Founded in 1123, the Priory Church of St. Bartholomew the Great (more commonly known as Great St. Bart's) is one of the oldest churches in London. It is also a movie star, having appeared in the films Four Weddings and a Funeral, Shakespeare in Love and The End of the Affair.
History of the Church of St Bartholomew the Great
The Church of St. Bartholomew was found in 1123 by Rahere, a prebendary of St Paul's Cathedral and later an Augustinian canon, who is said to have erected the church in gratitude after recovering from a fever. Rahere's miraculous recovery contributed to the church becoming known for its curative powers, with sick people filling its aisles each St Bartholomew's Day (August 24).
Great St. Bart's was originally part of a priory adjoining St Bartholomew's Hospital, but while the hospital survived the Dissolution about half of the priory church was demolished in 1543. The nave of the church was pulled down (up to the last bay) but the crossing and choir survive largely intact from the Norman and later periods and continued in use as the parish church.
The church escaped the Great Fire of London in 1666, but fell into disrepair, becoming occupied by squatters in the 18th century. The Lady Chapel at the east end had been previously used for commercial purposes and it was there that Benjamin Franklin served a year as journeyman printer. The north transept had formally been used as blacksmith's forge.
Great St. Bart's was restored and rebuilt by Aston Webb in the late 19th century. During Canon Edwin Sidney Savage's tenure as Rector the church was further restored at the cost of more that £60,000. St. Bartholomew was one of relatively few City churches to escape damage during the Second World War.
Today, the Church of St. Bartholomew the Great is an active Anglican church and important architecture monument. In recent decades it has become a popular site for film location, appearing in such movies as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Shakespeare in Love, The End of the Affair, Amazing Grace, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and The Other Boleyn Girl.
What to See at the Church of St Bartholomew the Great
The entrance to the church from Smithfield now goes into the churchyard through a tiny surviving fragment of the west front, which is now surmounted by a half-timbered Tudor building. From there to the church door, a path leads along roughly where the south aisle of the nave was.
Inside is the most intact Norman interior in London, with a suitably ancient atmosphere. The remains consist of a transept crossing, chancel, and ambulatory with large round pillars. The low, wide side aisles have groin vaults. Parts of the cloister also survive, but very little trace survives of the rest of the monastic buildings.
Quick Facts on the Church of St Bartholomew the Great
|Names:||Church of St Bartholomew the Great · Great St. Bart's · St. Bartholomew the Great · The Priory Church of St. Bartholomew the Great|
|Categories:||churches; parish churches; Grade I listed buildings|
|Dates:||12th, 14th cent.|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||51.518905° N, 0.099574° W|
|Address:||SBG Parish Office, 1st Floor, 6-9 Kinghorn Street|
|Phone:||020 7606 5171|
|Hours:||Mon-Fri 8:30am-5pm (closes 4pm Nov-Feb), Sat 10:30am-4pm; Sun 8:30am-8pm|
Closed during services.
|Lodging:||View hotels near the Church of St Bartholomew the Great|
- Personal visit (June 25, 2007).
- The Priory Church of St. Bartholomew the Great - official website
- St. Bartholomew-the-Great - Wikipedia (some text used under GFDL)
- St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield, London - a very thorough personal webpage
- Photos of the Church of St Bartholomew the Great - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of the Church of St Bartholomew the Great, London
Below is a location map and aerial view of the Church of St Bartholomew the Great. 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.