St Peter's, The Italian Church
Opened in 1863, it was at the time, the only church in Britain designed in the Roman basilican style. The Irish architect John Miller Bryson worked from plans drawn by Francesco Gualandi of Bologna, modelled on the Basilica of San Crisogno in Rome. It has a tranquil feel and one could spend hours there, soaking up the prayerful atmosphere and admiring the stunning painted ceilings and artwork. The frontal section of the church consists of a loggia and portico with twin arches, above which are three alcoves. The central alcove contains a statue of Christ, whilst the sides contain statues of St Bede and St George. Between the alcoves are two large mosaics depicting the miracle of the fishes and Jesus giving the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to St Peter. Memorial to the dead of the Arandora Star In the loggia are two wall memorials: one, installed in 1927, to veterans (mostly Italian Britons) of World War I; and the other, installed in 1960, to 446 Italians who lost their lives on the SS Arandora Star in 1940. Above the façade is a 33-metre-high bell tower, built in 1891, which houses a bell known as "The Steel Monster". The church was built at the request of Saint Vincent Pallotti, and remains under the control of the Pallottines, the religious society which he founded. He had assistance from the politician and activist Giuseppe Mazzini, who was in London at the time. It was intended for the use of the growing number of Italian immigrants in London in the mid-19th century, and was modelled by Irish architect Sir John Miller-Bryson on the Basilica San Crisogono in Rome. It was consecrated on 16 April 1863 as 'The Church of St Peter of all Nations'. At the time of consecration, it was the only basilica-style church in the UK. Its organ was built in 1886 by Belgian Anneesen. During World War II, when Italian immigrants were interned, Irish Pallottines made use of the church. In 1953 it was returned to Italian control, since when it has been substantially remodelled, most notably in 1996.