The Papal Artifacts’ Collection is primarily dedicated to artifacts connected to the papacy. Individual popes, their biographies and multiple items belonging to them, including first and second class relics, make up the majority of this Collection. But that isn’t all it is.
Father Kunst has a deep devotion to the saints as can be readily seen in viewing the Saints & Blesseds section of this site. We invite you to visit Papal History/Saints & Blesseds to view the many canonized and beatified men and women who make up this section of the Collection.
Another category is also included with this Collection: Notable Individuals. These are people significantly associated with the Catholic Church who have not been canonized but contributed in outstanding ways to the church.
Monsignor John O’Connor and G. K. Chesterton are two of them.
Bradford parish priest Father John O’Connor was the inspiration for G K Chesterton’s fictional detective priest, Father Brown.
And, as this biography of the founder of First Martyrs Church reveals, some of the poverty he came across in Victorian Bradford inspired Chesterton to create the criminal underworld where his sleuth operated.
This is the story of a quiet but impressive man who spent much of his life as a Catholic priest, but was also regarded as a great intellect, a lover of the arts and literature, and a friend and confidant of statesmen, writers and artists.
Father O’Connor commissioned the Stations of the Cross and other sculptures for St Cuthbert’s, his Bradford parish after the First World War, from sculptor Eric Gill, and was involved in the internationally-renowned Ditchling Arts and Crafts movement. He translated French philosophy and collaborated with Gill on controversial and sexually explicit engravings.
Father O’Connor was no stranger to controversy; he was the inspiration behind the then-radical new idea of a ‘round’ church, First Martyrs, in Bradford.
The O’Connor Letters to Miss Eileen M. Cond & The Reason for Them
The artifacts are the correspondence of O’Connor and a woman, Miss Eileen M. Cond, who is hoping to obtain an autograph of Chesterton and thinks to write to this priest as her “go between.” She is successful and receives these two letters from O’Connor as well as a small paper with Chesterton’s signature, plus the information about the difficulty involved in obtaining any autograph of the renowned writer.
The first letter is an interesting A. L. S. (which means it is an “autographed letter signed” and is written entirely by the individual referred to—in this instance, O’Connor). He ends the letter:
Yours autograftically, John O’Connor.
It is one page in length, and includes the stenciled address of O’Connor:
16th June 1933
To Miss Eileen M. Cond.
O’Connor announces, “How do you spell surprise? Of course you now have Father Brown’s autograph as witness my hand’ and continues, “As to Mr. G. K. Chesterton, it is rare enough as he dictates everything, or if he writes a bit, he destroys it as wastepaper. Your best plan would be to send one of his small books to be signed by him…that’s what I have done myself. I am hoping to see him next week, so if you write again after June 24th I may have a stray autograph of his to send you. I wonder how many autographs get lost forever…”
The Second Correspondence
A second correspondence with an A.N.S. (meaning an “autographed note signed) is included. It reads, besides the opening stenciled location atop the page and the date of 12thJuly 1933, in full, “Behold! I thought you had fallen from first favour.”
Further Information about Monsignor John O’Connor
This book, by Bradford writer Julia Smith, is a fascinating glimpse into the life of a rather shadowy figure who slipped in and out of different worlds. He was well-loved by his parishioners, many of whom were unaware of his association with leading arts figures beyond the confines of the Church.
One friend was G K Chesterton, who turned Father O’Connor into maverick sleuth Father Brown. The real-life priest helped guide Chesterton towards his conversion to Catholicism in 1922.
The book charts Father O’Connor’s life from a small Irish town straddling the border of Tipperary and Waterford to his education on the Continent by Benedictine monks, and his life as a parish priest. Julia Smith’s engaging tone and thorough research offers an interesting account of Bradford’s social history from when Father O’Connor came to the city as a young curate in 1895.
His first posting was at St Mary’s Church, Barkerend. “He thought that he had never come across such a livelier set of people,” writes Julia.
“He encountered a rather different set of people in the Poor Law Union Workhouse, just minutes away from his grand church. What he saw there and in surrounding back streets, where conditions made those even of the workhouse seem like paradise, could hardly be more of a contrast to his life in Rome.
“It was here he would encounter many of the atrocities, and much of the wickedness and evil, the knowledge of which would astound his, as yet unknown, friend G K Chesterton and inspire him to create his priest-detective Father Brown.”
Julia describes conditions in the workhouse, where ‘Bradforditis’ referred to the smell. Young unmarried mothers ended up in there and Father O’Connor described Nurse Storey, who worked with the girls, as an ‘Angel of Light’.
It was through Nurse Storey that he discovered the daughter of a parish family who, finding herself pregnant, ran away. The case led to the setting-up of the Rescue Society, funded by a monthly collection in his parish to help girls in similar circumstances.
Another of his parishioners, at St Joseph’s Church, near Manchester Road, was Bartle, “very poor and very old, reduced to living in a cellar.”
The Collection has two autographs of G. K. Chesterton, featured here.
The first is a small autographed sketch of G. K. Chesterton.
The second is his signature from an envelope.
G. K. Chesterton
Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born in London, England on the 29th of May, 1874. Though he considered himself a mere rollicking journalist, he was actually a prolific and gifted writer in virtually every area of literature. A man of strong opinions and enormously talented at defending them, his exuberant personality nevertheless allowed him to maintain warm friendships with people–such as George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells–with whom he vehemently disagreed.
Chesterton had no difficulty standing up for what he believed. He was one of the few journalists to oppose the Boer War. His 1922 Eugenics and Other Evils attacked what was at that time the most progressive of all ideas, the idea that the human race could and should breed a superior version of itself. In the Nazi experience, history demonstrated the wisdom of his once reactionary views. His poetry runs the gamut from the comic The Logical Vegetarian to dark and serious ballads.
Though not written for a scholarly audience, his biographies of authors and historical figures like Charles Dickens and St. Francis of Assisi often contain brilliant insights into their subjects. His Father Brown mystery stories, written between 1911 and 1936, are still being read and adapted for television.