Gothic gem at London’s southbank: Southwark Cathedral

During my stay in London I visited several churches, but Southwark Cathedral deserves a dedicated blog. This beautiful building is hemmed in between several very modern buildings and streets, but is not to be overlooked by medieval history fans.

Officially known today as the Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St. Saviour and St. Mary Overie, it stands at the oldest crossing point at the Thames. References go back as far as the Domesday Book of 1086, although it is believed there was a community on this site long before that in the 7th century.

In 1106 it was refounded by the Bishop of Winchester as an Augustinian priory. It was dedicated to St. Mary, and later became known as St. Mary Overie (‘over the river’). During the reign of Henry VIII the building was rented to a congregation, after the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1539). In the 17th century a group of merchants bought the church from King James I for a mere £800. It served as a parrish not only to merchants, but also courtiers, actors, craftsmen and the (in)famous ladies of the Southwark brothels. In 1905 it became Southwark Cathedral and now consists of 300 parishes in the London area.

If it ever was the goal to design a Gothic cathedral to capture the divine light, it was certainly achieved here. Today I was lucky enough to see the winter sunrays cast a beautiful light through the arches. After I was welcomed by a lovely lady of the church and purchased a £1 photograph permit, I was captivated by the lightfall. Simply divine, isn’t it?

Beautiful lightfall shines through the Southwark Cathedral arcs ©MedievalMonologues

In the north choir aisle you will find a wooden effigy for a knight, carved in minute detail. Usually carved from stone, it is similar to effigies of the period of ca. 1280 considering his mail coat and coif. His identity is unknown, but it could be a member of the Warenne family who had strong ties to the church. This lonely knight’s effigy is in excellent condition.

Wooden effigy for a knight ca. 1280 ©MedievalMonologues

The most famous resident to have lived in Southwark has his own memorial: William Shakespeare. Even dear Will is happy that it’s almost spring again. He is holding fresh twigs in his hand and is contemplating a sonnet on summer, untill he can compare thee to a summer’s day and rough winds shake the darling buds of May.

William Shakespeare memorial in Southwark Cathedral ©MedievalMonologues

This was a £1 well spent, it was a very good day for taking photographs, even with my phone. I would like to invest sometime in a real camera, but that’s going to cost me a lot more than £1!

>> Take the tube to London Bridge station and walk through Borough Market – a fabulous and busy foodmarket. After your visit take a stroll along the Southbank area to see great Thames views and landmarks. <<

Southwark Cathedral as seen from the garden against the blue winter sky © MedievalMonologues