Places of worship
Bevis Marks is the oldest synagogue in Britain and has barely changed since the early 18th century. In the main room of the synagogue hang seven ornate brass and candelabra, one for each day of the week, but overall, with its original wooden seating and simple balconies, the interior is very simple and unadorned.
The site is a complex of Georgian and Victorian buildings located in a fine Georgian courtyard near the financial district of London. John Wesley’s chapel, his house and the Museum of Methodism are all on site for visitors to see.
One of the reasons to visit this unusual circular church in the middle of Soho is to see the simple murals by Jean Cocteau, the French playwright and actor. Inspired by the Art Sacré movement, they depict scenes from the Annunciation and Crucifixion in muted colours typical of the late 1950s.
In addition, look out for an Aubusson tapestry designed by George Saupique and the beautiful mosaic set in the side chapel altar.
This magnificent 13th-century priory church only became a cathedral at the start of the 20th century and is full of fascinating historic monuments.
One of the quietest parts of the building is the Harvard Chapel which commemorates John Harvard, the benefactor of the renowned American University, baptised here in 1607.
The Priory Church was founded in AD 1123. as part of a monastery of Augustinian Canons. The Priory was dissolved in 1539 and the nave of the Church was demolished. The monastic buildings were largely intact and the Canons’ choir and sanctuary were preserved for parish use.
Under Queen Mary, there was briefly a house of Dominican friars here, before it reverted to being a Parish Church under Queen Elizabeth I. Various parts of the building were damaged or destroyed through the centuries until the restoration began in the 19th century, first in the 1860s and then, under Sir Aston Webb, in the 1880s and 90s and on into the 20th century.
St Bartholomew the Great is a living church but it also attracts those of no particular religious belief because of its architecture and sense of history.
St Ethelburga’s exists to transform conflict and division into new relationships and peaceful communities. They see peace as not simply the cessation of conflict, but as an active, dynamic state in which people collaborate and cooperate with each other across differences of all kinds – including those of culture, religion, ideology, class and discipline. Their work explores and strengthens the values needed to move from conflict to cooperation: by creating a unique space for dialogue and encounter; by offering training (in group facilitation, conflict resilience, community reconciliation, and other tools such as narrative and story); by offering direct support to communities experiencing conflict and through music and the arts.
These strands are present within their projects, events, and services.
St Etheldreda’s is one of London’s hidden gems, a beautiful and historic building and the oldest Roman Catholic Church in England. The church is open every day, with regular Mass in English and Latin.
St Etheldreda’s boasts a fine musical tradition, and is available for weddings and baptisms.
Known as the ‘Actor’s Church’ because of its long association with the acting community, it is often used for performances, church services and weddings.
Not many people know about its small churchyard, however. In spring the pink cherry blossom trees are particularly beautiful in this quiet spot away from the crowds.
St Saviour’s Priory is one of the autonomous Houses which constitute the Society of St Margaret founded by John Mason Neale.
Exploring contemporary ways of living the Religious life, the community seeks, through a balance of prayer and ministry, to respond to some of the needs that arise amongst the marginalised in East London.
London Buddhist Centre teachs meditation and Buddhism in a way that is relevant to contemporary life.
You can learn to meditate at one of their drop-in meditation classes, by attending a meditation course or by going on retreat. They teach two Buddhist meditation practices, the Mindfulness of Breathing, which enhances our awareness and peace of mind, and the Metta Bhavana – the cultivation of loving-kindness.
The London Buddhist Centre runs regular introductory Buddhism courses where you can learn the essential message of the Buddha; a whole range of new yoga classes to for developing strength and flexibility and supporting your meditation practice and the also teach Mindfulness Based Approaches that help prevent relapse into depression and addiction and to manage stress and anxiety.