St. Mary le Bow (London)
St. Mary le Bow is one of the most famous churches in the City of London.
It is situated in Cheapside, which for centuries was London`s market street.
The church is built on top of the remains of a Roman basilica, and it is believed that it was founded in the Saxon period. Certainly it was recorded and rebuilt in the 11th century. St. Mary`s was one of the many churches destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, but rebuilt by Christopher Wren. It was again severely damaged in the Second World War Blitz, but reopened in 1964.
The "le Bow" part of the name refers to the bows, or arches, found in the crypt. These were installed by Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, in the 11th century.
The church was long believed to have been cursed, since it was believed that black masses had been held there.
Several parishioners were killed in 1091, when the roof was blown off.
Then in 1196, William FitzOsbert, known as Longbeard, started preaching against excessive taxation. When the Archbishop of Canterbury sent soldiers to arrest FitzOsbert, he killed one of them, and took sanctuary in the church tower. The church was almost destroyed while he was being smoked out.
In 1271, the tower collapsed into the street, and several more parishioners lost their lives.
Lawrence Duckett, an alleged murderer, sought sanctuary in the church in 1284, but a mob burst in and lynched him. In punishment for this act of sacrilege, sixteen men were hung, drawn and quartered and one woman was burned at the stake.
Then in 1331, at a jousting tournament held to celebrate the birth of the Black Prince, a temporary balcony collapsed, and Queen Philippa and her attendant ladies were thrown to the ground.
The bells of St. Mary le Bow are extremely famous. To be a Cockney, one has to have been born within earshot of them, they are the bells that are said to have called Dick Whittington to return to London, and they are mentioned in the nursery rhyme "Oranges and Lemons".
According to a song popular in the first half of the 20th century, "no bells ring like Bow Bells ring".
In the adjoining Bow Churchyard is a fine memorial to Captain John Smith, famously saved from death by Pocahontas.