This flamboyant Italianate church is a monument to the English Catholic revival of the late-19th century. The Brompton Oratory was established by John Henry Newman, who was later to become Cardinal Newman.
When a London community of priests (already founded at Charing Cross by Father Frederick William Faber) moved to Brompton, then on the outskirts of the city, this became its oratory. Newman and Faber were both Anglian converts to Catholicism. In establishing a community of secular priests, living without vows in a large city, they were following the example of St Philip Neri.
The present building, based on a church in Rome, was completed in 1884. Its façade and dome were added in 1890s. The architect was Herbert Gribble, another convert to Catholicism.
Gribble was only 29 years old when he won the highly prestigious competition to design the building.
Inside, the Oratory boasts a nave that is 50 feet wide. The interior, rich in marble and mosaics, has been progressively enriched since the building was completed. Most of the eye-catching treasures of Brompton Oratory predate the building and many of the pieces were actually transported to London from Italian churches.
The huge marble figures of the 12 apostles were carved by Giuseppe Mazzuoli in the late-17th century for Siena Cathedral. The wonderfully elaborate Lady Altar was created for the Dominican church in Brescia in 1693.
St Wilfrid's Chapel has an 18th century altar imported from Rochefort in Belgium. Apart from its grand Baroque architecture, the church has always been noted for its superb musical tradition.
During the Cold War the Brompton Oratory was used by the KGB as a dead letter box.