6 Lesser Known Churches to Visit in London
Visiting some of the world’s most famous Churches is a must when visiting London. Naturally, one should visit Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral but why not have a more intimate experience at a Church further off the beaten path? After all, it wouldn’t be a proper city break without exploring a Church or two!
Other than the likes of Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral, Southwark Cathedral is one of the largest and most magnificent cathedrals in London. Built originally in 1106 it has been a place of Christian worship for nearly 1000 years. Having said this, it has been rebuilt several times such as after the Great Fire of Southwark in 1212 and again after another fire in the 1390s. The nave of this wonderful South London Cathedral is also home to some of the most stunning stained glass you will find anywhere in the city.
A prime location right next to Borough Market (also built in the 12th century) makes it the perfect place to explore either before or after a traditional fish and chips. The church is free to look inside and encourages photography outside of services for something to remember your visit by.
St Stephen Walbrook
One of the many churches that was lost to the Great Fire of London in 1666, St Stephens Walbrook is one of many Sir Christopher Wren designed churches in the City of London. The church is similar in design to St Paul’s Cathedral but was actually built beforehand. It was Wren’s first experiment with a Dome before proceeding with the larger St Paul’s and is often regarded as one of the finest Churches in the whole city.
This beautiful little church dropped in-between modern glass towers makes for a wonderful contrast between the old and new that London has to offer and is a sight that anyone who appreciates architecture should not miss. The church looks to be crammed into a small space with a very humble frontage that makes it even more amazing when you step inside to see the splendour.
Why not visit St Stephen’s big brother, St Paul’s afterwards and continue to the Tower of London in the afternoon to round off what is sure to be a fantastic day.
St James’s Church, Piccadilly
St James’s Church, Piccadilly, also known as St James’s Church, Westminster, and St James-in-the-Fields, is an Anglican church in Piccadilly, the centre of London. The church was another of Sir Christopher Wren’s wonderous designs.
The church is built of red brick with Portland stone dressings making it one of the more striking buildings in the area. Grinling Gibbons, the English sculptor and wood carver is best known for his work in the likes of Windsor Castle, Hampton Court and St Paul’s Cathedral but the carved marble font and limewood reredos at St James’s are both notable examples of his work. The white marble font is sure to wow any unsuspecting visitor. It consists of a bowl raised on a stem realistically carved to represent the Tree of Knowledge, with the serpent entwined about it, Adam standing on one side and Eve on the other. The font is where illustrious English poet William Blake was baptised in 1757 along with 18th Century Prime Minister William Pitt the Elder.
Surrounded by modern glass office blocks and just a stone’s throw from Victoria Station is this gem of a church and a must-visit for anyone who loves a view. Westminster Cathedral, or to use its full name ‘The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ’ is the second-largest Church building in London after St Pauls. Not only this but it is the largest Catholic church building in England and Wales, thus unsurprising that not one but two former popes have celebrated Mass here.
Not only does it hold huge religious significance thanks to its former visitors, but its 210-foot-high tower means it offers a chance for a fantastic view over London and a picture opportunity that you don’t want to miss.
After your visit why not walk down Victoria street past the historic Albert Pub to find yourself in Parliament Square the home of the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and of course Westminster Abbey.
We have all heard of Trafalgar square, arguably the most famous square in the world, home to Nelson’s Column and the National Gallery. What few people know is that sitting on the corner of the square is one of the most beautiful churches in London, St Martin-in-the-Fields. The Church’s name comes from Medieval times when it lay in the fields between the city of Westminster and the city of London. In fact, it was the subject of a dispute between the Abbot of Westminster and the Bishop of London before the Archbishop of Canterbury decided in favour of Westminster.
The church was rebuilt in 1720 by James Gibbs who took influence from the great Sir Christopher Wren. It is one of London’s favourite churches due to its position but is also the parish church to the royal family. Why not pop in for a bite to eat at the Crypt Café or even stay for one of the many Jazz Concerts that take place in the crypt in the evenings.
In the heart of the Square Mile, St Mary-le-Bow Church is one of the most iconic features in Cheapside with its 68-meter steeple projected by Sir Christopher Wren. Today the church is slotted in between two of London’s busiest commuter stations, St Paul’s and Bank. Originally a church built by William the Conqueror in 1080 who imposed his supremacy with Norman places of worship that towered above their surroundings. The Church was founded as the London Headquarters of the Archbishop of Canterbury and was partially rebuilt several times before being full destroyed in 1666 and rebuilt by Wren. During the 19th Century the Church became associated with the mark of a true Cockney, who can only call themselves such if they were born within earshot of the bow bells.
The St Mary-le-Bow is the perfect place to find typical baroque features of drama, tension and power, all visible in the pulpit, arcade and the ornate organ. You shouldn’t miss this amazing masterpiece created by this world-famous Briton.