A venue for all
Southwark Cathedral has been a centre of hospitality and welcome since it’s beginnings as a priory in 1106. Now open seven days a week for visitors and worshipers alike, the Cathedral is a historical masterpiece boasting one of the oldest examples of Gothic Architecture in London.
The Parish of St Saviours, as the Cathedral was formally known, has been home to many notable figures including Charles Dickens, who set many of his scenes in Southwark and visited the Cathedral in 1886. William Shakespeare is another, whose life and work are commemorated in a statue and stained glass window in the Nave. Southwark was also home to John Harvard, who was baptised at the Cathedral and of which the Harvard Chapel in the Cathedral is named after.
In 2000, The Millennium Building, home to our meeting rooms, was formally opened by Nelson Mandela.
A short history of Southwark Cathedral
It is believed that there was a community of nuns which was replaced with a college of priests in the 9th century. The first written reference is the mention of a ‘minster’ in the 1086 Domesday Book.
‘Re-founded’ as an Augustinian priory by the Bishop of Winchester, the church is dedicated to St Mary. It is soon known as St Mary Overie –‘over the river’. The hospital alongside is named in honour of St Thomas Becket, making it the direct predecessor of today’s St Thomas’ Hospital opposite Westminster.
Together with over 800 other monasteries in England, Wales and Ireland the priory is dissolved by Henry VIII. Its last six canons are pensioned off. Now called St Saviour’s, the church building is rented to the congregation by the King.
St Saviour’s has become home to a colourful mix of parishioners: merchants and minor courtiers, actors, foreign craftsmen and ladies from the Bankside brothels. Tired of renting their church for worship, a group of merchants from the congregation buys the building from King James I for £800.
The church becomes a cathedral, serving a diocese of 2.5 million people in over 300 parishes from the Thames in the North to Gatwick in the South, from Thamesmead in the East and almost to Thames Ditton in the West.
As in its monastic days the Cathedral is a centre for daily worship, and a place of hospitality and welcome.