A to Z Abroad: St. Clement Danes

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London is home to countless churches filled with centuries of history and lore, but one of the more interesting stories lies within the walls of St. Clement Danes. For about a thousand years this church has stood its ground despite war and fire.

St. Clement Danes, London
Photo by: c.b.w. 2011

Situated in Westminster, across the street from the Royal Courts of Justice, St. Clement Danes stands as a testament to both the passing of time and the unbreakable nature of persistence. The true origins of this church are up for debate as no one is absolutely certain who built it first or why it includes a reference to the Danes. Of several theories, one of the more commonly accepted is that the church was built by the Danes when they controlled the village of Aldwych (modern day Westminster) in the 9th century.

By the 11th century, the church was rebuilt by William the Conqueror and then again in the Middle Ages. By the 17th century the building was in such disrepair, it was demolished and redesigned by Sir Christopher Wren. In the 18th century, James Gibbs added a steeple to Wren’s tower. And there it stood until World War II.

The London Blitz of 1941 almost destroyed St. Clement Danes. The interior was gutted by fire, but the walls and steeple managed to survive.

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St. Clement Danes on fire during the London Blitz
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Once again the church was rebuilt, following Christopher Wren’s design. The stubborn walls of St. Clement Danes were left in place and still bear the holes left by German bombs. I was surprised to find the holes are a lot bigger than they look. I could easily fit both of my hands inside of several wall wounds.

St. Clement Danes – Damage from the London Blitz
Photo by: c.b.w. 2011

St Clement wears its scars proudly and continues to stand true to this day. Along the side of the church is a plaque that reminds us all to rebuild and never give up when darkness descends.

St. Clement Danes – Plaque commemorating the church’s history.
Photo by: c.b.w. 2011

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Just for fun . . . I captured this image one the side wall of St. Clement Danes. Can you see the face??

I see a face!
Photo by: c.b.w. 2011

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Part of the A to Z Challenge!

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c.b.w. 2013

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15 thoughts on “A to Z Abroad: St. Clement Danes

  1. Very interesting. There is so much to see — obviously I’ll have to return to London, with these notes in hand. Thanks for your careful eye.
    Beth
    bethlapinsatozblog.wordpress

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    • This was one of those sites I saw on my first ever trip to London, but I didn’t get a picture of it, nor did I jot down the name. Every time I’ve gone to London since, I tried to find it to no avail. At least not until after a day of wondering along Fleet Street during my last visit. I was so happy to see it again and get pictures!

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  2. Great reminder that things can always be rebuilt. My Mom watched that church burn during the war and has written a monologue for her theatre group about being an evacuee, but she was actually in London when the incendiary bombs were dropped. The horrendous things we do to each other. BTW, thanks for your visits to my blog!

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    • Oh my – I’m sure your mother is full of stories from that time. I can’t even imagine how horrible it would have been to watch London burn. All the more amazing that London was rebuilt and done so beautifully. 🙂

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  3. You know what I’m like for comments against the grain. I can’t think of Christopher Wren without remembering that he was the Crown officer charged with the task of pulling down non-conformist meeting-houses.

    His supposed epitaph (I think it was penned by his son), outside St Pauls, runs: ‘Si monumentum requiris circumspice’. I’m led to believe that some educated wag altered it, as a comment on the dangers of trying to cross the road there: ‘Nisi monumentum requiris circumspice.’
    🙂

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