In 1106, Southwark Cathedral was founded by two Norman knights as a parish, and the building only took cathedral status almost 800 years later in 1905. From housing famous court poets to making room for resident feline friends, Southwark Cathedral has had a fair amount of interesting visitors over the centuries, and has more than a few tales to tell. Nowadays, aside from running weekly sermons and religious ceremonies, the cathedral hosts several events throughout the year including enchanting Candlelight concerts, some of which even feature the dazzling Museum of the Moon installation.
Located on the south bank of the River Thames, Southwark Cathedral is a historic building surrounded by several iconic London landmarks including The Shard, London Bridge and the Tate Modern. London Bridge is the closest tube station to the cathedral, and you can arrive at the venue from these stops in less than a 10-minute walk.
Facts, Curiosities and Interesting Things about Southwark Cathedral
1. A resident cat once called the cathedral home
After years of stealing scraps from food market traders in the area, a local street cat fell upon the cathedral and made it his home in 2008. The congregation quickly fell head over heels for their new feline friend and decided to name him Doorkins Magnificat. In 2020, Doorkins sadly passed away, but his legacy lives on through a small stone carving of the cat that overlooks the cathedral’s lush grounds.
2. Chaucer’s closest friend resided here
At the start of the 15th century, court poet John Gower spent the last few years of his life living inside the cathedral. The poet was a good friend of Chaucer who was the famous storyteller best known for writing The Canterbury Tales – a collection of 24 stories that start off in Southwark. After his death, Gower left a large sum of money to the cathedral, and his tomb can be found inside the nave.
3. The retrochoir has lived many lives
The oldest part of the cathedral is its breathtaking retrochoir which dates back to the 13th century. As Queen Mary I set off on her mission to restore Catholicism in England, the cathedral’s retrochoir was used as a court by the Bishop of Winchester to try Protestant heretics. Later on, in the late 1400s, two bakers rented out the space, and frequent worshippers were horrified to learn that the area was used to house chickens and pigs.
Candlelight concerts at Southwark Cathedral
The splendid house of worship is playing host to some truly mesmerising Candlelight concerts, with the works of some modern greats streaming merrily to the rafters courtesy of some amazing live musicians.
Candlelight will have you all “Yellow” as you’re illuminated by the glow from thousands of candles for a captivating Coldplay tribute concert. The chart-topping hits of the indisputably talented Taylor Swift will also be on full show, and you can listen to classical renditions of famous rock songs by Pink Floyd as well as sci-fi and fantasy movie scores and the soundtracks of Jane Austen this season at Southwark Cathedral.
What else can you do at Southwark Cathedral?
Alongside hosting weekly sermons and mass for local worshippers, Southwark Cathedral runs multiple art exhibitions throughout the year. In 2022, the venue hosted the spectacular Gaia installation – a spherical art piece with detailed NASA imagery of the Earth’s surface. In terms of eating, there are plenty of restaurants near the venue, but if you’re looking for a quick pitstop, then head to the Southwark Cathedral Cafe for the finest coffee and a tasty bite to eat.
From Monday to Saturday, visiting hours are from 9am-6pm and on Sundays from 8:30am-5pm, but how much does it cost to enter? Well, entry is free and so is their 45-minute guided tour, but donations are always welcome.
London isn’t short of Candlelight concerts in incredible venues, but these dazzling concerts are going to need quite the venue to match Southwark Cathedral. With stunning architecture and so much history, the cathedral is a sight to behold in its own right, but this space becomes something else entirely when lit by the soft glow of candlelight and filled with the sound of live music.
Also published on Medium.