London is a city of many churches, many of which have a long history of standing in the same location through the trials and tribulations that have faced the city and its residents throughout its history. Several of the churches, cathedrals and abbeys have a heritage dating back to the medieval era and boast some of the most spectacular interiors and external facades of any building in the city.
There are some particularly prize examples that are well worth a visit on your trip to London. Whether you wish to pay homage or simply wonder at the architecture, there are lots to attract you to the churches and cathedrals of London.
Although there are plenty of churches that have had places of worship on the same grounds dating back to the Middle Ages, the oldest church in continuous use in the city is St Bartholomew the Great in Smithfield, West London.
The church has stood in place and been used as a place of worship continuously since at least 1143 St Bartholomew’s, Or Bart’s as it’s affectionately known locally, has battled the odds and survived through two World Wars and the Great Fire of London to stand completely unscathed almost exactly as it did when it was first erected some 850 years ago. Today it is known for its excellent music and café, which serves a selection of monastic beers and fresh food seven days a week in the 15th century cloister.
The church with probably the most varied use in London is the Union Chapel in Islington, North London. As well as having a growing congregation of worshipers that attend the chapel on a daily basis, the Union offers a number of other services that help make it into a thriving and vibrant community of people from all backgrounds.
The Chapel runs a charity that supports homeless people and people in crisis from across London. The Margin is a drop-in centre that offers food, shelter, healthcare and a social meeting place for people who have nowhere else to turn. A legion of volunteers keep the place running and offering to support to some of the most needy people in the city.
In addition to its charitable works, the Union Chapel has a busy events calendar that sees some top names in comedy and music appearing at the atmospheric gothic chapel with its domed interior making it perfect for both spoken word and musical performance. London’s top entertainment weekly Time Out recently voted the Union Chapel London’s number 1 music venue.
London’s grandest place of worship
If you’re looking for out-and-out grandeur, there can only be one church that tops the list of most spectacular churches in London.
Designed by the great British architect Sir Christopher Wren, the cathedral as it now stands covers consecrated ground that has been used as a site of worship since the early 4th century. The vast domed roof dominates the skyline and can be seen for miles around from both sides of the river.
The interior of the cathedral is no less imposing with a vast gilt high altar and thousands of engravings and paintings by some of the foremost painters and craftsmen of the age.
Visitors can wander around the interior of the church and enjoy some of the splendour that has seen princes and princesses married at the altar and the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2012.
London has some of the most varied and interesting places of worship that also counts amongst their number the grand and the beautiful. It wouldn’t be possible to visit London without seeing some of its thousands of churches, chapels and cathedrals, so keep your eyes peeled and your camera handy.