A History of the church
There has been a church on the present site since the twelfth century. The first church is thought to have been built in 1136, and was destroyed in the Great Fire of London. The church was one of many re-built by Sir Christopher Wren. Work began in 1670 and was completed in 1677. It was one of Wren's most expensive City Churches.
The name Jewry is a geographical descriptor. Before the great fire of 1666 there were many churches in the City (about 150+) and some had the same saint's name. To distinguish them another title was attached. This is why so many of the City churches have interesting and odd names. The church is located close to a street called Old Jewry. This is where a Jewish community lived from 1066 to 1290. They came to the country with William the Conqueror and were expelled by Edward I. Hence St Lawrence Jewry.
During the Second World war, the church was extensively damaged but not completely destroyed on 29th December 1940.
Restored in 1957, it is now the official Church of the Corporation of London. Like most Wren Churches few walls are at right angles but the "sumptuous barn" white interior with its gold-leaf and chandeliers is spectacular. The church was described by Sir John Betjeman as "very municipal, very splendid." It was designated a Grade I listed on
The dedication of the church is to St Lawrence.
Lawrence was a native of Huesca (Roman Osca) in Hispania Tarraconensis who had received religious instruction from Archdeacon Sixtus in Rome. When Sixtus became Bishop of Rome in 257, Lawrence was ordained a deacon and was placed in charge of the administration of Church goods and care for the poor. For this duty, he is regarded as one of the first archivists and treasurers of the Church and was made the patron of librarians.
In the persecutions under Valerian in 258 A.D., numerous priests and deacons were put to death, while Christians belonging to the nobility or the Roman Senate were deprived of their goods and exiled.
The Prefect of Rome, a greedy man, thought the Church had a great fortune hidden away. So he ordered Lawrence to bring the Church's treasure to him. The Saint said he would, in three days. Then he went through the city and gathered together all the poor and sick people supported by the Church, or in some versions of the story all the children. When he showed them to the Prefect, he said: "This is the Church's treasure!"
In great anger, the Prefect condemned Lawrence to a slow, cruel death. The Saint was tied on top of an iron grill over a slow fire that roasted his flesh little by little, but Lawrence had so much love of God that it is said he almost did not feel the flames. In fact, God gave him so much strength and joy that he even joked. "Turn me over," he said to the judge. "I'm done on this side!" And just before he died, he said, "It's cooked enough now." Then he prayed that the city of Rome might be converted to Jesus and that the Faith might spread all over the world. Saint Lawrence's feast day is August 10th.
His symbol is a gridiron such as the one in the picture which is the weather vane of this church.
you called Saint Lawrence to serve you by love
and crowned his life with glorious martyrdom.
Help us to be like him
in loving you and doing your work.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.