Discovering St John’s
Please explore the may different areas of our beautiful Church using the key on the left hand side. If you can come and visit us, you’re most welcome!
The High Altar is of white marble on coloured marble columns and contains the Holy Relics of St Justina of Padua. The four panels of the reredos illustrate scenes from the life of St John the Evangelist
(1) His giving Communion to the Virgin Mary upon her death(2) His Martyrdom
(3) His vision and writing of the Apocalypse
(4) His being carried to church by his disciples.
Three stone carvings beneath the altar slab represent the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Agony in the Garden and the transfiguration. Above the High Altar rise three stained glass windows of the apse, the centre one showing the Virgin Mary and St John on either side of the Crucifixion. The window to the left shows the Resurrection and that on the right the Ascension. The wrought iron screen at the front of the Sanctuary carries, under the rood, the emblem of Jesus Christ, a pelican feeding its young with its own blood.
The Lady Chapel
Since Christianity’s earliest days, churches have honoured Mary by setting aside a chapel dedicated to her, called the Lady Chapel. St John’s Lady Chapel is in the northeast of the church, left of the sanctuary or chancel. The Church has always encouraged us to pray to Mary, Our Blessed Lady, as she is the Mother of God, our spiritual mother and our main intercessor with God.
The statues on either side of the entrance arch represent St Joseph, Jesus’ earthly foster father, and Our Lady of Lourdes. Our Lady’s statue, which is made of plaster, replaced one that was destroyed when St John’s was damaged by bombing in the Second World War.
The elegant black and gilded wrought iron screen, with the frieze saying Ave Maria (Hail Mary), may well have been designed by Cuthbert Pugin. It would have complemented his work on the rood screen and it resembles his designs elsewhere. If Pugin did design it, it is likely to have been made by Hardman Powell & Co. Unfortunately, the church has no record of the designer or the maker.
A photograph in the church archives shows that this Lady Chapel altar stood in Bath’s Catholic church in Old Orchard Street, until St John’s was built. The top of the reredos – the stone screen behind the altar – was altered slightly to make it fit underneath St John’s east window. It might originally have been in the Catholic chapel in Corn Street, which was used from 1786 to 1809.
The reredos and the altar itself are richly decorated, but the sculptor is unknown. The carved panel on the altar front illustrates the Presentation of the Virgin Mary in the Temple.
It is said that St John Henry Newman celebrated Mass at this altar while visiting Bath.
The distinguished stained glass artist Patrick Feeny designed the windows; they were made by John Hardman’s Studios, of Birmingham. He said that his intention was to create a composite picture of the Nativity. The Holy Child is in the centre with Our Lady and St Joseph kneeling on either side. The stable and the chorus of angels are behind them; the star of Bethlehem is shown in the window’s apex. In the distance are the approaching shepherds; the magi are in the background. The windows were installed during the early 1950s to replace those destroyed in 1942 by bombing.
Looking toward the Sanctuary one sees the two rows of polished Devon Marble pillars separating the Nave from the two aisles. Ancaster stone capitals surmount the pillars with elaborate carvings of natural foliage including various flowers and fruits. In the spandrels between the arches are circular panels of carved angelic figures playing upon musical instruments.
St John’s has a stunning collection of stained glassed windows. There is a more detailed account of all our windows in a visitors guide.
This is available through the parish office. Please email [email protected] for details.