Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Oranges and lemons say the bells of St. Clement's

I was out for a London walkabout, trying to walk off jet lag, and passed by a very pretty Christopher Wren church.  That isn't unusual - London has 52 churches built by Sir Christopher after the great fire of 1666.  Indeed, there are Christopher Wren tours to see them all which may be a little much even for an architecture buff.

But this is no ordinary church.  It's St. Clement's Danes, the central church of the Royal Air Force.

The church's history goes way, way back into the dark ages.  The "Danes" in the name refers to the Vikings who conquered England in the tenth and eleventh centuries.  The church is so old that it was repaired by William the Conqueror.  The Great Fire of 1666 burned the church, giving Wren the opportunity to build the current structure, which stood until the Blitz.  The Luftwaffe pretty well flattened it.

After the War, the RAF led a fund raiser to restore the church, which was restored to much the same as in Wren's day.  With some embellishments:

The lighting sconces have the arms of various RAF commands (here is the one for Strike Command).  The floors have 800 badges for the commands, groups, squadrons, and other units.

As you'd expect, there are small memorials all around the church to the men and units who served and often died in the air.  It was quite a pleasant, unexpected surprise to wander into.


Old NFO said...

I'll have to add that one to the must do list for the next trip. Thanks!

Ken said...

Very nice pictures. I can't see that rhyme without thinking of the 1963 Castle remake of The Old Dark House (done as a horror/comedy with Tom Poston, Robert Morley, Peter Bull, and Janette Scott among the cast). "Bullseyes and targets toll the bells of St. Margaret's."