25 September 2021

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
119, Saint Olave Old Jewry

The tower and churchyard of Saint Olave Old Jewry survive in a laneway behind Old Jewry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Much of today is going to be spent at the Diocesan Synod of Limerick and Killaloe, which is taking place as a virtual meeting by ‘Zoom’ today (25 September 2021). I am presenting reports on my work in Continuing Ministerial Education in the diocese and with the Rathkeale Pre-Social Cohesion Group.

But, before the day begins, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

My theme for these few weeks is Wren churches and former Wren churches in London. My photographs this morning are from Saint Olave Old Jewry.

The reredos in the south aisle chapel in Saint Margaret Lothbury comes from Saint Olave, Old Jewry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Olave Old Jewry, sometimes known as Upwell Old Jewry, stood between the street called Old Jewry and Ironmonger Lane. It too was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren after it was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. But the church was demolished in 1887, except for the tower and the west wall, which still stand today.

The name of Saint Olave, Old Jewry, recalls both the mediaeval Jewish community in this area and Saint Olaf, the 11th-century patron saint of Norway.

The earliest surviving reference to the church is in a manuscript ca 1130, but excavations in 1985 revealed the foundations of an earlier Saxon church, built in the 9th to 11th centuries using Kentish ragstone and recycled Roman bricks.

After the church was destroyed in the Great Fire in 1666, the parish was united with the adjacent Parish of Saint Martin Pomeroy, a tiny church that shared the small churchyard of St Olave Old Jewry. Rebuilding began in 1671, incorporating much of the mediaeval walls and foundations. The tower was built separately, projecting from the west of the church. The church was completed in 1679, partly from rubble from the neighbouring, ruined Saint Paul’s Cathedral for rubble.

In outline, the church was shaped like a wine bottle on its side, with the projecting west tower a truncated neck, the angular west front its shoulders, tapering towards a narrow base to the east. The main fa├žade was on Old Jewry and featured a large Venetian window with columns and a full entablature.

The church was restored in 1879, but under the Union of Benefices Act, the parish combined with nearby Saint Margaret Lothbury, the body of the church was demolished in 1887, the site was sold and the proceeds were used to build Saint Olave’s Manor House.

The dead bodies were moved to the City of London Cemetery, Manor Park, Greene’s body was moved to Westminster Abbey, Boydell’s monument was moved to Saint Margaret Lothbury, and the furnishings were dispersed among several other churches. The tower, west wall and part of the north wall were kept and incorporated into a new building that included a rectory for Saint Margaret Lothbury.

The 27 metre (88 ft) tower is the only one by Wren that is battered, in other words it is slightly wider at the bottom than the top. The door to the tower has a segmental pediment and is flanked by Doric columns. On top of the tower is a simple parapet with tall obelisks on each corner with balls on top. The vane in the centre of the tower is in the shape of a sailing ship, and came from Saint Mildred, Poultry.

The remains of the church were designated a Grade I listed building on 4 January 1950. The late Victorian building was replaced in 1986 by an office building, in a sympathetic style, designed by the firm of architects Swanke, Hayden, Connell. The churchyard survives as the courtyard to the office building, and is open to the public for a few hours each day.

When the south aisle in Saint Margaret Lothbury was turned into a chapel in 1891 following the demolition of the south gallery, an open screen was made by reusing a Communion rail from Saint Olave, Old Jewry, at the base, while new work by GF Bodley formed the upper portion.

The reredos in this chapel also comes from Saint Olave, Old Jewry. The central panels originally contained the Ten Commandments, but they were replaced in 1908 with a painted diptych of the Annunciation.

Luke 9: 43b-45 (NRSVA):

43b While everyone was amazed at all that he was doing, he [Jesus] said to his disciples, 44 ‘Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.’ 45 But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (25 September 2021) invites us to pray:

We pray for the power of communication in resolving conflict and fostering peace. May we use language wisely and sensitively.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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