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In London? 3 Churches You Need to Visit

In London? 3 Churches You Need to Visit

One of the many church monuments in Great St. Helen's Church, Bishopsgate. | (PHOTO: DENNIS LENNOX)

London is full of historic churches that await your discovery.

Yes, St. Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey are the most famous, but there are dozens of other churches with both interesting architecture and rich history.

Many people are not familiar with these churches. They mostly belong to the Church of England (Anglican), but others are Roman Catholic. Some are even London outposts of foreign churches — like the Church of Sweden.

Here are three churches to visit the next time you are in London:

Great St. Helen's Church, Bishopsgate

Great St. Helen's Church has a history dating back to the early 13<sup>th century. It survived the ensuing centuries, including the Great Fire of 1666 and the German bombings of World War II, only to be heavily damaged by IRA terrorists in the early 1990s.

In addition to its unusual double nave — originally, one was used by Benedictine nuns while the other was the parish church for this part of the City of London — St. Helen's, Bishopgate has an impressive collection of church monuments scattered across its poorly reordered interior.

Church of St. James, Garlickhythe

Sir Christopher Wren designed the present-day St. James, Garlickhythe after the medieval church was lost in the Great Fire of 1666. His work was saved from annihilation during World War II when a 500-pound German bomb that crashed through the roof failed to explode.

The interior here is the big draw. Perhaps the finest feature is the superb 17<sup>th century double-decker pulpit, which includes a peg for the preacher to hang his wig.

Church of St. James-the-Less, Pimlico

Some of the churches that look old really aren't that old. St. James-the-Less, Pimlico is one of them.

Having been built between 1858 and 1861, it is the work of architect George Edmund Street. Street's design reflects the Victorian-era Gothic Revival architecture that was synonymous with churches built throughout the second half of the 19<sup>th century.

The polychrome brickwork of the exterior is easily overlooked thanks to the hustle and bustle of the road fronting the church's main entrance, which is through an Italian-inspired tower.

Inside is actually quiet — allowing you to appreciate the fresco by George Frederic Watts above the chancel arch, the carved pulpit and a baptismal font with an interesting iron canopy.

Spires and Crosses is published every week.