“To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
– Nelson Mandela
St Mary’s Church marks the site of the first purpose-built Roman Catholic Church in England since the Reformation. It is locally better known as ‘The Hidden Gem’.
St Mary’s Church has been a peaceful sanctuary and a place of tolerance since the original church was built here in 1794. The present building dates from 1848.
‘The Hidden Gem’ is a good example of religious tolerance in the city. Before the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829, most Catholics had to worship in secret. Roman Catholics were still not allowed to build their churches in prominent places. St Mary’s Church was built in a then deprived area between Deansgate and Albert Square.
The church is referred to as ‘The Hidden Gem’ because of its unexpected beauty, with marble sculptures and striking stained glass and paintings. Its parish priest describes the ‘wonderful amazement and a feeling of utter peace’ felt by people who visit. It offers a peaceful place for reflection for visitors of any, or no, religious faith.
Manchester has a long history of sheltering those who experience religious persecution, a city where a variety of cultures and faiths co-exist, often working together for the benefit of the wider community. Within less than 10 miles of this spot, you can find Manchester’s Buddhist Centre; Mosque and Islamic Centre; Synagogue; Hindu Temple; Sikh Temple and Catholic cathedral. Many of these institutions work together on interfaith projects across the region.