The original gatehouse to the church of St Bartholomew the Great

©Will Jones/Lonely Planet

St Bartholomew the Great


Dating from 1123, St Bartholomew the Great is one of London's oldest churches. The Norman arches and profound sense of history lend this holy space an ancient calm, and it's even more atmospheric when entered through the restored 13th-century half-timbered gatehouse. The church was originally part of an Augustinian priory but became the parish church of Smithfield in 1539 when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries.

Painter William Hogarth was baptised here, and the young American statesman Benjamin Franklin worked as an apprentice printer in what is now the Lady Chapel. The church has been the set for many films and TV productions, including Four Weddings and a Funeral, Shakespeare in Love and Sherlock Holmes. Look out for the astonishingly macabre Damien Hirst gilded bronze statue of St Bartholomew with his flayed skin (2006).

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