Monday, February 15, 2021

Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie (Southwark Cathedral)

London The Unfinished City
Cathedral Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie (Southwark Cathedral).

Southwark Cathedral dominates the area around London Bridge, Bankside and sits right next to Borough Market.

It is a remarkable building that is gradually being swamped by other buildings in the area. One of the best ways to get to see the building in all of its glory, besides going inside, is to look down on it from The Shard.

If you are ever in the area then it is well worth exploring the building and its history, in which it is steeped. But, you must remember it is a working building, so entry may be refused on special occasions, so check their website or signage before visiting.

Brief History

The Cathedral Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie is the 4th church to have been built on this site. Fire having destroyed the three previous churches. 

Parts of the building date from the 7th century, with St Swithun, the Bishop of Winchester, rebuilding the church and adding a monastery, which replaced an earlier convent, in the 9th century.

These buildings were again rebuilt in the 12th century, by the Augustinian Canons, who also built St Thomas's Hospital.

There are a few traces of the Norman Priory church that survive to this day, plus some 13th century parts.

Fire, once again, destroyed the church in 1206, with construction on on the new church beginning in 1220 in a Gothic style. It is now the oldest Gothic church in London.

Following more fire damage, in 1385, the Bishop of Winchester, Cardinal Beaufort, helped to finance the restoration of the building. In 1424 Beaufort's niece, Joan Beaufort, married James I, King of Scotland at the church.

In 1469 the stone-vaulted roof of the nave collapsed and was rebuilt in wood.

In 1539 the Priory was suppressed and handed to Henry VIII, at the reformation, with St. Mary Overie becoming the parish church of St Saviour, Southwark.

In 1614 the parishioners bought the church from James I and it is with them that the property would remain.

During the English Civil War St Saviour's escaped damage and its new tower was finished by 1689.

London The Unfinished City
Southwark Cathedral.

Sometime, in the early 19th century, some extensive and much needed repair work was carried out on the choir and tower. The wooden roof, of the nave, was taken down in 1831, leaving it open to the elements, resulting in the walls being demolished in 1840.

In 1890, it was decided that a Cathedral church was needed for the rising population, south of the River Thames, with St Saviour's being the top choice. With the Prince of Wales laying the foundation stone, work swiftly began on the building. At the same time the boundaries of the medieval sees were being reorganised, with Southwark transferred from the See of Winchester to the See of Rochester.

In 1897 St Saviour's became the Cathedral of South London, with Edward Stuart Talbot being enthroned as the 1st Bishop of Southwark, in 1905.

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