Monday, July 25, 2016

Impressions of Some London Churches

For some additional London churches, including James Gibbs' Saint Martin in the Fields, and John Nash's All Souls Church see my other blog post on more London Churches.
Saint Mary Aldermary in the eastern shadows of St. Paul's Cathedral was built around 1520 but burned in the Great Fire of 1666. Sir Christopher Wren, who redefined London as a classical city after the fire, and was also responsible for the design of St. Paul's, one of the great Christian monuments of Europe, accepted the commission of the parishioners of St. Mary Aldermary, to rebuild it exactly as it had been before the fire, in its style of 140 years earlier.

Saint Mary Woolnoth, is a small masterpiece by Nicholas Hawksmoor, who was more famous for his palaces, the most notable being Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard. The church is based on a square plan, with no dome, but rather 4 arches that bring in a soft but bright light from above. With the church being rather hemmed in on all sides this was a very effective strategy. It's a difficult interior to photograph because of its height compared to its small area. But it's a joy to wonder around.
A fine example of Hawksmoor's muscular Baroque style of exterior.

The organ is over the entrance.
The altar is directly opposite the entrance.

The central square raised area with arches bringing in light.

Oak paneling softens the walls where people are walking past.

The chandelier is suspended from a rosette.

All Hallows by the Tower is one of London's oldest churches, with some of the fabric dating back to 675. Remains of an ancient roman house can be found in its crypt.

Some roman graves were found under the crypt.

Saint Stephen Walbrook is a masterpiece by Sir Christopher Wren, perhaps even surpassing St. Paul's Cathedral, though much smaller. The interior is an exquisitely proportioned, centralized space, with a dome supported by 12 columns. The atmosphere is serene and peaceful. The only church I've ever been in that has a more perfectly peaceful spirit is San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, by Wren's predecessor and inspiration, Andrea Palladio.
The outside, hemmed in all around, gives no hint of the glory of the interior.

The 20th century iconoclastic modern architect Le Corbusier said, "Architecture is the masterly, correct and magnificent play of masses brought together in light."
Wren had this mastered some 250 years before. 

Saint Bride's Church, another of Wren's masterworks, explores yet another interior atmosphere, one of brilliant gold and colored light ornamenting curved space, arches and vaults, all softened and humanized by honey colored wood interior fittings.

Saint Clement Danes is another Wren church with a glittering, sparkling interior. It was almost completely destroyed during the WW2 London Blitz, with only its brick walls standing. The Royal Air Force led a public appeal to raise the funds to rebuild it and now use it as their church.


  1. I can't wait to see a few of these with you!

    1. Many of them offer lunchtime concerts various days of the week.

    2. Maybe we can catch a concert too!

  2. These are really lovely. If we are lucky enough to hear a concert in one of them that would be wonderful.