A Sacristans Day Out

written by Margaret Burke

We had a wonderful day at Westminster Cathedral on 22nd August! Fr Andrew arranged for the Sacristans and Friends to visit the Sacristy at Westminster Cathedral in central London.

Richard Hawker, their Head Sacristan, gave us a tour, telling us the stories of some of the many treasures it contains. Some date back to the time of the Reformation or even earlier, and many were donated anonymously, reflecting the dangers facing Catholics until after the Catholic Emancipation Act was passed in 1829. The Catholic Hierarchy was restored to England in 1850. Below are a few examples of the treasures we saw:


In chests of drawers along both sides of the very big Main Sacristy are stored innumerable vestments, the older ones often very ornate. This is a chasuble in the Roman style, made of silk, heavily decorated in gold thread with roundels of saints, and classic motifs, including flowers, birds and even a butterfly. It was designed by Sir Ninian Comper and is late 19th or early 20th century, possibly made for the Dominicans because it depicts Dominican saints.


The Processional Cross used at Westminster Cathedral during a Mass celebrated by the Archbishop of Westminster. The pendants (known colloquially as “earrings”!) signify Alpha and Omega, as in the words from Revelation 22:13: ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega; the first and the last, the beginning and the end.’  

Above is Richard’s favourite Crucifix, dating back to the 13th century, which was converted into a processional cross in the 19th century


As we left the Sacristy at the end of the visit, we came across this lovely carved hardwood statue outside the door with a prie-Dieu in front of it.

It is probably German in origin and shows the Madonna and Child. It is such a tender depiction of motherhood, with the Infant Jesus nestling into His mother’s neck.

It reminds us of her everlasting love and protection as we go back out into the world.

We thank Richard for his generosity with his time and enthusiasm in showing us some wonderful and moving artefacts of our faith down the centuries. Thank you, too, Fr Andrew for arranging such an enjoyable visit for us.