An occasional saunter through the churches of the Square Mile                                
        An occasional saunter through the churches of the Square Mile

                                 
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          St Katherine Cree                                          
          St Katherine Cree                                    
         
This is a very unusual church for London, unusual for England, for it was one of the very few churches to be built during the Laudian years at the start of the 17th Century. More than this, it can proudly claim that the new church was consecrated by Archbishop Laud himself. Even more, the vestments he wore and the ceremony he oversaw on the occasion were both used in evidence against him at his trial before he was summarily beheaded by the Puritans. You don't get a much higher pedigree than that.

Under the circumstances then, it is perhaps a little disappointing that the church is rather traditional, rebuilt on the exact foundations of its medieval predecessor, and perhaps doesn't really reflect what we know of Laudian worship at all. As Elizabeth and Wayland Young observed, it answers no questions about its time, informing one only that it was a time of change and indecision. The same may be said of the almost exactly contemporary church of St John in the city of Leeds in Yorkshire.

The dedication is an abbreviation of St Katherine Creechurch or Christchurch, for this was the site of the Augustinian Priory of Holy Trinity Aldgate, the parish of which was known as Christchurch. The people of the parish used the Priory church, which the monks seem to have found something of a nuisance, so in the 14th Century they gave the parish its own church, which Simon Bradley suggests may have been the former cemetery chapel. As the parish of Christchurch had been made up of four earlier medieval parishes, the new church took its dedication from one of them, St Katherine.

At the dissolution the parish was offered the Priory church, but they turned it down, probably because it was in a poor state of repair, or perhaps they were merely proud of the new tower built against their own church some thirty years earlier. Instead, St Katherine Cree was rebuilt against the tower, and consecrated in 1628. The floor was raised up higher than the old church, the ceilings vaulted, the east window in its Catherine wheel style one of the most memorable in London. The church survived the Great Fire, and Samuel Pepys described how it was used by the Corporation as a meeting place in the days after it. This part of Leadenhall Street survived the Blitz, and so St Katherine Cree remains in all its singularity.

Simon Knott, December 2015


location: Leadenhall Street 3/033
status: working church in parish of St Olave Hart Street
access:

St Katherine Cree St Katherine Cree St Katherine Cree St Katherine Cree

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          home   index   map   latest   e-mail   about this site   resources   small print   simonknott.co.uk   norfolkchurches.co.uk   suffolkchurches.co.uk
     
An occasional saunter through the churches of the Square Mile
                               
        An occasional saunter through the churches of the Square Mile