Rebels, Radicals and Rough Justice: Historic Clerkenwell
St Bartholomew the Great
Stop here and take a break while I tell you about the church. You might like to take a seat on one of the benches, or just sit on the lawn.
This church is called St Bartholomew the Great, and was founded in 1123 by Rahere, an Augustinian monk. Rahere was also said to be a jester at the court of King Henry I. While on a pilgrimage to Rome, he fell ill. In his delirium he saw a vision of St Bartholomew. He prayed to the Saint and promised to build a monastery and hospital in St Bartholomew's name if he survived and returned safely to London. When he died he was buried here. His grand tomb, constructed in the 1300s, can be seen near the altar inside.
The church is one of the few Norman churches left in London. Actually the original was much larger and stretched as far as the gateway you just came through. But St Bartholomew's monastery was dissolved by Henry VIII and the nave, which used to be where you are now, was demolished. The choir was left standing and now forms the basis of the present church. The imposing Norman columns and arches inside are an inspiring sight. The building is often used for films, including 'Four Weddings and a Funeral', 'Shakespeare in Love', and 'Elizabeth: The Golden Age'.
If you have time it is well worth visiting the church. An entrance fee is required.
Before you go, or if you’d like to get going now, let me show you where to go. Face away from the church. Then follow the path going straight through a gateway leading out of the churchyard.