The Cardinal’s Room, as it is known in the Oratory, is the room in which St. John Henry Newman lived, prayed, read, wrote his many thousands of letters, composed his sermons, counselled the other Fathers, managed the running of the Oratory House, etc., for the last 38 years of his life.
It was also the room in which he slept (each Oratorian has only a single room) until he was made a Cardinal, when his bedchamber was converted into his private chapel.
At this altar he said his daily Mass, overlooked by the many photographs and mementoes of departed friends for whom he prayed each day.
This room has been preserved, untouched, since Newman’s death in 1890. Books, objects, pictures, ornaments – all are as Newman left them on the last day of his mortal life.
Apart from a recently installed dehumidifier (part of the conservation works) the room contains no electricity for lighting or heating. To cross the threshold of the room is to leave behind the twenty-first century and step into the nineteenth.
It is a remarkable room, not only because of its historical interest and importance, but because it is the shrine of a Saint: every object in it constitutes a second-class relic. Its very survival is extraordinary, and it is impossible for the room not to make an impact on the visitor to it.
Because the room was left untouched for 130 years, the ravages of time have taken their toll. Hence a major part of this building and restoration project has been the conservation of the Cardinal’s Room, without losing any of the original features that make the room unique and give it its extraordinary atmosphere.
This has required very conservative and specialist conservation work: re-plastering, restoring the original wallpaper (damaged by decades of damp), repairing damage to the ceiling, walls and floor, with conservation of individual objects within the room still underway or yet to take place (the baldacchino above Newman’s altar, for instance, is currently under restoration).
Naturally such work comes at a significant cost, and this is where your help is sought: rather than lose something so precious, the Fathers have undertaken to ensure the room and study of St John Henry Newman has been preserved for future generations, as part of the over £1,000,000 costs to this project.
Any donation to protect Newman’s patrimony will be gratefully received. All benefactors are remembered weekly at a Mass for their intentions and additional prayers are said each day in Newman’s Shrine and Chapel in the Oratory Church.
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During this period of restoration, it has not been possible to admit visitors to the Room or Library, but now that the main part of the work is drawing to a close, it is hoped visits will soon be possible again (at set times, as advertised), in order to share these remarkable places in which St John Henry’s presence may still be felt today. Please look out for further announcements.