Southwark Cathedral London: the city’s church south of the Thames

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Address: London Bridge, London SE1 9DA

The Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie – better known as Southwark Cathedral – stands on the south bank of the River Thames just a stone’s throw from London Bridge. There is thought to have been Christian worship on the site since 606AD, although the existing church only became a cathedral in 1905 when the diocese of Southwark was created.

Southwark Cathedral LondonThe cathedral stands at the oldest crossing point of the tidal Thames, at what was – for many centuries – the only entrance to the City of London across the water. This meant it was not merely used as a place of worship, but it offered shelter and refuge to many people – from princes to paupers – arriving in the capital from the south.

The cathedral is built around the Gothic structure put in place between 1220 and 1440, when St Saviour’s was the church of an Augustinian priory. It became a parish church following the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, and was granted cathedral status just over a century ago. Many generations of worshippers have passed through its doors over the years, while others now come to view the cathedral’s wonderful architecture and learn a little more about the Christian faith.

Opening times at Southwark Cathedral

Southwark Cathedral is open to members of the public every day of the week from 08:00. Closing times vary according to each day’s service schedule.

Services at Southwark Cathedral

On a typical day, there are five different services, each of which attracts a diverse congregation featuring people of many different ages and ethnic backgrounds. The Cathedral Chapter is committed to being an ‘inclusive church’, meaning it is open and welcoming to all comers, regardless of background and orientation.

A typical Sunday schedule at Southwark Cathedral is as follows:

  • 08:45: Morning Prayer
  • 09:00: Eucharist
  • 11:00: Choral Eucharist
  • 15:00: Choral Evensong
  • 18:00  Special Service – different themes

A typical midweek schedule at Southwark Cathedral is as follows:

  • 08:00: Morning Prayer
  • 0815: Eucharist
  • 12:30: Midday Prayer
  • 12:45: Eucharist
  • 17:30: Evening Prayer

Southwark Cathedral is also a popular venue for concerts, graduation ceremonies and special services of all kinds. These include consecrations, memorials, celebrations, school and college concerts and carol services. Regular organ recitals are held on Monday lunchtimes and Tuesday afternoons.

Music at the cathedral

There are three different choirs at Southwark Cathedral. The main Cathedral Choir is supported financially by the St Olave’s & St Saviour’s Schools Foundation, allowing talented girls and boys to be drawn from across London. There are six lay clerks in the Cathedral Choir and up to six choral scholars at any one time.

Since 2004, the Merbecke Choir has also found a home at Southwark Cathedral. It is designed for singers who leave the Cathedral Choir and also other young choristers who want to continue their development as musicians. The choir sings Compline on the 4th Sunday of each month and also performs seasonal concerts.

The third choir is made up of enthusiastic local people, who can join the Thursday Singers without the need for an audition. The group sings at all Festival Eucharists which fall on a weekday, plus one service of Choral Evensong during most terms.

Taking a tour of the cathedral

Visitors wishing to undertake a tour of the cathedral without attending a church service can pay an entry fee and explore at their leisure. Cathedral Guides – who can be identified by a purple neck ribbon – are occasionally on duty and are available to conduct individual tours. A printed guide book can also be purchased upon arrival, offering additional information about the history of the church and the features contained within the building.

The cathedral shop is located on the north side of the building, facing the river. Accessible from Lancelot’s Link and the Millennium Courtyard, it stocks a range of Bibles, common worship materials, gifts and greeting cards. The shop opens between 10:00 and 17:30 between Monday and Saturday, and between 10:00 and 16:00 on Sundays.

Parking nearby Southwark Cathedral London

There are a number of car parks within walking distance of Southwark Cathedral London, including:

  • Union Car Parks at 53 Southwark Street, Bankside (3-minute walk)
  • Thames Exchange NCP, Bell Wharf Lane, off Upper Thames Street (4-minute walk)
  • Q-Park Bucklesbury House, 4 Walbrook, City (9-minute walk)
  • Union Car Park, Great Suffolk Street (11-minute walk)

Tube stations close to Southwark Cathedral London

For visitors arriving by Tube, the closest stations to Southwark Cathedral are:

  • London Bridge on the Jubilee and Northern lines (3-minute walk)
  • Borough on the Northern Line (8-minute walk)
  • Southwark on the Jubilee Line (13-minute walk)

The closest mainline railways station to Southwark Cathedral is London Bridge, which is approximately a three-minute walk away.

 

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