Leo Arendzen, (1875 –1963)
CANON Leo Arendzen – known as the Painter Priest – was parish priest at St Mary’s, Grantham, for 39 years.
Born in Haarlem, Amsterdam, he was the son of a Dutch etcher
He is listed in the census of 1901, when he was 26, as an ‘artist’,
He studied fine art at the Slade School and practised mainly as a portrait painter.
Leo was a late ordination. Leo went on to study theology and, after some setbacks including the expulsion from a seminary for keeping chickens on the roof and other misdemeanors. Leo had been tending his chickens on the roof of the seminary (illicitly) when he heard someone approaching. In a panic that he would be discovered, he pushed the chickens off the roof and they fluttered down around a priest walking the grounds reciting his breviary.
He was ordained after being interviewed by the Pope, who apparently instructed him to get his hair cut.
He arrived in Grantham in 1914 as parish priest, after more than six years at Glossop.
He remained at St Mary’s for two world wars, finally saying farewell in 1953.
During that timer he painted portraits of Bishop Dunn and Bishop McNulty as well as the late Mgr. Charles Payne, a former Vicar General of the diocese, which hang in Bishop’s House, Nottingham.
Leo retired to London, where he had a small chapel in an upstairs room in which he would say mass daily. In the Latin service, there is a line near the beginning which appears again near the end
On occasion, in his later life, Leo would reach this point at the end of the mass and, confused, start all over again. This could be quite tiresome if you were in the congregation.
He was one of four priest brothers. Canon John Arendzen, of the Westminster diocese, Fr. W. A. Arendzen, of Porthcawl, and Fr. Alphonse Arendzen, of Willesden, London.
Leo left office in Grantham in 1953 due to ill health and died in London 10 years later