Thursday, June 26, 2014

Southwark Cathedral

The first church on the exact sight where the current Southwark Cathedral is located, just south of London Bridge and the River Thames (near the Shard – the tallest building in Western Europe), is believed to have been in the 7th century. It is alleged that it was a community of nuns. In 1106, the church was founded by two Norman knights as a priory, living according to the rule of St Augustine of Hippo, dedicated to St Mary and later known as St Mary Overy ('over the river'). 

At the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, the last six canons were pensioned off, although they continued to live in buildings north of the church. The church itself became the property of King Henry VIII who rented it to the congregation. It was re-named St Saviour's, though the old name remained in popular usage for many years.
Tired of renting their church for worship, a group of merchants from the congregation, known as 'the Bargainers', bought the church from King James I in 1611 for £800. By this time the large parish church served a very colourful area, not only of merchants and minor courtiers, but also actors, foreign craftsmen, and the ladies from the Bankside brothels.

The church ministered to its parish throughout the 16th and 17th centuries and various repairs and alterations were made to the building. St Saviour's church became Southwark Cathedral in 1905. The diocese which it serves stretches from the Thames to Gatwick Airport, from Thamesmead in the east almost to Thames Ditton in the west. It has a population of two and a half million people, served by over 300 parishes.
Now, as a Cathedral, Southwark is once again (as in monastic days) a centre for a pattern of daily worship within the English cathedral music tradition. In addition to holding five services a day all year round, the Cathedral provides services for diverse diocesan groups varying in size and style of worship.

This is a fabulous church, depicting the beauty and richness of English ecclesiastical architecture. One of the interesting depictions within the cathedral is a beautiful map of Zimbabwe. This map welcomes rich and poor, powerful and weak, and people from near and far; Southwark Cathedral has a particular link with the Anglican Diocese of Masvingo in Zimbabwe. This map incorporates earth and materials from the country.

1 comment:

  1. Within its walls one can find the tomb of one of Anglicanism's holiest saints, Bp. Lancelot Andrewes, who spent five hours a day in prayer, with his tears often running down to blotch the ink on his own handwritten book of devotions. That book, the PRECES PRIVATAE (or Private Prayers of Lancelot Andrewes) has been a staple of the devotion of many Anglicans since his death in 1628.

    Fr. Reid Nelson Wightman, Missionaries of St. John, Anglican