Tourists travel from all over the world to European destinations for their impressive cathedrals! Think the Notre Dame in Paris, Milan Cathedral, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin and St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and most avid travellers will start to get itchy feet.
Although London has its share of wonderful cathedrals that are very much worth visiting, many of these don’t tend to get a huge amount of attention because the capital is laden with other things to do and see. So, for devout religious followers, history buffs and tourists who simply love to look at stunning buildings, here is a list of places in London that should be on your itinerary.
St Sophia’s Cathedral
Located on Moscow Road in the beautiful Bayswater area of London, St Sophia’s Cathedral is a hidden gem not to be missed. A Greek Orthodox Church which was consecrated in 1882 by the Archbishop of Corfu, it served the Greek community that settled into the Paddington, Notting Hill and Bayswater areas of the capital.
It had cost £50,000 to build St Sophia, and this amount was raised gradually over three years from the prosperous Greek community. The style of the architecture is one of Byzantine Revival, and the renowned architect John Oldrid Scott had been appointed to design the building. Scott had built up a reputation for designing important churches in England at this time.
Don’t let the modest façade of St Sophia fool you. Although the exterior features a simple domed roof and plain arch windows, the interior is lavishly decorated with polychromatic marble. The interior walls are not painted with frescos as you might expect – due to the damp conditions in London, it was decided that Byzantine-inspired mosaics would be more suitable.
The Cathedral recently opened a small museum to display some of the treasured donations it received by its 19th century patrons. If you love a bit of history, this collection is definitely worth your while.
The Bayswater area itself is peaceful and is incredibly popular with tourists because it makes a perfect base from which to explore the capital. Since hotels near Bayswater tube station are plentiful, you will have a range of options whether your main priority is comfort or to keep costs down.
If you are staying in a hotel near Bayswater tube station, then getting to the other churches and cathedrals featured in this article will be easy, as you can rely on the London Underground combined with minimal walking.
One of the most famous churches in the capital is no doubt the Westminster Abbey. Dating back to the 11th century, the Abbey is an early English Gothic Church located west of the Houses of Parliament. It has an impressive façade and sits magnificently next to the River Thames. The Abbey has been the place for the coronation for all English monarchs (with the exception of two) since the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066.
Apart from being a place of immense historic, religious and cultural significance to the people in England, the Westminster Abbey also contains numerous chapels and tombs of royals. It also features a “Poet’s corner” where famous writers are commemorated.
St Martin in the Fields
Those who are taking a wander around Trafalgar Square will come across St Martin in the Fields in the North-East corner. The Parish church of Buckingham Palace, St Martin in the Fields is an Anglican church which features a mix of classical and Baroque style. It boasts stunning stained glass inside, as well as a café in the crypt which hosts jazz evenings.
St Paul’s Cathedral
Another frequently photographed landmark in the capital, St Paul’s Cathedral is a Renaissance style Church of England cathedral. The building is vast, and features a central dome which has a height of 108 metres. The dome was based on St Peter’s Basilica in Rome and actually contains 3 domes, one within the other.
The magnificent exterior of St Paul’s Cathedral is matched by its opulent and ornate interior. For visitors with a penchant for architecture, the Whispering Gallery at the base of the dome poses a lot of interest because a whisper made against the wall at any point around the circumference of the gallery can be heard by a listener with an ear against the wall of the same gallery.
The crypt is another point of interest as it houses tombs and memorials to famous people including the Duke of Wellington and Horatio Nelson. It also boasts a shop as well as a restaurant for those who want a souvenir or a quick bite.
The oldest cathedral church building in London, the Southwark Cathedral is situated on the south bank of the River Thames, next to London Bridge. The building has an interesting history, which has been documented and displayed throughout the cathedral.
In terms of historical significance, the retro-choir at the eastern end was the scene of the Protestant martyr trials during the reign of Mary Tudor. The main building is mostly gothic dating from 1220 to 1420.
All Hallows by the Tower
An Anglican church dating back to 675AD, All Hallows by the Tower is the oldest church in the City of London. The church overlooks the Tower of London, but has been largely rebuilt, although Saxon details can still be seen inside. You can get to All Hallows easily by travelling to Tower Hill or Monument Underground stations then taking a short walk.