A Short History of the Church and Building
This beautiful church was designed by the eminent architect Charles Parker in an Italianate style, with early Christian and Renaissance influences. The entire cost was met by Alexander Raphael, a Catholic Armenian whose family came from India. He became the first Roman Catholic to be elected Sheriff of London after the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829. Raphael built the Church in 1846 as a family chapel and named it after St Raphael.
Who is St Raphael?
St Raphael is one of the three Archangels mentioned in sacred scripture. The other two being Michael and Gabriel. His feast day was formally held on the 24th October. It is now combined with the other two Archangels on the 29th September.
The name Raphael means ‘God has healed’ and St Raphael has often been venerated, especially in the East as a great healer. He is mentioned in the Old Testament book of Tobit. Here he acts as a guide for the young Tobias on his trip to Media. On his return he cures Tobias’ father, Tobit, of his blindness with the oil of a fish. Only then does he reveal his true identity. ‘I am Raphael, one of the angels who stands ever ready to enter the Presence of God.’
The figure of St Raphael and the young Tobias is depicted in the central window high above the High Altar. The picture of St Raphael above is a detail from the central stained glass window.