London's churches throw open doors to welcome Olympics

Posted Jul 16, 2012

[Diocese of London] Visitors to the 2012 Olympics will be able to escape one of the busiest periods the capital has ever seen by exploring its rich Christian heritage. The Diocese of London has published a guide to walking tours of the city’s places of tranquillity, prayer and historic interest. All over London, churches will open their doors to visitors throughout the Games.

Available both as a free download and as a full colour booklet available free of charge from participating churches, ‘Faith Walks’ comprise six trails starting out from Olympic venues. More than 40 churches are participating and will be open to the public all day throughout the duration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Some of them are famous London sights in tourist hotspots, such as St Martin-in-the-Fields and St James, Piccadilly. Others are hidden jewels that have never been open regularly before; they will surprise and delight even Londoners who think they know their city well.

Spanning every period in English architecture, all of them are a proud testament to the capital’s astonishing heritage and the fascinating, ongoing story of its diverse communities.

Some of London’s most venerable buildings will be sporting QR codes: on two of the walks, visitors will be able to use them to download information from the Bible Society revealing how Christianity has helped to shape the city and its history.

The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, welcomed the launch of the guide, saying:

“Visitors and Londoners, this summer the capital’s huge variety of churches stand ready to make you welcome. All of them are lively places of worship but they are at the same time community hubs treasure houses of memory. This booklet is an aperitif. I hope you will go and enjoy the main course.”

‘Faith Walks’ is available to download.

Among the sites highlighted in Faith Walks are:

  • St Leonard, Shoreditch: a Georgian gem with superb rococo carving, used to film the BBC TV series ‘Rev.’
  • St Dunstan, Stepney: one of the most ancient churches in London, located in the middle of the Cockney heartlands
  • All Souls, Langham Place: the BBC church, right next door to Broadcasting House and known the world over thanks to the services that have been transmitted from there
  • The Grosvenor Chapel: the Grosvenor estate church where General Eisenhower was a regular during World War II and ‘Love, Actually’ was filmed.
  • St Clement Danes: designed by Sir Christopher Wren and famous from the nursery rhyme ‘Oranges and Lemons’, since reconstruction after devastation in World War II the RAF church
  • St Patrick, Soho Square: a Victorian-era Italian-style Catholic church, recently magnificently restored and ministering to the most vibrant part of the West End.