Lunch Tourist: Southwark Cathedral

I’ve decided to establish a little game called  “lunch tourist” — that’s where I use my lunch break to explore a part of Southwark that is normally a tourist attraction, like the Clink Prison, the Golden Hinde (Sir Francis Drake’s ship), or the ruins of  Winchester Palace. It’s better than sitting in Pret a Manger for 55 minutes, and now that the weather is nicer I think it will be quite fun.  Too often people forget the fun or historical things that surround them every day — you get in the mindset that you have to “go far away” to experience something unique.  We’ve done and seen so much in our first year in London, and I want to make sure I don’t forget about all the things we still have to do!


Look! The cherry blossoms are coming out!


So welcome to the first post of lunch touristing!  Today the destination was Southwark Cathedral. It’s literally about 3 minutes from my office, and sits in an awkward triangle between the River Thames, Borough High Street, and the elevated train tracks. It’s a fine looking building, and there is a lovely little courtyard area on the south side with benches and seats; people (i.e. ME) often grab lunch at Borough Market and then sit here to enjoy it.


It was a bright and sunny day, although still quite chilly.


This is interesting: “There is no proof of any claims, as presently made by the Cathedral authorities, that a convent was founded on the site in 606 nor of the claim that a monastery was founded by St Swithun in the ninth century.” (from Wikipedia).  Yes, I did see that very claim today on a brochure handed out at the Cathedral. They even state that the site may have been a place of worship for pagans prior to AD 606.  I find it interesting that a place with such a rich history feels the need to embellish it even more — isn’t the Domesday Book of 1086 old enough for you?  That’s when the first written record of a church at this location is made.


Looking down the center aisle.


The building was the very first Gothic church in all of London, and while there were several fires (in 1212, 1390, and 1440) but each was the building was repaired and renovated. The roof is interesting because you can see the individual bricks that make up the ceiling.


Lots of tourists.


There is a statue to commemorateWilliam Shakespeare, since he spent significant time in the area (at the Globe Theatre) and the Cathedral suggests that he worshipped there, but I couldn’t find any evidence of that elsewhere (i.e. a quick google search).  I didn’t see anyone too famous buried here, unlike some other churches in London. The closest claim to fame they have is that Shakespeare’s brother was buried here (but they don’t know exactly where).


Commemorating Shakespeare. There was a twig or leaf in his hand instead of a pen or pencil. I wonder if this is supposed to be there, or was a joke?


One tidbit that did interest me was that Thomas Beckett preached here immediately before going to Canterbury, where he murdered and martyred in 1170. Since we’re going to Canterbury next weekend, I’m excited to know about the connection.

Ah! Time to get back to the office! It’s amazing how fast time flies when you’re looking at old stuff.  I hope you all are having a good week.  Tomorrow night I’m going to my first meditation class, and on Saturday we’re going out to Winchester for the day (I know you can’t wait… it’s another cathedral!).




Posted on 22/03/2011, in Castles & Cathedrals, travel, Within London and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I love the Lunch Tourist idea! That could be a blog/book all its own.

  2. I think the twig in Shakespeare’s hand is Rosemary which is for remembrance. Have a look at Ophilia’s mad speech in Hamlet. X

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