THE OPUS DEI AND THE MONASTIC CHOIR
Downside’s monastic choir is an overlooked masterpiece at the centre of the abbey church.
The beating heart is the monastic choir where the Opus Dei is faithfully said and sung every day; where the Psalms are sung and where the monastic office has its place.
The Monastic Community under Abbot Bruno Hicks asked Sir Giles Gilbert Scott to build a choir fitting to the recently completed abbey church with Gilbert Scott’s completed nave. Gilbert Scott, working in Liverpool, approached the Stuflesser studio in the South Tirol to build on the choir and misericords (‘mercy seats’) of Chester cathedral as a model for Downside’s own choir. Correspondence exists between Hicks, Gilbert Scott and the Stuflesser studio in the detail, design and execution of this great work of art in the Royal Institute of British Architecture (RIBA) at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Whilst the misericords are faithful to depictions found in the Psalms there are also ‘grotesques’ including the cockerel motif of Cardinal Gasquet and the faces of contemporaneous monks who were unfortunate enough to become permanent arm-rests to their monastic successors.
Downside has commissioned a publication on the monastic choir which will be available for purchase in the Summer.
Below are images of the old choir stalls replaced by the Stuflesser work and the new stalls soon after their installation.