St. Clement Danes, City of Westminster

One of the London’s most ancient places of worship it gains its Danish epithet from the 9th Century when the space between the City of London and what would eventually be Westminster was lived in by many Danes, it has to be remembered that for a great deal of the 9th and 10th Centuries England was ruled by Danish monarchs.

St. Clement is the patron saint of mariners, the Danish being great seafarers. King Harold I “Harefoot” was buried here in 1040 having been originally buried in Westminster Abbey but disinterred by Harthacnut and dumped into the marshes by the Thames. Supporters of the late King rescued the body and reburied it in this church.

William I rebuilt the church after the Norman Conquest and it was then rebuilt at some point during the Middle Ages (most likely the 14th Century after the Black Death). By 1680 it was in such a sorry state that it was demolished and Sir Christopher Wren was brought in to rebuild it – one of only three London churches built by Wren outside the City. It was completed around 1682 but had no steeple on the tower until James Gibbs added it in 1720.

On 10 May 1941 a firebomb hit St Clement Danes directly, gutting the interior and destroying the roof. The walls, tower and steeple survived and remained in a ruined state until the 1950s.

The Royal Air Force made a vast appeal for funds to rebuild the church and it was re-consecrated in October 1958 and has been associated with the RAF ever since. Indeed, there is an inscription over the main door which reads (translated from Latin) “Built by Sir Christopher Wren 1682. Destroyed by the thunderbolts of warfare 1941. Restored by the Royal Air Force 1958”.

This is one of two possibilities for the "St Clements" in the Oranges and Lemons Rhyme.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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