St Michael's Alley
St Michael Cornhill lies over the remains of the Basilica – the northern most part of the great Roman Forum built in the first century AD. It stands near to the site of a church founded by King Lucius in AD 179 – the oldest site of Christian worship in London. The name ‘Cornhill’ is first mentioned in the 12th century, the ‘hill’ indicating the rising ground on which St. Michael’s stands, and ‘corn’ being derived from the corn-market which was once held here. The original church was first mentioned in 1055.
The church was destroyed with only the tower remaining during the Great Fire. It was restored by Christopher Wren, however, was further beatified in 1701 and 1790.
The interior was extensively remodelled in the High Victorian manner by Sir George Gilbert Scott between 1857 and 1860. Pre-Victorian features that remain today include 17th paintings of Moses and Aaron incorporated into the reredos, as well as a wooden sculpture of ‘Pelican in her Piety’ dating from 1775.
The vestry retains its 17th century panelling. The commanding tower was rebuilt in the ‘Gothic’ style between 1718 and 1722, the work being commenced by Wren and completed by Nicholas Hawksmoor.
Robert Fabyan, the author of The New Chronicles of England and France, was buried at St. Michael’s in 1513; and King Henry VIII’s physician, Robert Yaxley, was buried here in 1540. In 1716, the poet Thomas Gray, famous for his Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, was born in a milliner’s shop adjacent to St. Michael’s and was baptised here. Two hundred years later, Martin Neary, who became Master of the Music at Westminster Abbey, was baptised in the same font, which dates from 1672.
The church is most famous for its tradition of famous musicians hosting many famous composers.
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