1902 Encyclopedia > London > London - Churches; St Paul's; Westminster Abbey. Conventual Churches; Wren's Churches; Later Churches; Lambeth Palace; etc.

(Part 30)


Churches. St Paul's Cathedral. Westminster Abbey. Conventual Churches in the Time of Fitzstephen. Other Old Churches. Wren's Churches. Later Churches. Other Churches and Chapels. Lambeth Palace.

Fitzstephen states that in his time there were in London and its suburbs thirteen larger conventual churches besides one hundred and twenty-six lesser parochial ones. Stow gives a list of churches existing when he wrote, mentioning those which he knew to be suppressed or united to others. He gives the names of 125 churches, including St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey; 89 of these were destroyed by the great fire, and only 45 were rebuilt.

St Paul’s cathedral occupies the site of a church founded in 610 by Etherlbert. After the destruction of the church by fire in 1087, a new edifice in the Norman style was commenced, which was forty years in building, and according to William of Malmesbury :could contain the utmost conceivable multitude o worshippers." In 1240 a new Pointed Gothic choir was added, and the erection of a lofty tower begun. The work of renovation and adornment was continued until 1315, when the cathedral was declared complete. Its dimensions as given by Stow were as follows:- height of steeple 520 feet; total length of church 720 feet; breadth 130; and height of the body of the church 150 feet. In 1561 the spire was struck by lightning, and the roof of the church partly destroyed by the fire that ensued. From this time it remained in a dilapidated condition until the reign of Charles I.; and the work of restoration under the direction of Inigo Jones, who added to the west front a Corinthian portico had not been completed when the building was destroyed by the great fire of 1666. St Paul’s cross, which stood at the north-east corner of the cathedral, was rebuilt by Bishop Kemp in the 15th century, but was removed in 1643, its place being now occupied by a fountain. At the cross great religious disputations were held and papal bulls promulgated, and in its pulpit sermons were preached before the court. The present St Paul’s, erected in 1675-97 from the design of Sir Christopher Wren at a cost of 747,954 pounds is built in the form of a Latin cross, the length being 500 feet, the breadth at the transepts 250 feet, and of the choir and nave 125 feet. The dome, which separates the two transepts and the nave and choir, rises to a height of 365 feet, or of 404 feet to the top of the cross by which it is surmounted, the height of the interior dome being 225 feet. The principal front to the west consists of a double portico of Corinthian pillars flanked by campanile towers 120 feet in height. The transepts are bounded by semicircular row a Corinthian pillars. St Paul’s is remarkable chiefly for its massive simplicity and beautiful proportions. The interior is imposing from its vastness, but the designs of Wren for its decoration were never carried out. Some of the monuments of the old building are preserved in the crypt, where are also the tombs of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Dr Samuel Johnson, J.M.W. Turner, Lord Nelson, the duke of Wellington, and other distinguished men, especially admirals and generals.

