Clerkenwell – Part 3

It’s true that all this talk of history (particularly history beyond the 18th Century) is a bit bewildering for us from the New World, but I suppose even the 12th Century pales in comparison when you look at things from a geological point of view. We’re not getting into geology quite yet, but we are heading back to the 12th Century. Through this Tudor gate is the oldest church in London.

Priory Gate

St Bartholomew the Great

St Bartholomew the Great church isn’t really in Clerkenwell, but in the neighbouring parish of Smithfield. It was built as part of an Augustinian Priory, way back in 1143 – that’s a mere 77 years after the Norman Invasion, in the time of King Stephen (that’s the bad dude in Pillars of the Earth). From the outside, you can tell that it’s an old build by the handmade mortar, full of shells and other bits and pieces, and by the flint stones that were used.

St Bartholomew the Great

From the inside, it’s pure Norman architecture – simple and elegant. Even though it’s been built up and fixed up quite a bit in its time (due to fires and in the Great Wars, bombings), one can’t mistaken it for anything but a medieval church. Unsurprisingly, it’s a sort-after location for period dramas. It’s very easy to imagine bald monks and knights and lords worshipping here.

St Bartholomew the Great

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