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Ancient Greece Meets Anglicanism at London’s St. Pancras New Church

St pancras church greek
The St. Pancras New Church in England was inspired by Greek architecture. Credit: Sue Wallace/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0

The St. Pancras New Church is a Greek Revival church in the Bloomsbury/St. Pancras neighborhood in London. Even though its name suggests otherwise, it was built between 1819 and 1922 and was designed by William Inwood and his son, Henry William Inwood.

If you are a visitor to London and happen to be on Euston Road, chances are the magnificent building will attract your attention. It looks like a museum or gallery with its impressive Greek columns, yet it is an Anglican church.

It is called St. Pancras New Church in order to distinguish it from St. Pancras Old Church, which stands a little further to the north. It should be noted that Pancras is the English version of the word Pangratios (Greek: Παγκράτιος), meaning “the one who holds everything.”

St. Pancras New Church inspired by ancient Greece

The church is built in an ancient Greek revival style, using the Ionic order. It is built from brick and faced with Portland stone except for the portico and the tower above the roof, which are entirely made of stone. All the external decoration is of terracotta.

The architects were inspired by two iconic ancient Greek monuments, the Erechtheum, on the Acropolis, and the Tower of the Winds, also in Athens. The doorways are closely modeled on those of the Erechtheum, as is the entablature and much of the other ornamentation.

caryatids st pancras new church london ancient greek
The ancient Greek-style caryatids adorn the entrance of St. Pancras New Church in London. Credit: Public Domain

Henry William Inwood was in Athens at the time that the plans for St. Pancras were approved. He brought plaster casts of details of the Erechtheum and some excavated fragments back to England.

The impressive caryatids, the work of John Charles Felix Rossi, are made of terracotta and built up in sections around cast iron columns. The inspiration for the design of the church is, of course, the Ionic Temple of the Erechtheum on the Acropolis.

The St. Pancras New Church is the most expensive church to be built in London since the rebuilding of St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was designed to seat 2,500 people.

The first stone was laid by the Duke of York at a ceremony on July 1, 1819. It was carved with a Greek inscription, saying “May the light of the blessed Gospel thus ever illuminate the dark temples of the Heathen.”

The church still serves as a place of worship and Reverend Anne Stevens is the current Vicar. In recent years, the church has also become available as a 450 capacity music venue and art gallery, hosting live music performances and art exhibitions.

The UK, home to a historic Greek community

The economic crisis in Greece left many young people without hope of finding a well-paying job in Greece, causing waves of Greeks to leave the country in its wake.

In search of better opportunities, many Greeks moved to the UK, which is now home to an estimated three hundred to four hundred thousand people of Greek descent.

Although a large number of Greeks moved to European countries in recent years, there is a long history of immigration from Greece to the UK, spanning centuries.

Greek communities in the UK can be traced back to ancient times, when the Romans colonized the British Isles. Immigration from Greece continued through the Middle Ages all the way to the modern period.

After England colonized Cyprus in 1878, the Greek population in the country boomed, with many Greek Cypriots making a home in England from the early twentieth century up until the British left the island in 1960.

According to recent data, there are over fifty-seven thousand residents of the UK who were born in Greece, a great number of whom are students. Greece consistently ranks among the top countries of origin of foreign students in the UK along with China and India.

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