A brief history of the Cathedral

There was Christian worship in Northampton from mid-Saxon times. ln the Middle Ages it contained churches, abbeys and friaries for all the Franciscan orders. Blessed Duns Scotus worked there. After the reformation Northampton became a Puritan centre.

lt was not until 1825 that a Roman Catholic building was re-opened in the town when Father William Foley built a presbytery/school and small chapel dedicated to Saint Andrew [the present day Sacristy] amidst the nursery gardens of Semilong using stone he found in his garden part of the former Saint Andrews Priory.

ln 1844, shortly before the restoration of the Hierarchy , Bishop Wareing joined the Church to the Presbytery by a private Chapel, whilst A.W.Pugin built a church to the right of St Andrews, dedicated to St Felix.

After the establishment of the Diocese of Northampton in 1850, its second Bishop, F.K. Amherst requested Pugins’ son to extend the Pro-Cathedral building the present Nave, placing the altar at the West end and installing Hardman stained glass windows, The Bishop is buried in the Nave. This ungainly building composed of different parts served as the Northampton Cathedral until some of the foundations began to collapse in 1950.

Bishop Leo Parker enlarged the Cathedral, which was then consecrated, between 1950 and 1960.

The first Pugin church was demolished, replaced by new windows, transepts, a central chancel and tower and gallery linked to the Nave. The High Altar was returned to the Eastern wall. The Blessed Sacrament Altar was repositioned before which the Bishop was buried.

ln 1998, Bishop Leo McCartie added a new Window and a Triptych in front of the High Altar.

The Triptych

At the east end of the cathedral is an imposing icon of the Holy Spirit. It was carved by Stephen Foster and dedicated by the papal nuncio as part of the cathedral’s millennium celebrations in 1998. The central subject is the dove of the Holy Spirit superimposed upon a huge cross and hovering above the twelve apostles. Above it you can see buildings representing the temple, God’s dwelling place on earth. The blue beneath represents the waters of grace gushing forth from the temple and cross, bringing life wherever they flow. As in all the best icons we are invited to see ourselves involved in it, as those overshadowed by the Holy Spirit like the apostles and as those whose lives are made fruitful by the grace which overtakes us this holy place.*

As the word ‘triptych’ (which means threefold) suggests there are two other major scenes depicted. In the panel to the left Christ is shown holding an open book and teaching those who have come to listen to him. This represents the Word of God which is proclaimed within these walls and how for those who enter this sacred space this is a privileged place to hear God speak. The right hand panel depicts Christ giving the Eucharist to those who are gathered round him. This represents the sacraments that are celebrated here and by which we believe Christ continues to communicate himself to us. In this way the artist has chosen to show the cathedral as that interface between heaven and earth where the influence and inspiration of the Holy Spirit is experienced by all who come to worship here through Word and Sacrament.