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St Martin, Ludgate

St Martin, Ludgate is a Church of England church on Ludgate Hill in the ward of Farringdon, in the City of London.

St Martin Lugate, also called St Martin within Ludgate, was rebuilt in 1677-84 by Sir Christopher Wren. Some legends connect the church with legendary king Cadwallo (now usually referred to as Cadwallon ap Cadfan, father of Cadwaladr. A sign on the front of the church reads "Cadwallo king of the Britons is said to have been buried here in 677". Modern historians would place his death about 682. Cadwallo's image was allegedly placed on Lud Gate, to frighten away the Saxons. However the earliest written reference is from 1174. The organ is a Bernard Schmidt design dating from 1684. There are carvings by Grinling Gibbons inside. The church stands sideways to the street.

St Martin of Tours is a Patron Saint of travelers. Churches which are dedicated to him often stand just within city gates. A blue plaque next to church records the earlier presence of Ludgate, demolished 1760. A Blackfriars monastery was built nearby in 1278. The church was probably rebuilt in 1437. The parish books start from 1410. It is half-way down Ludgate Hill. From the lower part of Fleet street the steeple stands between the viwer and the dome of St Paul's. Wren probably planned to make a contrast between the spiky steeple of St Martin's and the circular dome of St Paul's.. It is a curious combination of a lead-clad dome, topped by a lantern and on top of that a sharp obelisk steeple, somewhat like an exclamation mark.

In "The Roaring Girl, or Moll Cutpurse" by Dekker and Middleton, Sebastian says "The clock at Ludgate, sir, it ne'er goes true". This might refer to St Martin's church. "I owe you three farthings, say the bells of St Martin", might refer to this church, but is more likely to refer to St Martin Orgar in Cannon Street (previously Eastcheap). In 1614 Samuel Purchas, a travel wrier, became the rector. On the 17th century font there is a Greek palindrome - Niyon anomhma mh monan oyin (Cleanse my sin and not my face only). There is a 17th-century carved oak double churchwarden's chair - the only one of its kind known to exist. In 1669 a Roman tombstone, now in the Ashmolean Museum, was found.

The original medieval church was repaired in 1623, only to be destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. It is topped by a lead-covered octagonal cupola supporting a balcony and tapered spire rising to a height of . The centre of the church is in the form of a Greek cross, with four large columns. The chandelier dates from about 1777 and comes from the West Indies. As a curiosity, this is from the burial register: "“1615, February 28, St. Martin’s, Ludgate, was buried an anatomy from the College of Physicians.” (It was first noticed by Andrew Lang, in an article in "Books and Bookmen"). The Royal College of Physicians were based in Amen Corner, a few yards away from 1614 to 1666. In 1678 Robert Hooke designed a new hall in Warwick Lane, also nearby. There are organ recitals every other Monday; chamber music every Wednesday and Friday.

The view from the steeple towards the river is spectacular. It was painted by T.M. Baynes.


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