London – St Michael Cornhill

London church number 3 was St Michael, Cornhill, EC3V 9DS – website. There was a Saxon church on this site. It is recorded in a document of Evesham Abbey in 1055. The tower was rebuilt in 1421, and destroyed in the Great Fire. Rebuilt in 1669-72, with some debate about whether Wren was involved. The tower was rebuilt in 1715-22 in a Gothic style, later added to by Hawksmoor. Sir George Gilbert Scott carried out a major restoration between 1857-60 – so welcome to a Victorianised church.

Over the door, St Michael is disputing the body of Moses with Satan – which is not a legend I’d ever heard about. Apparently it is Jude 9 “But when the archangel Michael contended with the devil and disputed about the body of Moses, he did not dare to bring a condemnation of slander against him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” Apparently it is not mentioned anywhere else in Scripture – there are various odd websites with some very odd theories.

The War Memorial at the entrance is by R.R. Goulden – Michael the Archangel – and there other War Memorials inside. There must be an essay on how different companies memorialised their dead – would they have invited the widows to the unveiling?

Before we go any further, we must admire the church itself. Sit down, look up, and enjoy the atmosphere. (And ask yourself why the East Window has the light blocked out – I do hope this is only temporary).

There are a lovely selection of memorials. Imagine being in one place as long as Thomas Wrench or Harold Darke. As dad of Gareth who had a heart transplant, I still struggle with “what can I give him … give my heart”, but it is a lovely carol. (I made a total hash of singing Darke’s responses in Derby Cathedral the other week – the ignominy of finishing on one note, and hearing the Director of Music sing the right note! Sorry).

The website says that the earliest surviving reference to an organ here dates from 1459. “The present 63-stop, 3-manual instrument contains many pipes from Renatus Harris’s 2-manual west gallery organ, whose opening recital was given in 1684 jointly by Henry Purcell and John Blow (from Westminster Abbey) and G.B. Draghi (organist to Charles II’s Queen, Catherine)” – imagine being at that recital. “It has been enlarged and enriched by several leading English organ builders including Harris (1704), Green (1790), Robson (1849), Bryceson (1868), Hill (1886/1901), Rushworth and Dreaper (1925/61/75) and Nicholson(2010).” The church makes a lot of their musical tradition – wish I was close enough to go to Choral Evensong on Monday evenings (though I can always have the pleasure of the girls’ choir at Derby Cathedral most Mondays).  The organ tuners were in church today, which meant I could stick my camera through the open door!

I have no idea whether the angels in the roof were enjoying the organ tuning, or the Pelican in her piety above the font.

Finally enjoy the glass – lovely wise men.


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