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Southwark Cathedral, London

View all images in our Southwark Cathedral Photo Gallery.
Photo © Bruno Girin.

Southwark Cathedral in London has a long and illustrious history and is well worth a visit. Officially named the Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie, Southwark (pronounced "suth-ark") Cathedral lies on the south bank of the River Thames close to London Bridge.

History

There's been a church on this site, in the heart of London's first theater district, for more than a thousand years.

A Roman villa is believed to have occupied the site prior to that; in 1977 a well was discovered beneath the choir, which contained a pagan statue believed to have been put there in the fourth century.

The first conclusive proof of a church on the site is in the Domesday Book of 1086. Twenty years later in 1106, a new church named St Mary Overie ("St Mary's over the river") was founded by the knights William Pont de l'Arche and William Dauncey and served by Regular Canons of St Augustine.

In 1212, the original Norman church was almost completely destroyed in a fire. Successive buildings were also severely damaged. The present building dates from the 15th century and was partly rebuilt in 1890.

In 1424, James I of Scotland married Mary Beaufort at the St Mary Overie Church. During the reign of Mary Tudor, Stephen Gardiner, the Bishop of Winchester, held a consistory court in the retro-choir that condemned seven Protestants ("the Marian martyrs") to death.

In 1539, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, King Henry VIII closed the priory and made the main building a parish church called St Saviour. Less than a century later, in 1614, the parishioners became tired of paying rent for the church to the Crown and bought the church from James I. The new owners then renovated the church and appointed their own clergy.

In the 17th century, the great playwrights Williams Shakespeare and Geoffrey Chaucer worshipped at Southwark Cathedral. Shakespeare is believed to have been present when John Harvard, founder of the American university, was baptized here in 1607.

The parish church was given the status of cathedral in 1905, when it became the seat of the Anglican bishop of the new Diocese of Southwark.

What to See

The interior of Southwark Cathedral is relatively recent; it was begun in 1890 as part of the process of turning the parish church into a cathedral. But within the nave traces of the older churches can be seen. In the south aisle there are remains of the 13th-century arcading, while in the north aisle are the remains of two Norman doorways. A wooden effigy of a knight dates from 1275.

The north aisle also contains the colorful medieval canopied tomb of John Gower (d. 1408). Gower was the first English poet, court poet to Richard II and Henry IV and a close friend of Geoffrey Chaucer. A recumbent effigy of Gower adorns the tomb, his head resting on copies of his three greatest works.

Also of note is a monument to William Shakespeare, located beneath a stained glass window depicting characters from his plays. The monument consists of a recumbent alabaster figure of the Bard, set against a relief of 17th-century Southwark showing the Globe Theatre, Winchester Palace and the tower of the would-be cathedral.

Southwark Cathedral's cloister-style courtyard is on the site of the original cloister used when the cathedral was a riverside priory. The Millennium Project development to the north of the cathedral includes a refectory and a shop with specially commissioned Southwark products. The old and new buildings are separated by an ancient alleyway which has reopened as a glazed street called Lancelot's Link.

Festivals and Events

A Shakespeare birthday service is held annually at Southwark Cathedral.

Lunchtime concerts are regularly given on Monday and Tuesday; call for exact times and schedules.


Quick Facts on Southwark Cathedral

Site Information
Names:Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie; Cathedral Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie (southwark Cathedral); Southwark Cathedral; Southwark Cathedral, London
City:London
Country:England
Categories:Cathedrals
Faiths:Christianity; Catholic; Anglican; Augustinian
Styles:Gothic
Dates:15th C
Status:active
Visitor and Contact Information
Location:London, England
Coordinates:51.506133° N, 0.089567° W  (view on Google Maps)
Website:cathedral.southwark.anglican.org
Lodging:View hotels near this location
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

Map of Southwark Cathedral

Below is a location map and aerial view of Southwark Cathedral. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.

References

  1. Personal visits (2002; April 22, 2006).
  2. Southwark Cathedral - official website
  3. Southwark Cathedral - Wikipedia
  4. Southwark Cathedral - Frommers.com
  5. Southwark Cathedral Service - Mystery Worshiper

More Information

Article Info

Title:Southwark Cathedral, London
Author:Holly Hayes
Last updated:01/11/2010
Permalink:www.sacred-destinations.com/england/london-southwark-cathedral/england/london-southwark-cathedral
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