St. Ethelburga's

St Ethelburga-the-Virgin within Bishopsgate is an Anglican church in the City of London, located on Bishopsgate near Liverpool Street station.

The church is a rare survival of the medieval City churches that were mostly destroyed during the Great Fire of London in 1666. It is the only English church to be dedicated to St Ethelburga, a 7th century abbess of Barking; she was the sister of Saint Erkenwald, a Bishop of London. Its foundation date is unknown, but it was first recorded in 1250 as the church of St Adelburga-the-Virgin. The dedication to “-the-Virgin” was dropped in Puritan times but was later restored.

The church was rebuilt in the 15th century – possibly around 1411 – and a small square bell turret was added in 1775. In order to raise revenue for the church, whose parish covered just three acres (12,000 m²), a wooden porch was built over its exterior in the 16th century to house two shops. It underwent major changes in 1932, when Bishopsgate was controversially widened. The shops were demolished and the porch dismantled, revealing the façade of the church for the first time in centuries.

It suffered modest bomb damage during the Second World War and was restored in 1953. In 1993, the church was almost completely destroyed when a massive IRA bomb exploded nearby, devastating Bishopsgate and causing an estimated £1bn worth of damage. The Church of England proposed to demolish St Ethelburga’s in the aftermath but, following a public outcry, it was rebuilt to its original plan, though much changed internally.

It now houses the St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, which organises a programme of more than 100 public events a year exploring the relationship between faith and conflict, as well as inter-faith dialogue and training. It is also used for private meetings to reconcile people in conflict.

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