The founder of Harvard University was baptized in this oldest Gothic church in London. Marvel at its stained glass and opulent chapels.
Dating back to the 13th century, the Southwark Cathedral towers above Borough Market as a reminder of early medieval Christianity in London. It is known for its war-related stained-glass windows among an array of ornate treasures. Attend one of the regular organ recitals and other concerts to fully appreciate the church’s excellent acoustics.
Study the colorful panels of the stained-glass windows, which allow light into the airy cathedral. The window in the St. Francis of Assisi and St. Elizabeth of Hungary Chapel was a thanksgiving gift for World War I. See the glass depiction of Mary, Joseph and Jesus in St. Christopher’s Chapel and the presentation of the Baby Jesus to a priest in the Lady Chapel. These windows were also gifts relating to World Wars I and II.
Admire the vast arches and pillars flanking the tall nave. Inspect the memorial window that serves as a tribute to William Shakespeare. See the Baroque ecclesiastical relics in the Harvard Chapel, named for the famed university founder. It is believed Shakespeare was present here for the baptism of John Harvard.
Enjoy the serene ambiance in the churchyard, which has a cloister design and a functional herb garden. Head to the cathedral shop that stands beside the River Thames. It sells books, jewelry and ecclesiastical souvenirs, along with mementos of the site’s feline mascot Doorkins Magnificat.
Consider the long and interesting history of the site, which was mentioned in the 11th-century Domesday Book. It was rebuilt in the 1200s, following a fire, before being renovated several more times over the centuries.
Note that the site, which is free to enter, is open for worshippers and general visitors Monday through Saturday from morning until late afternoon. On Sundays, arrive after midday.
Southwark Cathedral is near the southern end of London Bridge in the center of the city. Ride a bus to a nearby stop or take the Tube to London Bridge station or a boat to London Bridge pier. Wander through the area to see Borough Market, the replica of the Francis Drake ship the Golden Hinde and the Clink Prison Museum.