St. Mary Axe
List documents mentioning this place.
The church of St. Mary Axe was a church on the west side of St. Mary Axe Street in Lime Street Ward. Stow asserts the church’s full name and dedication was
S. Marie the virgine, Saint Vrsula, and the 11000. Virginsand believed that its common name, St. Mary Axe, derived from a sign near the church’s east side (Stow). However, a document written during the reign of Henry VIII suggests a different history of its name. The church, dedicated to 11,000 martyred virgins, supposedly contained the three axes that were used in their executions (Harben).
The church dates from the twelfth century and belonged to the Priory of St. Helens. St. Mary Axe was given to Spanish Protestant refugees in 1562. Three years later, with the church in disrepair and no services taking place, it was suppressed and given to the parish of St. Andrew Undershaft (Harben) . Stow notes that after its suppression, the church was
letten out to bee a warehouse for a Marchant(Stow).
St. Mary Axe is drawn on the Agas map near the northwest corner of St. Mary Axe Street south and east of two garden plots. Interestingly, the bell tower is drawn east of the nave. This placement is a mistake; a bell tower would never be further east than the church’s chancel. The chancel is the most sacred part of a church, where the bread and wine for communion is sanctified. No part of the church should be further east, closer to Jerusalem, than this holy place. Having a bell tower east of the chancel would also be impractical. If the church had an east window, the bell tower would block out the light, making the stained glass window dull and indistinct. The bell tower is also shown at the location of the church’s entrance. To enter through the chancel, where only the clergy are permitted, would be contrary to church practice and doctrine.
- Harben, Henry. A Dictionary of London. London: Henry Jenkins, 1918. Print. Rpt. British History Online. Web. [Harben’s Dictionary is organized alphabetically. One can also do keyword searches for words that occur within entries.]
- Stow, John. A Survey of London. Reprinted from the Text of 1603. Ed. Charles Lethbridge Kingsford. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1908. Print. Rpt. British History Online. Web. Subscr. [Kingsford edition, courtesy of The Centre for Metropolitan History. Articles written 2011 or later cite from this searchable transcription. In the in-text parenthetical reference (Stow; BHO), click on BHO to go directly to the page containing the quotation or source..]