippers. A Portland stone ambo now provides a powerful partner to the Church’s famous altar and baptismal font, completing the previously unfinished sanctuary space. While work was in progress regular events and daily worship, which includes monastic prayer sung in English six times a day, had to be moved to adjoining buildings.
“Worship of God is the central event in any monastery”, the Abbot said. “The renewed church building will help the monks of Worth lead many more people to God. By completing the Church we began building forty years ago, we are expressing our confidence in the contribution the monastery makes to the Sussex and Surrey area in strengthening spiritual lives. In these difficult times we need beauty to lift our hearts.”
Fr Christopher's homily is availble HERE.
About the refurbished church HERE.If you would like to find out the times of services, click here.
This is also the principal church of the Parish of Worth Abbey.
|The altar at night|
N.B. All images are Copyright © 2011 of Worth Abbey and may not be reproduced without permission. Contact: Fr Patrick Fludder. All rights reserved.