Westminster Abbey, as the coronation church of the sovereign of England from the time of Harold, and on account of its proximity to the seat of English government, has acquired a fame and importance which in a certain sense outvie those of St Paul’s. It occupies the site of a chapel built by Siebert, in honor of St Peter, on a slightly elevated spot rising from the marshy ground bordering the Thames. A church of greater pretensions was erected by King Edward about 980; but, thus church being partly demolished by the Danes, Edward the Confessor founded within the precincts of his palace an abbey and church in the Norman style, which was completed in 1065, and of which there now only remain the pyx house to the south of the abbey, the substructure of the dormitory, and the south side of the cloisters. The rebuilding of the church was commenced by Henry III. in 1220, who erected the choir and transepts, and also a lady chapel, which was removed to make way for the chapel of Henry VII. The building was practically completed by Edward I., but the greater part of the nave in the Transition style, various other improvements, were added down to the time of Henry VII., including the west end of the nave, the deanery, portions of the cloisters, and the Jerusalem chamber; while the two towers at the west end were erected by Wren, who had no proper appreciation of Gothic. The length of the church, including Henry VII’s chapel, is 531 feet, or, excluding it, 416 feet, the breadth of the transepts 203 feet, the height of the church 102 feet, and of the towers 225 feet. The choir, where the coronation of Engligh sovereign takes place, is a fine specimen of Early English, with decoratins added in the 14th century, and contains among others tombs those of Siebert, king of the East Saxons, Anne of Cleves, and Edmund Crouchback, earl of Leicester. The north transept is occupied principally with monuments of warriors and statesmen, and in the south transept the "poet’s corner" contains memorials of most of the great English writers from Chaucer to Thackeray and Dickens. The nave, with its clustered columns, its beautiful triforium, and its lofty and finely proportioned roof, is the most impressive portion of the interior. The monument in its north and south aisle are of a very miscellaneous character, and commemorate musicians, men of science, travelers, patriots, and adventurers. The monuments in the chapels of St Benedict, St Edmund, St Nicholas, St Paul, St Erasmus, St John the Baptist, and the nobility. Henry VII.’s chapel, which is remarkable for the fretted vault work of the roof, with its magical fan tracery, contains besides the monument of Henry VII. the tombs of many English sovereigns and their children, and also of various other personages of historic fame. In the chapel of Edward the Confessor are the shrine of Edward the Confessor in Purbeck marble, the altar tomb of Edward I., the coronation chairs of the English sovereigns, and the stone of Scone, the old coronation seat of the Scottish kings. In the chapter-house (1250) the meetings of the Commons took place before they were transferred to St Stephen’s Chapel; and in the Jerusalem chamber (1376-86), where Edward V.is said to have been born and Henry IV. was brought to die, the sittings of the lower house of convocation of the province of Canterbury are now held.

Among the conventual churches existing in the time of Fitzstephen, there were destroyed by the fire three, those of St Thomas of Acon, St John the Baptist, and St Martin-le-Grand, founded in 700. Of the other churched there still remain the choir, part of the nave, and portions of the transepts of the old church of St Bartholomew the Great dating from the foundation of the monastery by Rahere, minstrel to Henry I. included in the present church, restored 1865-69, which also contain the tomb of its founder; a pointed pier of the old church of St Catherine Cree, which was the conventual church of St Austin’s priory of the Holy Trinity, founded in 1108, but was rebuilt by Inigo Jones; the vaults and some of the old monuments of the old church of St jame’s, Clerkenwell, built in connection with the Benedictine nunnery 1100, and replaced by the present structure 1788-92; the east wall and Norman crypt of the building which in the 15th century replaced the old church of the priory of St John’s of Jerusalem. Clerkenwell, founded in 1100, and of which the south gate in the Perpendicular style, built in 1504, still remains; and the Temple church, noticed in the article INNS of Court. Of the ancient church of St Savior’s, Southwark, belonging to the priory of St Mary Overy, a few seemingly Anglo-Saxon portions were incorporated in the building in the early English style erected in the 13th century, which has been much disfigures by reconstructions and additions, although the beautiful choir, lady chaple, and transepts remain almost entire. The church of St Katherine’s Hospital was removed in 1825 to make way for St Katherine’s docks.

Of the other churches which escaped he fire the principal are the Chapel Royal, Savoy Palace inconnection with the hospital of St John the Baptist, from 1564 till 1717 used as the parish church of St Mary-le-Strand, constituted a chapel royal in 1773, and restored in 1865 by Smirke after partial destructions by fire; All Hallows, Barking, founded in connection with the Benedictine convent of Barking, Essex, some time before Richard I., chiefly Perpendicular, and containing several brasses; St Andrew’s Undershaft (1520-32), in the Perpendicular style, with a turreted tower, and containing among other tombs that of Stow the chronicler; St Giles’s, Cripplegate, founded 1090, rebuilt in the Gothic style after destruction by fire in 1545 (with the exception of the fine tower, added in 1660), where Cromwell was married, and Milton and Fox the martyrologist were buried; St Helen’s Bishopsgate Street, founded in connection with a priory of nuns (1216), chiefly in the Third Pointed style, and containing many brasses and monuments of city dignitaries; St Margaret’s, Westminster, founded by Edward the Confessor, re-erected by Edward I., and frequently restored, containing a window originally executed by Gouda for Waltham Abbey, and possessing a large number of monuments to eminent persons; St Olave’s, Hart Street, in the Gothic style, belonging to the 15th century, but much altered by restoration, containing a large number of brasses and monuments; the small church of Trinity in the Minories, formerly connected with a convent founded by Blanche, wife of Edmund Plantagenet, second son of Henry III., containing in a state of complete preservation the head of the duke of Suffolk, father of Lady Jane Grey.

