The parish church of St Katharine Cree was originally built in the grounds of Holy Trinity Priory in around 1280, and rebuilt between 1500-4, in the Late Gothic style, and again between 1628-31, this time in the Renaissance style. It was undamaged by the Great Fire of 1666, although later requiring restoration in 1878-9, and again, after being damaged by bombing in the Blitz of the Second World War, between 1956-62. The tower dates to 1500-4 (although the cupola is eighteenth-century), the porch to 1628-31, and the gateway to the churchyard, on Mitre Street, by William Avenon, to 1631.
The interior contains some Late Gothic elements, such as the east window, in the form of an elaborately stylised Katharine Wheel, and the intricately ribbed ceiling; and some Renaissance ones, such as the Corinthian columns in the nave.
It also contains monuments to Sir Nicholas Throgmorton (d. 1570), Bartholomew Ellnor (d. 1636) and Sir John Gayer (d. 1649), a marble font of around 1631, and a Father Smith organ of 1686, once played by Handel and Purcell (as well as some memorial plaques and a reredos salvaged from St James Duke’s Place).
The church is the home of the “Lion Sermons”, given each year on or around October 16th in remembrance of the aforementioned Merchant Adventurer of the Levant Company and former Lord Mayor Sir John Gayer being spared by a lion in Syria on that day in 1643.
It also has strong connections with the Royalist cause, from that same Civil War period. It was consecrated by Archbishop Laud, who went on to be executed in 1645 for his close association with Charles I, his persecution of Puritans, and his High Church views. It even contains a wooden statue of the former king, depicted as a martyr and saint.
This blog posting is part of my occasional series on all the City of London churches with surviving Medieval features. The others in the series are:
(One to follow – St Olave, Hart Street)