An illustration of St Bartholomew the Great, a Romanesque church from the 12th century Click the image to enlarge

If you do not ask yourself what it is you know, you will go on listening to others and change will not come because you will not hear your own truth.

— St Bartholomew 

Learn more about St Bartholomew the Great below...

History

The 12th Century church has had a colourful history originating back to 1123 when it was founded by Rahere, an entertainer at the court of Henry I. After recovering from a serious illness during his pilgrimage to Rome, he founded the Augustinian Priory along with a hospital in dedication to St Bartholomew who had appeared to him in a vision during his illness and remained the first prior of the church until his death in 1144.

From its beginnings, the priory was one of the most important monasteries and the second wealthiest in London. However, when the monastery was later suppressed in 1539 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, half of the church was destroyed by 1543. It went on to survive the Great Fire of London in 1666 and managed to go unscathed by the bombing during World War II. The church was eventually Grade I listed in 1950, and remains one of the most important examples, if not the only example, of a 12th Century monastic church in London.

Did you know?

St Bartholomew the Great has appeared in eight feature films, the most famous of them being Four Weddings and a Funeral. The church was the set for the film's fourth wedding between Charles (Hugh Grant) and Henrietta (Anna Chancellor).

The architecture

Today, the church appears as a mish-mash of styles with those ranging from the 16th–19th Century. Over the years, additions have been made to the church both externally and internally and little of the original 12th Century architecture actually remains.

From the street, there is a gateway with two timber-storeys above an arch that leads you into the forecourt of the church. From there, the western façade made of flint and Portland Stone with chequerwork can be seen.

The original building had a central nave with an apse at the eastern end, and was surrounded by a vaulted walkway which led to three chapels. At the end of the eastern apse today is the Lady Chapel, rectangular in plan and built in the 14th Century to replace the original.

During the Dissolution of the Monasteries, most of the church was destroyed including the nave, only the crossing and the area reserved for the clergy/choir managed to survive which later enabled the church to become a parish. The building is only half the size of what it was when first constructed, but it still has Romanesque characteristics inside with it's semi-circular arches and geometric decoration.

See images of St Bartholomew the Great