St John the Divine, Kennington
is an Anglican
church in London
. The parish of Kennington
is within the Anglican Diocese of Southwark
. The church was designed by the architect George Edmund Street
(who also built the Royal Courts of Justice
on Strand, London
) in the Decorated Gothic
style, and was built between 1871 and 1874. Today it is a grade I listed building
The church stands on Vassall Road, Kennington, in the London Borough of Lambeth. It is near Oval tube station and the Oval Cricket Ground. The spire can be seen clearly for miles around.
The church is regarded as a fine example of Victorian Gothic. The general construction is of red brick, but all parapets, window openings, doorways, etc. are dressed with stone. The upper part of the spire is entirely of stone. At over 260 feet, it is the highest spire in south London and can be seen for miles around. The poet John Betjeman remarked that St John the Divine was "the most magnificent church in South London."
The original church interior was designed by GF Bodley, and was fitted out in a highly ornate style typical of the Victorian era and of Anglo-Catholic churches, including stone carvings by Thomas Earp, wrought iron altar rails, stained glass windows, and a carved reredos painted by Clayton and Bell. A new organ by J. W. Walker & Sons Ltd was installed in 1875.
The church suffered severe bomb damage in 1941 during the Blitz, and most of the original interior fittings were lost. After years of restoration work under the direction of H. S. Goodhart-Rendel, St John the Divine re-opened in September 1958.
The tower and gargoyles
The spire and tower were extensively restored in 1994, and a new set of carved grotesques
was added. Many of the carvings are in the form of caricature
representations of members of the church congregation, the British Royal Family
or the clergy. The Queen
, Prince Charles
, Prince William
and Archbishop Michael Ramsey
are among the better-known figures depicted.
Much of the original stained glass was destroyed in the 1941 bombing, and it has been replaced with plain glass windows in the north and south aisles. Some original stained glass designed by Charles Eamer Kempe
has survived, including the west window and two windows in the south aisle. The windows at the east end are also original.
During restoration, new windows designed and crafted by W. T. Carter Shapland were installed in the All Souls Chapel.
Behind the altar is a set of murals painted by Brian Thomas
, O.B.E. in 1966. The left-hand panel depicts the Virgin Mary
in a floral garden. A central panel is decorated with lilies and roses - traditional Marian symbols. The right-hand panel is a pieta
, with Mary holding the body of the crucified Christ, and instead of a floral border it is framed with thorns, representing the Crown of Thorns
The Korean Icon
Above the North door hangs the 'Korean Icon'. Designed in the style of a Greek Orthodox iconostasis
, it depicts various figures from the Christian Gospels
. It was dedicated as a memorial to Bishop Charles John Corfe
, who founded the Anglican Church of Korea
The Kelham Rood
On the south side of the nave stands the Kelham Rood, a life-size bronze sculpture of Christ on the Cross together with free-standing figures of St John
and the Virgin Mary. It is the work of sculptor Charles Sargeant Jagger
(1885-1934), who also designed the Royal Artillery Memorial
in London's Hyde Park Corner, and was completed in 1929.
The sculpture was originally commissioned by the Society of the Sacred Mission (SSM) for the Great Chapel at Kelham Hall in Nottinghamshire. The sculpture then stood in the SSM Priory in Willen near Milton Keynes, before being moved to St John the Divine.
It is planned to suspend the sculpture above the high altar.
Since its foundation in 1871, St John the Divine has been affiliated with the Anglican High Church. The second vicar, Rev. Charles Edward Brooke, was associated with the Oxford Movement and its work in poorer parishes. At this time, ritualistic practices in the Church of England were being limited by the Public Worship Regulation Act 1874.
The High Church traditions continue today, and services in this church are generally in the Anglo-Catholic style, with an emphasis on sacraments, liturgy and ceremony. On Sundays and holy days, clergy wear decorated robes, a choir sings the Mass, and incense is used. Through the week, Mass is said daily. The litrugy is usually based on the Common Worship prayer book (2000).
The High Anglican style of worship is reflected in the design and decoration of the church, with the presence of devotional statues, icons, sanctuary lamps and the Reserved sacrament.