St Bartholomew the Great

A number of years ago, I lived in London for a bit, working as a lay person in the University of London in the East End. They were much happier years than ever I expected them to be, notwithstanding the fact that I was exploring my vocation at the time, a process which was horrid.

In the course of all this, I belonged for a time to a church in the City. It was St Bartholomew the Great in Smithfield, the church about which there is a bit of a fuss this week. It is an astonishingly beautiful space inside, yet I never managed to figure out just why. The height, the collegiate seating, the apse just seem to come together in a way that is perfect. There is one of my favourite pictures of Mary in the Lady Chapel too. All in all, a treat.

It is the only church that I’ve ever belonged to which had exclusively prayer book services. Indeed, it was very establishment indeed – far from being a radical place at all.

My favourite recollection of the place was a day when I was due to meet the Rector for a chat. “We can’t meet in church,” he said. “I’ve let it out to a film company for the week. I don’t know what they are playing at. The film is sure to be a flop. Who on earth would go and see a film called something like Four Weddings and a Funeral?”


  1. Moyra says

    When I was doing my music/education degree, part of the course involved doing arrangements of well known tunes for school orchestras. One of my group did a lovely arrangement of “We’re walking in the Air” from “The Snowman”, and was told the the university adjudication panel it was a lovely tune, but it wouldn’t catch on.

  2. That particular film was known in the west of Scotland (allegedly) as “Five Co-Op purveys”. With apologies for those from further afield who speak English, not Glaswegian!

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