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History & Heritage

Book Review: Assisi to Gorton

A 2-minute read.

Subject: Victorian Manchester; Manchester history; Manchester heritage; Franciscan history.

By Father Agnellus Andrew; reviewed by Janet Wallwork, published 1938 (Historical Reprint Series).

Assisi to Gorton: A brief record of the work of the Franciscans in England, and especially their work in Gorton, 1861-1938, Father Agnellus Andrew, Monastery Publications (Historical Reprint Series), 108p, £4.99. First published in 1938. ISBN 978-0-95714-842-0

The Church and Friary of St Francis, Gorton – known locally as ‘Gorton Monastery’ – was built by Belgian Franciscans who arrived there in 1861. They engaged the famous church architect, Edward Welby Pugin, and over the next ten years, and with only limited resources, they constructed a magnificent church of cathedral-like proportions.

The church opened in 1872 but work to complete it continued for many years. It was consecrated in 1938 and this book was published to mark that occasion.

It gives first a brief account of the Franciscans in England, from the arrival of the first friars in 1224, followed by the story of their work and achievements in Gorton.

Although the friars left in 1989 their wonderful buildings survive. They now belong to a charity, The Monastery of St Francis and Gorton Trust, which rescued and restored them as a community, cultural and corporate venue. The Trust reprinted this little book to mark the 150th anniversary of the Franciscans in Gorton.

Father Agnellus Andrew was one of the best known and loved members of the Gorton community. He later found fame as a pioneer of religious broadcasting. In 1980, Father Agnellus was called to Rome where he was ordained a bishop and became the Vatican’s head of Press and Broadcasting Relations. Based at Gorton from 1932 to 1954, he was a charismatic and inspirational preacher. In this history of The Monastery he tells the Franciscan story simply and clearly.

Editor’s note: This book is available to buy in our Monastery Shop.