May 30, 2012 by The Editor
Living in London, it is easy to forget that the city is full of interesting and beautiful, sometimes surprising, sights. When you live somewhere, you get caught up in the affairs of daily life and work, and on the weekends sightseeing is not the first thing that comes to mind. But occasionally I get out and see something new. Recently a friend and fellow blogger suggested I visit St. Mary Woolnoth, a church in the City of London. He had read an article about it and was curious to know a bit more. So for this blog post, and we’ll say in honor of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, I post a few photos from my visit to St. Mary Woolnoth of the Nativity in the City of London.
The City is known today as the center of the financial industry in London, the United Kingdom, and is certainly one of the most important world markets in banking. It has a reputation as being the center of greed and conspicuous consumption with bankers taking home immense bonuses and salaries. You don’t have to be in London very long to understand the disparity not just between the rich and the poor, but also between the immensely wealthy, entitled class of men and women who populate this industry versus the just normally well-to-do and middle class.
London has long been a center for business and was also for a very long time (the center city) a place where people actually lived. That is not really the case today. It has a population of just over 10,000 people, while Greater London comes in at nearly 8 million. Nonetheless, religious and cultural institutions remain alongside the great banks of England and reach out to the workers who flood in on a daily basis. Many old churches can been seen in The City and they reflect its varied traditions and transformations.
St. Mary Woolnoth reflects the opulence of its location. Built in the 18th century, its gilded interior is ornate and well cared-for. The space is fairly small. It would probably accommodate 200 people snuggly. Incongruously two flat screen TVs grace the altar. I’m not sure why. Possibly to help lead singing?
At the entrance to the church, on either side of the vestibule, are two large placards, seen below. One is a Table of Fees, the other a Table of Charities.
Also incongruously, set off to the side in a dark corner, is a simple statue of the Virgin with Child. The gentle folds and soft hues of the sculpture are at odds with the cold stone and glittering decor of the sanctuary.
Built on a site said to have been a pagan temple in ancient times, the church is just steps outside the Bank tube station. Visitors to The City might find the massive exteriors of the banking infrastructure reason enough to not spend much time there. But St. Mary Woolnoth is an example of what you might find on a visit, along with many other similarly interesting sites tucked into unexpected courtyards and narrow lanes throughout the Square Mile.