London’s Local Churches
Saint Paul’s Cathedral: According to the city’s history, a Cathedral dedicated to St Paul has overlooked the City of London since 604AD. This religious monument has been a constant reminder to the people of London’s commercial centre of the significance and importance of the spiritual side of life as well as the material side. The present day Cathedral, the fourth to occupy this site, was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, architect to the court and built between 1675 and 1710. Its predecessor was destroyed during the Great Fire of London. The sheer audacity of its architectural and artistic style showcases the determination of five successive monarchs who oversaw its restoration, each committed to ensuring that London’s leading church should be as beautiful and imposing as their own private palaces. Ever since the first service took place here in 1697, Wren’s jewel has been where people and events of overwhelming national importance have been celebrated, mourned and commemorated.
Westminster Abbey: The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster is known to most by its original name of Westminster Abbey. The Gothic style church is situated in Westminster close to the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament). According to tradition there has been a shrine upon this site since the 7th century, In the 10th century a community of Benedictine monks were settled upon the site. However, the first stone abbey was not erected until approximately 1045-1050 by King Edward the Confessor. This was subsequently rebuilt by Henry III in 1245. Westminster Abbey has for centuries been the traditional place for the coronation and burial of English monarchs.
St Martin-in-the-Fields: This historic Anglican church situated at the northeast corner of Trafalgar Square claims St Martin of Tours for its patron saint. The earliest reference to the church dates back to 1222 and a dispute between two leading clergymen, the Abbot of Westminster and the Bishop of London, as to who had ecclesiastic control of the church. The outcome was finally settled in favour of the Abbot. Today the church is well known for its work among the city’s homeless community and for its ethos as the “Church with the Ever Open Door”.
Temple Church: This 12th century church is located between Fleet Street and the River Thames. It was originally built by the Knights Templar as their English headquarters. In later times, the church has come to serve two of the Inns of Court namely the Inner and Middle Temple. The church is particularly notable because of its round shape. The area surrounding the building is known as Temple and Temple Tube station is also nearby.
St Etheldreda’s Church: The oldest Catholic church in England and one of just two such remaining buildings in London surviving from Edward I’s reign. Its patron Saint Etheldreda was believed to be a medieval princess who along with her three sisters decided to forsake the world and dedicate herself to convent life. It is believed that this site was once one of the most influential places in London with a huge palace and sprawling grounds it resembled an independent state.
Southwark Cathedral: The Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie is situated at the centre of a busy commercial community comprising mainly of businesses on the South bank of the River Thames close to London Bridge station. The cathedral has a very small congregation mainly due to its location. Nonetheless, it is visited by thousands of people every year and used regularly for a variety of services and other events. Southwark Cathedral has been a place of Christian worship for over 1,000 years but only became a cathedral in 1905.
St Bride’s: This is perhaps one of the most ancient church buildings in London. With records dating back to the 7th century. The current church was designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1672 and is situated on Fleet Street. This fact has led to a long and strong association with newspapers and journalists. The building was gutted by fire during the bombings of 1940 dubbed the Second Great Fire of London and the rebuilding project was funded mainly by newspaper proprietors and journalists. Today the church forms a distinctive part of London’s skyline standing at 69 metres it is the second tallest of all Wren’s churches coming second only to St Paul’s Cathedral.