PIN St. Martin-in-the-Fields
London`s First Open Church
St Martin-in-the-Fields is an impressive Georgian church at the corner of Trafalgar Square where it has served as a landmark for centuries. From as far back as 1222, St Martin’s has enjoyed a reputation as innovator. It was the location of the first religious broadcast and was London’s first free lending library. Its musical tradition includes performances by Handel and Mozart, and the founding of the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields.
There are daily church services, and free music every weekday as well as ticketed evening concerts from Thursday-Saturday. Downstairs discover traditional brass rubbing; visit the Shop; see a free exhibition in the Gallery and enjoy a meal or a Wednesday Jazz Night in the Café in the Crypt, the Les Routiers UK Café of the Year.
This iconic London church can trace its history back to at least the early 13th century. Our first record of a church here comes from 1222 when the Bishop of London and the Abbot of Westminster argued over who had rights to it. The case was heard by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who sided with the monks of Westminster, and from that date the abbey became a staunch supporter
Although the ‘fields’ in the name might seem to be a bit of a misnomer within the context of modern London today – for many centuries it enjoyed the vista of green fields all around.
As London slowly expanded the area around the church became part of the great city sprawl. In 1542 Henry VIII rebuilt the medieval church, and extended its parish - mainly as a solution to stop plague victims being transported through the grounds of St. James Palace. Henry's church was enlarged again in 1607 by Prince Henry, son of James I. Over a hundred years later it survived the Great Fire of London, but was pulled down in 1721 to make way for the Georgian neo-classical building we see today.
The architect was James Gibbs, perhaps most well known for the Radcliffe Library in Oxford. Gibbs created a masterpiece, blending English Baroque and Palladian design to create a building that served almost as a template for churches and civic buildings for generations, both in Britain and abroad, particularly in the US.
One of the most influential vicars of St Martins was Dick Sheppard, vicar during World War One who made it ‘an open church’. He used the church to offer a haven for soldiers travelling to the conflict in France. His vision of St Martins as an instrument for an open community lasts to this day where visitors can enjoy this haven from the commotion of Trafalgar Square and beyond.
The interior is elegant simplicity, with beautiful plasterwork ceilings supported on slender classical columns. Both aisles are lined with galleries, and brass chandeliers add light to the already spacious interior. In the crypt is a popular cafe, but even if you are not hungry it is well worth descending the stairs to take in the beautiful stone and brick vaulting.
St Martin-in-the-Fields is one of the most beautiful classical churches in London, a wonderful example of 18th century architecture.
We attended this wonderful oasis of peace to attend one of the many lunch-time classical concerts. We enjoyed its wonderful lightness and space as well as it great acoustics.
How to get there
St Martin-in-the-Fields is on the north east corner of Trafalgar Square, and any bus bound for Trafalgar Square or Charing Cross Station will bring you to our door. Charing Cross tube is next to the church, and Embankment and Leicester Square are both a short walk away.
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