Brompton Oratory review
It's darker in here than it is outside -- and it's night outside. If the dead want to come for a sleep and a lie-down then Brompton Oratory is the place to do it. No one is going to disturb you in here.
I'm sitting in the pews staring up at the altar wondering if there's anyone home. Give me a sign! Make the candles flicker on and off or something. Two thousand years ago he was curing lepers and turning water into wine, and now he can't even huff and puff a candle out. If I was God I would be going on TV every Saturday night to prove that I still exist. But he doesn't seem to care anymore. He's lost interest in us. If we believe, we believe. And if we don't, he doesn't care. He's run out of sons to spread the word. We bumped off the last one, so you can't blame him.
This church is a monument to nothing. That is what I believe. A great big folly for a fairy story. But who cares if it's true or not, it really doesn't matter because this place is beautiful. I even think I prefer it to St. Paul's. St. Paul's Cathedral is all airy and bright inside, but this place is dim and dark and full of shadows. That's how a church should be. The dead don't want to sleep in the sunlight -- they want somewhere like this. Somewhere they can creep about in the shadows and not be bothered by humans.
Any description that I give here is not going to do this place justice. You really have to come inside and see it for yourself. I hate to think how much money they must have lavished on this place. There's gold, for sure, but that's not what makes it pretty. It's all dark stone and dirty dull creams. A bit of blue too -- the same colour as a storm. Imagine a dirty grey sky rolling in with hail and rain and enough wind to blow the roof off your house -- that's the colour of this place. A brooding, moody building. The only lights I can find are a few circular windows in the ceiling and the rest is a rack of candles in the chapels.
There's an old woman kneeling in the side chapel praying for something she's done, or wants fixed by the fixer. Put 10p in the collection box love, and he'll do whatever you want. And light a candle too -- make a wish, like a kid blowing out his birthday cake. The statue of Jesus just looks down at her with his stone eyes and stoney face, deaf and dead. She'd be better off calling the coppers to fix whatever problems she's got.
I hear the sound of footsteps behind me, walking up the aisle. Someone else has come in for a gander. Then it's back to silence as he sits down in the pew. The only other sound I might be able to hear is a quiet rumble around the room like distant traffic. It must be coming down the Brompton Road, and straight in through the letterbox. It's a bit like the pigeons that fly around Waterloo station, trapped inside the concourse -- the sound has slipped inside and can't get out. I'm thinking of having a cough, just to leave my mark on the place. Make a noise in here and it settles like dust for a hundred years.
Peoples' faces stare down everywhere you look, in the statues, in the mosaics and paintings, in the wooden carvings on the stall. If they're trying to tell me something then they are wasting their time. The only person worth listening to in here is yourself. I reckon that's why people sit in here for hours, to have a chat with their heads until the answer comes out.
I can see a confessional box off to the side. I remember being shoved inside one of those when I was a kid, confessing my sins to the priest. I can't remember what I did, but I do remember the punishment -- five Hail Marys. That's not much of a punishment is it. If they started handing out proper sentences then maybe people would stop sinning. If I was a priest and someone admitted to stealing a biscuit, I would knock all their teeth out. Let's see you try and eat a biscuit with no teeth, I would say! They'd soon stop doing that. Do you know what a priest's problem is? -- they are too forgiving. Not everyone in the world is worth saving.
There are eight side chapels up the length of the nave, and they are all beautiful in their own right. They've all got a little altar to some saint I don't know, staring down from a stone carving or picture on the wall, and a rack of little candles too. They've probably got their own story to tell, but the secret meanings are lost on me. I'm just drawn to the one at the end, who has actually been dressed up in real clothes. It's some motherly bird and her kid (Mary and Jesus, I'm guessing), wrapped up in a purple robe and silver crown too. That's the one that I would pray too -- the one wearing clothes. There's a little kid kneeling in front of it straight out of school, still dressed up in his scholarly suit and shoes. He must only be about eight. Maybe he's doing his penance, and genuinely believes that these clothes are wrapping up the real. Kids will believe anything you tell them -- like a fat man's coming down the chimney at Christmas -- so why wouldn't he believe in Jesus too? I wonder what is truly going through his head as he kneels beside his mother. Is it Star Wars or Satan? Star Wars or Satan. Star Wars... or Satan.
I'm getting out of here before God strikes me down with lightning.
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