St Peter’s Italian Church, 136 Clerkenwell Road
For many years there had been a great need for a church for the increasing number of Italian immigrants living in London, some 20,000 by 1850. Funds were difficult to find as well as a piece of land in a suitable place. There was also still deep-rooted suspicion of and antagonism to Catholicism in England. However St Peter’s Church opened amid great celebration on 16 April, 1863, at that time the only church in Britain in the Roman basilica style. The Irish architect, John Millar Bryson, worked from plans drawn by Francesco Gualandi of Bologna which in turn were modelled on the Basilica of San Crisogono in Trastevere, Rome. 13
The steps leading to the Sanctuary are of anacrinitic marble, while the balustrades that separate the Sanctuary from the rest of the church were built by Broder & Broder and as such are of particular interest. Their central sections are of porphyry, surrounded by antique green marble, with an ornamental border in red marble and cipollino marble.14
The balustrade below the sanctuary contains eight decorations on each side of the steps which contain cipollino marble (Plate 8.67). They are of two different patterns; one of a square set diagonally inside another square and the other of an intricate ‘step’ pattern (Plate 8.68). They have thin black borders and the cipollino decoration is just next to the border. The sides of the squares measure .34 m. and the cipollino border is .05 m thick. The size of the ‘steps’ are from .04 to .06 m. and the cipollino inside measures .06 m. from the centre. The width from one side to the other is .48 m. (Plate 8.69).
14 Stanley, Luca, St Peter’s Italian Church in London, English translation by Luca Coffey, p.20.
Maps and Plates
Plate 8.67 Four cipollino decorations on the balustrades on each side of the steps below the Sanctuary, St Peter’s Italian Church, London.
Plate 8.68 The two different style cipollino decorations on the balustrades, on each side of the steps below the Sanctuary, St Peter’s Italian Church, London.
Plate 8.69 Close up of the cipollino decoration on the balustrades on each side of the steps below the Sanctuary, St Peter’s Church, London.