"St. Bartholomew the Great." Top 5 Page for this destination Historical Tip by Regina1965
Historical, London: 218 reviews and 550 photos
Favorite thing: St. Bartholomew the Great is London´s oldest surviving parish church, according to their website. I don´t like paying for visiting churches, but since I was visiting all the City churches I paid the small fee of GBP 4 to visit St. Bartholomew the Great. It was so worth it, it is a beautiful church with a long history.
St. Bartholomew the Great or the Priory Church was founded in 1123 by Prior Rahere as an Augustinian priory. He was the founder of the Priory and the St. Bartholomew Hospital, opposite the street from the church. His tomb is by the High altar of the church with an effigy dressed as an Augustinian canon. This church has been in continuous use since 1143.
Prior Rahere was also a courtier to King Henry I. St. Bartholomew the Great is known for its curative powers - dating back to when Prior Rahere went on a pilgrimage to Rome and caught a fever. He made a vow that he would build a hospital for the poor if he got better. He recovered and on his way back St. Bartholomew (one of the apostles) appeared to him with a message that he should build a church on this exact spot. People visit the church to get healed and on St. Bartholomew day - the 24th of August - sick people flock to the church.
In 1539 under the law of Henry VIII the church was dissolved and half of it was demolished.
St. Bartholomew the Great escaped, as it were, the Great Fire of London in 1666 and both WW1 and WW2 - amazing really as so many of the City churches got hit hard by the Fire and the World Wars. Fortunately the wind shifted and the church was saved.
The known William Hogarth was baptised in the church in 1697 in one of two pre-Reformation fonts, which still exist, dating back to 1405.
There are several tombs and memorials in the church, the tomb of Sir Walter and Lady Mary Mildmay, the monument of Percival and Agnes Smallpace, the monument to John and Margaret Whiting and the monument to Sir Robert Chamberlayne dating back to 1615.
The woodwork in the west side of the church is so beautiful - above it is the organ. In front is the the Great Lectern, which is made out of ancient timber from the old Lady Chapel.
Fondest memory: There is a chapel in the church called the Lady Chapel, dedicated to Mary. It has an interesting history as for centuries it was used for other purposes than a chapel - from 1539-1880 it was used as a house - a printery in which Benjamin Franklin worked - and finally as a lace factory. From 1896 it has been used exclusively as a chapel. There is a lovely painting of Madonna and Child from 1998 in the chapel. I just couldn't tear myself away from it :)
St. Bartholomew the Great has been a film location for various popular films, such as Four Weddings and a Funeral (the 4th wedding was filmed here), Sherlock Holmes, Shakespeare in Love, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, Amazing Grace, The Other Boleyn Girl, Jude, Elizabeth: The Golden Age - and The End of Affair.
St. Bartholomew the Great is located in West-Smithfield in the City of London next to the St. Bartholomew Hospital and St. Bartholomew the Less church. Opposite the street is Smithfields Meat Market. If you look up the street "Little Britain" then it is next to the church. It is kind of hidden away, as the entrance to the church was changed and it looks like a fairytale house, or something out of a Dicken's tale. This house is what attracted me to have a further look - I had no idea that there was such a remarkable church here.
This is what I love about the churches in London, apart from being such gems, then I learn about London's history through these precious churches.
A highly recommended visit.
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