Yesterday saw St Martin-in-the-Fields reopen its revamped and expanded crypt cafe hot on the heels of Sunday's first church service for 90 weeks following a multi-million pound renewal and restoration project.
The 18th century landmark church, which opens onto Trafalgar Square, is dearly loved in London not only for just being there but for its fantastic concert programme. This includes jazz nights, classical evenings, free lunchtime concerts and the famous and atmospheric Concerts by Candlelight, which return this Thursday with London Musical Arts and the Orpheus Singers conducted by John Landor performing Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks and choruses from the Messiah. Allelujah!
St Martins is more than just an Anglican parish church with impeccable music taste, though. It also houses a homeless centre in its vaults and a Chinese community centre (there is also a regular church service in Cantonese) as well as running brass rubbing and hosting a gallery (closed until Spring 2008). People are often to be found seeking refuge from the busy London streets in its beautiful and tranquil space, probably why the church is sometimes called the "soul of London".
The renewal of St Martins was made possible partly by a huge grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund but also by an enormous fundraising effort and there's still about a further £4m to find for the completion of the project. You can support St Martin's-in-the-Field by "giving light" and sponsoring a pane of glass online. If you're lucky, you might win a celebrity inscribed pane to reward your efforts. We want Steven Fry's please.
You can visit St Martin-in-the-Fields newly reopened Church and Crypt now but do be tolerant of the builders who'll be around for a good few months yet.
Image courtesy of rbank's Flickrstream.