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The Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great

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by Sandra Lawson (subscribe)
To paraphrase Dorothy: 'There is no place like London.' I hope I can convince you of that here. Also check out my blog at damselwithadulcimer.wordpress.com and my theatre reviews at www.playstosee.com
Published March 8th 2012
The Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great
Outside St Bartholomew's


I've visited many churches within the City of London, but have never had to say 'Wow' before now; such was the effect on me of St Bartholomew the Great. On passing through the Gatehouse it's obvious that you will be in for a treat, and then when you are greeted by Philip Stewart, the Resident Verger and Senior Doorkeeper, and Gordon Furry, the Second Verger and Doorkeeper, it's difficult not to catch their friendliness and enthusiasm.

The Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great
The Gatehouse


When they explain that there is no other church in London quite like this one, you begin to wonder what will be in store, but when you pass through the door in the Pulpitum and into the church you will find yourself gasping in amazement.

The Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great
Looking Down Towards the Sanctuary


The Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great
Turning Round to Face the Pulpitum


There is a sense of tranquillity and an aroma of old bricks and incense that are hard to ignore. The feeling of history is palpable and you can almost imagine you can still hear the monks singing as they went about their devotions before the Reformation.

The Priory Church was built in 1123 (during the reign of Henry I), and formed part of a monastery. Its founder was Prior Rahere, a former courtier of the king. He had fallen ill on a pilgrimage to Rome and made a promise to set up a hospital for the poor if he recovered. On his journey back to England he saw a vision of Saint Bartholomew, requesting him to found a church outside the city walls of London. He complied with this, building both an Augustinian Priory and a hospital, serving as both prior and master. He is buried in the church.

The Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great
The Tomb of Rahere


In 1539 Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, including St Bartholomew's, and under Elizabeth I it became a parish church. It doesn't boast any famous tombs or memorials, merely the baptism of William Hogarth, the artist, but will not fail to impress.

An interesting contrast in such an old church is the painting of the Madonna and Child by the artist, Alfredo Roldan. This was commissioned in 1998.

The Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great
Roldan's Madonna and Child


St Bartholomew's is also connected to several of the City livery companies, and has been featured in many films, including Four Weddings and a Funeral, Shakespeare in Love and The Other Boleyn Girl.

The Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great
Inside the Church


When the Priory was dissolved in 1539 the Cloister was lost, but eventually recovered early in the nineteenth century. You can now enjoy light meals or afternoon tea there, as well as monastic beers.

The Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great
The Cloister

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Why? It's a unique church in the City of London
When: Monday - Friday 08.30 - 17.00, Saturday 10.30 - 16.00, Sunday 08.30 - 20.00
Where: 6 Kinghorn Street, London, Greater London EC1A 7HW
Cost: 4.00
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