The Splendour Of London's Churches Revealed

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The Splendour Of London's Churches Revealed
The interior of St Clement Danes.

The Great Fire of London destroyed much of the old city, but it also set a blank canvas for rebuilding. Of all that came next, it is the churches of Christopher Wren that best symbolise this new beginning.

These beautiful buildings are explored in a new book by Angelo Hornak. After the Fire looks at the City churches of Wren, but also takes in the work of his distinguished contemporaries Robert Hooke, Nicholas Hawksmoor and James Gibbs.

The nave of St Paul's Cathedral.

The photography throughout the book is just stunning. Time and again, we're presented with new angles that make you wonder: is this actually London? Here, for example, is the under-appreciated dome and spire of St Stephen Walbrook:

The author clearly has an expensive zoom lens. How else to get so close to the dragon weather vane on top of St Mary-le-Bow? The red cross, all but invisible from the ground, represents the City of London.

The book also reminds us of the many rich interiors of the post-fire churches. Here, for example, is the ceiling of James Gibb's St Mary-le-Strand — a location not affected by the Great Fire, but rebuilt from 1714 during a follow-on wave of church building.

Not everything featured in the book is 17th or 18th century. Here, for example, is a more recent stained-glass window. The 1960s design by John Hayward can be found in St Michael Paternoster Royal, and shows Dick Whittington looking part Yorkshireman, part Timelord:

And who knew that there's a stained glass window commemorating the Proms concerts? It's found inside St Sepulchre, beside Newgate. Sir Henry Wood, who founded the Proms and is shown in the window, was organist at this church.

Nicholas Hawksmoor's legacy rivals that of Wren. His distinctive buildings echo through art and literature, from Hogarth's Gin Lane to Eliot's The Waste Land, and on to Iain Sinclair, Peter Ackroyd and Alan Moore. He's even inspired a chain of steak restaurants. Either by zoom lens or access to the roof, Hornak managed to capture this exceptional image of St George's Bloomsbury.

The book isn't just a sumptuous collection of ecclesiastical photography (though it is that, too), it also serves as a well-researched history of London in the decades after the Great Fire. The text packs just the right amount of detail without ever getting tedious, and is particularly good at pointing out similarities with buildings overseas that influenced Wren, Hawksmoor and co.

After the Fire by Angelo Hornak is out now from Pimpernel Press Ltd.

The roof of St Mary Aldermary.

Last Updated 02 August 2016