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The Friday Photos: Wren Churches In The City

TimW
By TimW Last edited 64 months ago
The Friday Photos: Wren Churches In The City
A beautifully still shot of St Michael Paternoster Royal, by Brron
A beautifully still shot of St Michael Paternoster Royal, by Brron
Reflected glory - St Stephen Walbrook by tezzer57
Reflected glory - St Stephen Walbrook by tezzer57
A warm glow on St Mary-le-Bow, by Lux ex tenebris
A warm glow on St Mary-le-Bow, by Lux ex tenebris
St Margaret Patten, by Downtime_1882
St Margaret Patten, by Downtime_1882
A new bell being lifted into St Peter upon Cornhill, by curry15
A new bell being lifted into St Peter upon Cornhill, by curry15
A glimpse at St Mary Abchurch, by richwat2011
A glimpse at St Mary Abchurch, by richwat2011
A brooding shot of St Lawrence Jewry, by Brron
A brooding shot of St Lawrence Jewry, by Brron
Inside the wonderfully named St James Garlickhythe, by paulitzerPix
Inside the wonderfully named St James Garlickhythe, by paulitzerPix
The hacks' church - St Bride's, by KarenB Photos
The hacks' church - St Bride's, by KarenB Photos
A claustrophobic St Vedast Foster Lane, by TimW
A claustrophobic St Vedast Foster Lane, by TimW
The garden within the ruins of Christ Church Greyfriars, by tonybill
The garden within the ruins of Christ Church Greyfriars, by tonybill

In a neat segue from last week's Glass and Steel, this selection looks at some of the dozens of churches built by, or under the auspices of, Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London. Today these numerous and magnificent pieces of architecture, whether built of red brick or Portland stone, are hemmed in by the commercial buildings of the City (see St Margaret Patten, St Vedast and St Bride's, above).

The spires of Wren's churches once dominated views of London. Describing a painting of the 1680s in his seminal biography of London, Peter Ackryod writes about:

"The great steeple of St Mary-le-Bow... followed by that of St Clements Eastcheap and St Peter upon Cornhill, St Stephen Walbrook and St Michael Crooked Lane, as well as those of forty-seven other churches designed by Wren and his colleagues."

Just as Wren rebuilt churches of centuries standing after the Fire, many of his own buildings were damaged or destroyed in the Blitz and it is remarkable that so many survived. Even those that didn't, like Christ Church Greyfriars (last in the selection above) have been put to good use as public gardens.

Today, some face threats to their survival no less real (albeit less dramatic) than the Blitz. Decay, for example, is jeopardising the journalists' church, St Bride's (image nine). But whatever their usage, Wren's churches — like St Paul's towering above them — are as important to London as all the glass and steel in the world. All together now:

Oranges and lemons, Say the bells of St. Clement’s.
You owe me five farthings, Say the bells of St. Martin's.
...

With thanks to contributors to the Londonist Flickr pool for their images: Brron, tezzer57, Karenb Photos, Lux ex Tenebris, Downtime_1882, curry15, richwat2011, paulitzerPix and tonybill.

Last Updated 24 February 2012

Lisa Taylor

Nice to be reminded of how many there are, though sad to see them crowded out by nonentities. Being from Montreal, the first city Mark Twain visited "where you couldn't throw a brick without breaking a church window," spires resonate for me. Ours are still visible to some degree because most were built in poor areas - not prime skyscraper turf - and because the economy was so decrepit after the first English exodus that nobody built. Now that things are improving, though... 

For an interesting option for the City's churches, see this proposal to use belfries as art spaces: http://bit.ly/w6htYs

Inna Kovaleva

how beautiful ^__^