My hired tilt-shift lens gave me a good excuse to head into London today to continue my City Churches project. St. Michael Paternoster Royal, just a stone’s thrown from Cannon Street, was open today so I popped in to take a look.
Like so many of the churches in the Square Mile, it was burnt down during the Great Fire in 1666 and later rebuilt under the expert eye of Sir Christopher Wren. After being severely damaged again by a V1 rocket in 1944 it was rebuilt once again and reopened in 1968. Today it is both home to the Mission to Seafarers and the office of the Bishop of London.
Of course, St. Michael’s history dates back long before the Great Fire and there are records of a church on this site as long ago as the thirteenth century. In 1423, Richard Whittington (better known to most people as Dick Whittington), Lord Mayor of London was buried within the church. His body was dug up twice during the sixteenth century in the erroneous belief that he was buried with treasure. However, when a further search was made for his grave in 1949 all that was found was a mummified cat, buried in the tower. It would be lovely to believe this feline is the one featured in folk tales about Dick Whittington and his cat, but it’s thought it’s probably more likely to date from the time of Sir Christopher Wren’s rebuilding of the church in 1694.
One delightful addition, made during the 1960’s restoration, are the beautiful stained glass windows by John Hayward. One window near the back of the church features Dick Whittington and his cat. It’s certainly the only church window I recall ever seeing featuring a cat – a wonderful tribute to this notable feline, regardless of whether Whittington ever actually owned one!
21 December 2018