That the only important external feature of Wren’s churches is the tower of steeple is a peculiarity to be explained by the fact that the merit of his style consisted more in beauty of general outline than in elaboration of details, that from the amount of money placed at his disposal he was generally compelled to concentrate his chief attention on a special part of the building, and that on account of the crowding of surrounding buildings the steeple was often the only part of the church that could be made effective. His interiors, however, are finely proportioned. Among his more important churches are St Bride’s Fleet Street, which possesses one of his finest steeples, and contains the grave of Richardson the novelist; St Dunstan’s-the-East, of which the only portion by Wren now remaining is the steeple, resting on quadrangular columns with A mural crown copied from St Nicholas’s, Newcastle; St Jme’s, Piccadilly, only remarkable for its elaborate interior and a white marble font by Gibbons; St Lawrence, Jewry; St Mary-le-Bow, containing the Norman crypt of the old building, which was the first church in the city built on arches (hence the name), and adorned with one of the finest of Wren’s steeples, in which are the proverbial "Bow Bells"; St Michael’s, Cornhill, with Perpendicular tower imitated from that of Magdalen College, Oxford; St Mary, Aldermary, rebuilt by Wren on the Gothic model of the old church; St Stephen’s, Wallbrook, with an interior similar toi St Paul’s, St Swithin’s, Cannon Street, in a wall od which the famous "London Stone" is built; and St Clement Danes, in which Dr Samuel Johnson was accustomed to worship.

Of the churches of the period succeeding that of Wren, the most notable are St George’s, Hanover Square (1724), by James, with Classic portico and tower, and three painted window of the 16th century made at Mechlin; St Giles-in-the-Fields (1734), by Flitcroft, with tapering spire, and containing the graves of Flaxman the sculptor and andrew Marvel; St Martin-in-the-Fields (1726), by Gibbs, with a fine Corinthian portico, behind which the spire is awkwardly placed; St Mary-le-Strand (1717), by Gibbs, occupying the site of the old Maypole; St Mary-le-Bone (1817), by Hardwicke, in the Classic style, containing altarpiece presented by Wren to the old church; St Pancras (1822), with a steeple in imitation of the Temple of the Winds, and a very elaborate inteior copied from the Erectheum at Athens, St. Paul’s Covent Garden, originally designed by Inigo Jones, and restored after a fire in 1795. The more modern churches are chiefly in the Gothic style.

Of the religious buildings connected with the numerous denominations and nationalities, few possess exceptional interest either of an antiquarian or architectural character. St George’s Cathedral, Southwark (1848), designed by Pugin, is said to be the largest Roman Catholic building erected in England since the Reformation; and Ely Chapel, Holborn, the only remaining relic of the palace of the bishops of Ely, has lately been purchased and restored by the Roman Catholics. Among the chapels belonging to the Protestant dissenters the best known are perhaps Mr Spurgeon’s Tabernacle, the City Temple, and Christ Church, Newington. The Ducth Church in Austinfriars was presented by Edward VI. To Dutch residnts in London in 1550; the nave is in the Decorated style of the 13th century.

Lambeth Palace, situated near one of the old hithes or landing places of the Thames, came into the possession of the archbishops of Canterbury in 1197. The oldest portion of the present building, including the chapel in the early English style, was erected by Archbishop Boniface (1244-70), but the Lollard’s Tower, in which the Lollards were tortured and the earl of Essex was imprisoned, was built in 1434, and the great hall with an elaborate timber roof in 1663. The inhabited portion was erected 1828-48 from the designs of Blore. The adjoining church of St Mary, the oldest part of which dates from the 14th century, contains the tombs of several archbishops, as does also the palace chapel. The library is noticed in LIBRARIES, p. 516.

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