Friday, January 15, 2016

"Pillars of the Earth" - #1 - St. Mary Aldermanbury - "Perhaps the biggest jigsaw puzzle in the history of architecture"

St. Mary, Aldermanbury - Fulton, MO - Photo by Jim Schmidt
"The removal of a Christopher Wren church , largely destroyed by enemy action...and its reconstruction and re-dedication at Fulton is an imaginative concept.  It may symbolize in the eyes of the English-speaking peoples the ideals of Anglo-American association on which rest, now as before, so many of our hopes for peace and the future of mankind." -  Letter, 1962, Winston Churchill to Dr. Davidson, president,  Westminster College

This post is a follow-up to my last post about a visit to the National Churchill Museum in nearby Fulton, Missouri.  While the previous post focused on the museum, this post will focus on the remarkable structure of which the museum is but a part: the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury - a church with a remarkable history, moved from London to central Missouri, brick-by-brick, in the 1960s.  Likewise, with the borrowed moniker, "Pillars of the Earth," it's the first of what I hope will be a series of posts on historic churches that I've visited (and hope to continue visiting).

Some information on the early history of the church from The Churches of the City of London by Herbert Reynolds (1922):

"The open space surrounding this church and its pleasant churchyard render it more conspicuous than many others in the City.

The early church on this site dated back to the fourteenth century, and was in the possession of the Elsing Priory until the suppression, afterwards becoming a rectory. The parishioners had the right to elect their rector under the licence of the Bishop. Sir William Englefield, Lord Mayor, 1429 and 1437, built the steeple and renewed the bells.

This old church perished in the Great Fire, and the present one, by Sir C. Wren, was erected on the old site in 1677.

The interior gives one a correct idea of the architect's scheme of window lighting ; the plain glass type remains, and with the exception of the eastern window there is no stained glass. All these windows were shattered in the first Zeppelin raid over the City on the night of the 8th of September, 1915."

The Architectural Series of London Churches - British Museum

What the Germans didn't accomplish in 1915, they completed in WWII: in the London Blitz of December 1940, the church was severely damaged by an incendiary bomb:

St Mary, Aldermanbury - January 1, 1941 - Getty Images

St Mary, Aldermanbury - April 1, 1946 - Getty Images
A Victorian silver communion service was rescued from the rubble after the bombing and fires of December 29, 1940, and is on display in the Churchill Museum in Fulton:

Victorian Era Communion Silver from original St. Mary's - Jim Schmidt photo
The church was destined for destruction.  As part of the plans for a memorial to Churchill at Westminster College in Fulton, MO, then-college president Dr. Robert L. D. Davidson, hatched the idea of bringing the church to the college and restoring it.

St Mary, Aldermanbury - July 31, 1964 - Getty Images

And so they did! The process, which the London Times called “perhaps the biggest jigsaw puzzle in the history of architecture,” began in the spring of 1964. Five years later, on May 7, 1969, the building’s dedication ceremonies were held.

Exterior = 84 feet long; 54.5 feet wide; tower height = 106 feet
Interior = 75 x 49 x 38 ft; 280 persons capacity

Photos below - Enjoy! - I highly recommend a visit!

The dimensions of the church are the same as the building which burned in 1666, using the foundation line preserved by Christopher Wren - photo by Jim Schmidt

From the undercroft, the stairway is crowned by a chandelier - photo by Jim Schmidt

Stairway - photo by Jim Schmidt
Clear, handblown cathedral glass windows, manufactured by Blenko Co. (Milton, WV), duplicate those used by Wren - Jim Schmidt photo 

Detail from the carvings throughout the church were done by artist Arthur Ayers in the original Wren style - Jim Schmidt photo
The chandeliers were made in Cleveland, OH, and are replicas of those designed by Wren - Jim Schmidt photo
The 12 original columns designed by Wren stand on either side of the aisle.  The bases are new, since the sandstone originals could not be moved; seven of the capitals are original; the columns no longer support the roof - photo by Jim Schmidt

Photo by Jim Schmidt
Photo by Jim Schmidt
The organ is a 38-rank tracker, mechanical; built ny N. P. Mander, London; pipes are c. 1770s; case from 1741 - photo by Jim Schmidt
Outside detail - Jim Schmidt photo
The Tower - Jim Schmidt photo
Photo by Jim Schmidt

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