Thursday, July 20, 2017

Best medieval churches in London

The Medieval Period in English history is defined as between the year 800 A.D. and 1500 A.D. The Roman Catholic Church was very active in England during this time and many churches were built during this time period. If you had visited during this period, there would have been perhaps 100 parish churches scattered throughout the city.

Unfortunately, the Great Fire destroyed many of them and some were replaced by lovely church designed by Sir Christopher Wren. Luckily for those who love old original churches, there were a few that survived the Great Fire.

The greatest of these is the magnificent Westminster Abbey. The current building was begun by that great builder King Henry III It was built to house the shrine of Saint Edward, the great Anglo-Saxon King. This abbey is a must visit site not only for those who are religious but for those who want to get close to the history of England. Some of the most important people in English history are either actually buried in the cathedral or memorialized here. Among those actually buried here are the great English poet Geoffrey Chaucer and the equally great Queen Elizabeth I. It is also the final resting place of the Merry Monarch Charles II and Charles Darwin author of The Origins of the Species.


St. Etheldreda Church is one of only two buildings in London that exist from the reign of King Edward I, the son of King Henry III who was the builder of Westminster Abbey. The church was built in 1290 as a chapel for the Bishop of Ely. St Etheldreda is a Roman Catholic Church and as such is the oldest Catholic church in England.

If you are visiting St. Ethelreda’s be sure to look for the memorial stained glass window which commemorates the martyrs who refused to acknowledge King Henry VIII as head of the church in England, they are three Carthusian monks and two priests. The monks had their charter house nearby on the land that was part of the Bishop of Ely’s land and palace. The church has been beautifully restored and is the site of a priceless relic, the hand of Saint Etheldreda.

The Temple Church is one of the most unusual of the medieval churches that survive in London. It is the church that is located right in the midst of the courts.  The round church is of particular interest having been built in 1185 by the Knights Templar.  Graves with effigies of the knights can still be seen in this church today.  The church was built in the round to resemble the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

A visit to these three churches will give you a good taste of what the medieval churches in London were like. They are all very different and give a glimpse into a time and place long past.

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