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St Barts 900 year anniversary banner.jpg
St Barts 900 year anniversary.jpg
UK News

London church that housed Benjamin Franklin turns 900

by Sophie Drew

St Bartholomew the Great, one of London's oldest churches and dubbed the city’s “best kept secret,” celebrated its 900th anniversary with a series of events and exhibitions paying tribute to its rich history.

Founded and consecrated 900 years ago on the feast of the Annunciation, Lady Day, the church has witnessed significant moments, including the Peasants' Revolt, the Great Fire of London, and world wars.

The church is also known for being the only recorded site of an appearance by the Virgin Mary in London.

Rev Marcus Walker said: “A 13th-century document talks of how she came in the 1180s, apparently in quite a foul mood, to tell the canons of the church that they weren't praying anywhere near hard enough and needed to buck up their act pretty sharp. Which meant that we had a big lady chapel after this, which was closed off at the Reformation and got turned into a printer's workshop, which was where Benjamin Franklin got apprenticed when he came over in 1724.

"So it is probably the only place in the world that has recorded visits of both the Blessed Virgin Mary and Benjamin Franklin.”

The anniversary celebrations include a special service led by the Bishop of London, an art exhibition showcasing contemporary works inspired by St Bartholomew's history and faith, and a music festival held in September

"These events aimed to engage visitors with the church's fascinating past and its continued relevance in modern times.

The church began when St Bartholomew received a vision, calling on him to travel to London and build the place of worship alongside a hospital.

Looking to the future, Fr Walker is keen to see this continue to be the bedrock of the church’s mission: “In this vision, St Bartholomew said ‘God will inhabit this place and God will hallow it and God will open his ears to all who come and pray there. God will open his eyes to all who come and ask for his help.’ I think our prayer is that God will continue to do that, that promise will be made good, and more and more people will come and find God there.”

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