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More English than the English, more Roman than Rome? Historical signifiers and cultural memory at Westminster Cathedral

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JournalReligion
DateAccepted/In press - 18 Aug 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 13 Sep 2018
DatePublished (current) - 2 Jan 2019
Issue number1
Volume49
Number of pages26
Pages (from-to)48-73
Early online date13/09/18
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Westminster Cathedral, the Metropolitan church of English Roman Catholicism since 1903, occupies an ambivalent space in the heart of the modern metropolis. It was intended as a repository and symbol of a national, very English, Catholic heritage in central London, replicating and re-using medieval signs and rituals to lay claim to a history that stretched back to the original conversion of England in the late 6th century. Drawing on studies of cultural memory, the authors examine how successive Cardinals of Westminster from the late 19th century onwards designed, constructed, and used the Cathedral to define Catholic identity in the first decades of the 20th century. In this they steered a difficult and often contested course between twin loyalties to the nation and to Rome. The limits of institutional power to reshape cultural memory are also explored through a case study of the Cathedral's resident martyr-saint, John Southworth, acquired in 1930 and similarly revealing the uneasiness of English Catholicism regarding its ‘otherness’ within a national culture.

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