St Ethelburga's Bishopsgate

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


This structure is a rare survival of the medieval City churches that were mostly destroyed during the Great Fire of London in 1666. It is 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 London Blitz of 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 £350M 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.


The church's tiny interior comprises a nave and aisle divided by an arcade. Most of the original fittings were destroyed by the 1993 bombing (although they were, for the most part, not particularly historic as they dated mostly from the 19th and 20th centuries). One of the more notable survivals is the curious 19th century font, which is inscribed with one of the longest known palindromes, written in Greek: NIΨON ANOMHMATA MH MONAN OΨIN, which translates as "Cleanse my transgressions, not only my face".

The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 4 January 1950; and its reconstruction retains the listing.

Centre for Reconciliation and Peace

The church now houses the St Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation and Peace. The Centre 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; over 2008-09 20,000 people attended its programmes. It is also used for private meetings to reconcile people in conflict. The Centre is associated with the Children of Abraham Institute founded by Jewish theologian Peter Ochs.

Notable people associated with the church
  • Henry Hudson, explorer, took communion with his crew before setting out to find the Northwest Passage, 1607
  • John Medows Rodwell, Rector (1860–1900) who made the first reliable rendering of the Qur'an into English (1861)