Another in the series on historic churches in the City of London …
By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of the City, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. To be precise, according to Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113.
St Katharine Cree was originally built in the grounds of Holy Trinity Priory in around 1280-1303, and subsequently rebuilt between 1500-4, in the Late Gothic style, and again between 1628-31, possibly by Inigo Jones, this time in the Renaissance style. The church was undamaged by the Great Fire of 1666, although nonetheless later required restoration in 1878-79, and again, after being damaged in the Blitz, between 1956-62.
The tower dates to 1500-4, much of the body of the church and 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 Throkmorton (d. 1570) 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 Mayor Sir John Gayer being spared by a lion in Syria on that day in 1643.
It has associations from that same Civil War period with the Royalist cause, and even contains a wooden statue of Charles I, depicted as a martyr and saint.
Archbishop William Laud, who reconsecrated the church in 1631, was executed in 1645 for his support of Charles, his High Church views, and his persecution of Puritans.