St Ethelburga Bishopsgate - The Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks

St Ethelburga Bishopsgate

• St Ethelburga by Bishopsgate is a rare survival of the medieval City churches that were mostly destroyed during the Great Fire in 1666. It is dedicated to St Ethelburga, a 7th century abbess of Barking; she was the sister of Saint Erkenwald, a Bishop of London. Its foundation date is unknown, but it was first recorded in 1250 as the church of St Adelburga-the-Virgin. The dedication to "-the-Virgin" was dropped in Puritan times but was later restored.

• The church was rebuilt in the 15th century, possibly around 1411 and a small square bell turret was added in 1775. In order to raise revenue for the church, whose parish covered just three acres a wooden porch was built over its exterior in the 16th century to house two shops. It underwent major changes in 1932, when Bishopsgate was controversially widened. The shops were demolished and the porch dismantled, revealing the façade of the church for the first time in centuries.

• It suffered modest bomb damage during the Blitz in World War II and was restored in 1953. In 1993, the church was half destroyed when a massive IRA bomb exploded nearby, devastating Bishopsgate. There was a proposal to demolish St Ethelburga's in the aftermath but, following a sustained public outcry, it was rebuilt to its original plan, though much changed internally.

• The church's tiny interior comprises a nave and aisle divided by an arcade. Most of the original fittings were destroyed by the 1993 bombing although they were, for the most part, not particularly historic as they dated from the early 20th century. One of the more notable survivals is the curious 19th century font, which is inscribed with one of the longest known palindromes, written in Greek: NIΨON ANOMHMATA MH MONAN OΨIN, which translates as "Cleanse [your] transgressions, not only [your] face".

• The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 4 January 1950; and its reconstruction retains the listing.

• The church now houses the St Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation and Peace. The Centre organises a programme of more than 100 public events a year exploring the relationship between faith and conflict, as well as inter-faith dialogue and training; over 20,000 people have attended its programmes. It is also used for private meetings to reconcile people in conflict.


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