London has many historic churches, including some that survived the Great Fire of London.
Most are free to visit and provide a lovely place to rest from the noise of everyday London.
The Abbey was built by Edward the Confessor, and William the Conqueror was crowned in it on Christmas Day 1066.
Thousands of people are buried, or have their ashes interred, in it. Many others have plaques.
Those buried in the Abbey include
* Royalty – Henry III, Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, James I, Charles II
* Politicians – past British Prime Minsiters such as Pitt the Younger, Pitt the Elder, Chamberlain, Gladstone
* Poets and Writers – Chaucer, Jonson, Browning, Tennyson
In 1997, the funeral service for Diana, Princess of Wales was held there. (Though she is not buried in the Abbey.)
Nearest underground station: Westminster
St Paul’s was founded in 604. However, the present building, the fifth on the site, dates from 1675.
It is the second largest cathedral in the world, after St Peter’s in Rome.
Construction did not start until 10 years after the Great Fire, which destroyed the previous structure. This earlier building, begun in 1087, took 200 years to build and was even bigger than the present building, which took 35 years to complete.
The cathedral is the most famous work from London’s greatest architect, Sir Christopher Wren (who is buried in it.)
In 1981, the wedding of Charles and Diana took place here.
Other famous people buried in St Paul’s include Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington, whose monument took 56 years to complete.
Nearest underground station: St Pauls
There has been a church on the site of Southwark Cathedral for over one thousand years and the current building is the oldest building in Southwark.
The original church was founded by St Swithun in 860 and in the twelfth century it was known as the Church of St Mary Overie (“Overie” meaning “over the water”).
Inside the church there are two rounded Norman arches that survived the fire of 1213.
In 1616, when most of London’s theatres were in its vicinity, the then chaplain denounced those who “dishonour God by penning and acting in plays”.
Ironically, William Shakespeare’s brother, Edmund, who was an actor, is buried in the church.
And there is a statue of Shakespeare alongside a tablet dedicated to Sam Wanamaker, founder of the present Globe theatre.
The church became a Cathedral in 1905.
Nearest underground station: London Bridge
The name, Temple, derives from the Order of the Knights Templar, an order established in 1118 for protecting pilgrims.
(You may know of them as the knights who wore white tunics with red crosses on them.)
In 1162, the group built their first church and houses on the banks of the Thames. When the Templars were discredited in the 14th century, their property was leased to lawyers.
They continued as tenants until Henry VIII appropriated the property. In 1608, James I gave the freehold of the “inns” to the lawyers, on the condition they maintained it forever. Today, barristers continue to have their offices (known as chambers) at Temple.
Templars’ Church was built in the 12th century (though little of the original building remains).
Secret initiation ceremonies took place within its crypt and there are 13th century effigies of the Knights Templar in the nave.
Nearest underground stations: Temple, Embankment
St Mary-Le-Bow Church, in Cheapside, was designed by Sir Christopher Wren.
It used to house the Great Bell of Bow, of the nursery rhyme “Oranges and Lemons”, and it is claimed that when Whittington ran away from London he heard the bells ringing out and returned to the city.
Traditionally, anyone born within the sounds of the Bow bells is said to be a true cockney or Londoner.
Nearest underground stations: St Pauls, Mansion House
St Olave’s church near Fenchurch Street station dates from the fifteenth century, and survived the Great Fire mainly due to the efforts of the writer Samuel Pepys, who lived and worked nearby.
Pepys is buried in the nave of the church.
Other burials include Mother Goose, who was interred in 1586, and Mary Ramsey, the woman who it is claimed brought the plague to London in 1665.
The church was named St Ghastly Grim by Dickens in his story, The Uncommercial Traveller, because of the spikes and stone skulls overlooking its churchyard.
The churchyard also has a watch house from which bodysnatchers were chased away.
Nearest underground station: Tower Hill
This church near London Bridge on the north side was founded around 1067 and stood at the foot of the old London Bridge.
(In the churchyard lie some of the old stones from the bridge. )
As such, it was an important meeting place in medieval times.
The original church burnt down during the Great Fire and was re-built by Wren in 1676.
Nearest underground station: Monument
There was a church on this site during the time of the Romans.Some believe that St Bridget, an Irish saint, established the first Christian church on the site in the 6th century.
During the Great Plague of 1665, a plague pit was dug within the churchyard. Pepys mentions having to bribe the gravedigger in order to find room to bury his brother.
Today, most of the pews in the church are dedicated to Fleet street reporters and editors, and during John McCarthy’s captivity in the Lebanon in the 1990’s, allnight vigils were held here.
Nearest underground station: Blackfriars