St Etheldreda’s, Holborn

St Etheldreda’s, Holborn


St Etheldrada east end

Church of St. Etheldreda. Left: St. Etheldreda, c. 630-679, foundress of Ely Cathedral. Above right: upper church with east window. Above left: the crypt, built c. 1251. The medieval chapel (perhaps the Bishop of Ely’s private chapel) with the crypt (perhaps for the local residents) is all that is left of the palace of the bishops of Ely. Except for Westminster Abbey, St. Etheldreda’s is the only surviving work of the reign of Edward I (1239-1307) in London. Tradition has it that Henry VIII first met Cranmer, Reformation-era Archbishop of Canterbury, in St. Etheldreda’s. Queen Elizabeth I forced the bishop to give the property over to the Crown. In the early 17th century St. Etheldreda’s was used as the Spanish Embassy. In 1624 the chapel “reverted to the Protestant cult.” The church was “mercifully spared” from the Great Fire by a change of wind, and the crypt was used as a brewery. The church was “reclaimed for the faith” in 1879. “In one sense… St. Etheldreda’s… belongs to everyone in our land, especially those who come from East Anglia where St. Etheldreda lived and died in great holiness in A.D. 678.”

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