St Francis Xavier's Church

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St Francis Xavier's Church ( 480x640 )
Church of Saint Francis Xavier is a parish church in Liverpool. In the past it was the largest Roman Catholic Parish in England with about 13,000 parishioners. It is a Grade II listed building that stands on Salisbury Street.

The history of the church started on 21st January 1840, when a group of men met in the Rose and Crown pub in Cheapside, Liverpool to form themselves into a committee to build a church. The church opened for the first time on 4th December 1848. It has been staffed by Jesuits ever since. It was designed by J.J. Scholes to hold 1,000 people. Soon after the church was opened, it was found that it was too small. In 1888 the beautiful Sodality Chapel (designed by Edmund Kirkby) was opened. This chapel is now used for most of the weekday services. The tower of Saint Francis Xavier Church holds the only full peal of 8 bells of any Catholic Church in Liverpool and one of only 28 Catholic churches in the country. The bells were installed in 1870 and renovated in 2003. There is a war memorial at the back of the church that commemorates 180 parishioners who died in active service during the First World War and 130 who died, serving in the armed forces, during the Second World War.

By the Second World War the parish became the largest in England with a variety of schools attached (Saint Francis Xavier College was founded in 1842 and was the first of its type in the country; The College, which is still in operation, moved to Woolton in the early 1960s). However, between 1960s and 1980s the area went into sharp decline. There were plans to demolish the nave, but a massive, nationwide campaign was successfully fought to save the building. In 2001, two local parishes, St Joseph's and St Mary of the Angels joined with Saint Francis Xavier to form one new parish which brought new energy and enthusiasm and a new chapter in the history of Saint Francis Xavier has begun.
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