Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of St. Sophia, London

The early origins of the Greek Orthodox Church in England go back to 1677, during the reign of Charles II, when permission was built for a church to be constructed in Soho – an area with many Greek residents, hence “Greek Street” in the district. This church no longer survives beyond an inscription salvaged from it and erected in the narthex of the new Cathedral.

For some long while after the Church was sold to French Protestants the Greek community in London had to worship at a Chapel in the Russian Embassy. In 1849 a new church was built near London Wall but of this there is also no remains.

Finally, in 1872, a serious undertaking was made to build a true Byzantine-style church large enough for the ever-growing Greek community. A site was found in Bayswater and the foundation ceremony occurred in July 1877. It took just a year and a half to complete this large church and the first Liturgy was held in 1879. The Archbishop of Corfu finally consecrated the church in 1882.

In 1922 it was decided that the church would be raised to the status of Cathedral of the Metropolis of Thyateira – who vast diocese included the whole of Western Europe! Today, it is the Cathedral Church of the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain with a somewhat smaller area to cover.

During World War II the Cathedral was the seat of the Greek Government in exile and also of King George II of Greece. It was hit several times during the Blitz and was badly damaged, but all was subsequently repaired and today it is a most surprising find tucked down a back street in Bayswater.

Photos - Andrew J. Müller

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