St Michael Paternoster Royal

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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 Michael Paternoster Royal, College Street (reversed “3”  on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built in around 1219, and subsequently rebuilt in 1409.  In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow described it as a “fair parish church … new built, … by Richard Whittington, mercer, four times mayor”, alongside “a college of St. Spirit and St. Mary … for a master, four fellows, masters of art, clerks, conducts, chorists &c., and an almshouse called God’s House, or hospital, for thirteen poor men”. He also noted that “[t]his Richard Whittington was in this church three times buried: first by his executors under a fair monument [in 1423]; then in the reign of Edward VI. [1547-53], the parson … , thinking some great riches … to be buried with him, caused his monument to be broken, his body to be spoiled of his leaden sheet, and again a second time to be buried; and in the reign of Queen Mary [1553-58] the parishioners were forced to take him up, to lap him in lead as afore, to bury him the third time, and to place his monument … over him again, which remaineth, and so he resteth”. Other noteworthy burials included those of “Sir Heere Tanke, or Hartancleux, knight of the garter, born in Alemayne, a noble warrior in Henry V. and Henry VI. days [1413-22 and 1422-71, respectively]”, and “Sir John Yong, grocer, mayor 1466”.

The church was burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, and rebuilt again by Wren between 1686-94.  It was modified in the eighteenth century,  when the steeple was added, and again in the nineteenth, damaged  by bombing in 1944, and repaired in 1966-68.   

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Many  of the interior  fittings were salvaged from All Hallows the Great, including the statues of Moses and Aaron flanking the reredos, the carved figure of Charity on the lectern, and the brass chandelier.  

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The stained-glass window in the south-west of the nave depicts Dick Whittington and his cat, and the streets of London paved with gold.

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