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Southwark Cathedral

Southwark Cathedral (59)

Situated on the south bank of the Thames, very near to London Bridge, this cathedral stands out in its proud Gothic style amidst buildings, markets and railway tracks.

It had the status of a church until 1905 when the Anglican diocese of Southwark was created and, with the aim of it becoming the headquarters of the bishopric, became a cathedral. 

Although it is known that the church began to be built in the 12th century, and key parts of it, such as the choir, date back to the early 13th century, the cathedral owes much of its current appearance to the later reforms. In the 15th century the transept was rebuilt, while, as late as the 19th century, the architect Arthur Blomfield was given the task of almost completely rebuilding the different naves. Some new parts have recently been added to the structure and a great effort has been made to organise the garden.

In the exquisite interior of Southwark Cathedral, which is notable for its three naves and pointed arches, you will be able to see genuine examples of perpendicular Gothic style. Clear examples are the splendid Gothic stone altarpiece in the presbytery and the back part of the choir. 

John Gower, friend of Geoffrey Chaucer, is buried here, as is Edmund, William Shakespeare’s brother. The playwright from Stratford-upon-Avon also has a space in the church in his memory. A nineteenth-century stained-glass window represents scenes from his most famous works, while a statue at the end of the right-hand nave shows us a reclining Shakespeare with a pen in his hand.

Also of special interest is the chapel of John Harvard, who was baptised here in 1607 and years later would found the prestigious University of Harvard.

The church combines its heavy load of history with an interest in the here and now. This is why inside the same church, coexisting beside each other is, on the one hand, a space that during the reign of Bloody Mary was used to try presumed heretics, and on the other, two monuments dedicated to the leaders of the antiapartheid movement, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.

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