St Bartholomew the Great

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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. 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. 

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The Augustinian Priory of St Bartholomew was built by Rahere, a courtier of  Henry I,  in 1123, and much extended and modified in the thirteenth to early sixteenth centuries, before being dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539, when the prior’s lodgings became Sir Richard Rich’s, and that part of the priory church that was spared demolition became  the parish church of St Bartholomew the Great (temporarily serving as a Dominican Convent under Mary). 

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The church was undamaged in the Great Fire of 1666, although nonetheless requiring to be restored by Aston Webb in 1884-1921, and also  undamaged in the Blitz, such that   much  of its ancient  fabric still survives. The west porch, with its characteristic dog-tooth mouldings, is early thirteenth-century, although incorporated into a later, late sixteenth-century, gate-house.  The brick tower is early seventeenth-century, dating to 1622-8. 

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The interior is darkly atmospheric and evocative. The nave is partly twelfth-century, and in the Norman Romanesque style, …

… and partly fourteenth-century, and in the later Medieval Gothic style; …

… and the oriel window, inscribed with Prior Bolton’s rebus of a bolt and tun, immediately post-Medieval, dating to 1509, and in the Tudor style.

The memorial to Rahere is  fifteenth-century; …

MIldmay memorial (1589)
Freshwater memorial (1617)
Cooke memorial (1652)

… numerous others,  sixteenth-  to seventeenth- century.  

The dedication of the priory to St Bartholomew was on account of Rahere’s recovery from malaria following a vision he had of the Saint.

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