Bart's View Day

Wednesday 9th May 2018

Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great & the Great Hall of St Bartholomew's Hospital

The View Day started with evensong in the magnificent Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great which is a few hundred yards from Barbican Station but easily missed. Bearing in mind the destruction of the Great Fire and the Blitz, there are not many pre-seventeenth century churches left in the City. St Bartholomew the Great was founded as an Augustinian Priory in 1123 and has been in constant use since 1143. I recommend readers to seek out the church, it is impressive and very beautiful. For fans of IMDb, the church starred in Four Weddings and a Funeral, Shakespeare in Love, The End of the Affair and many other productions. Master's were given allocated seating with their Clerks keeping a close eye on them from the rows behind.

I cannot claim to be an expert on these things, but it soon became clear that this service was "high church". Billows of incense smoke began to emerge from the tomb of Rahere, the founder of the church. He was a cleric, court jester, and favourite of King Henry I. On a pilgrimage to Rome he fell ill and had a reputed vision of St Bartholemew, who directed him to establish a religious hospital, which he did.

As the organist began, visibility was deteriorating rapidly around Rahere's tomb and the smoke was catching the back of my throat. It was one of those services where an outstanding choir did most of the work. Fortunately for the choir, and their fine voices, they were at the other end of the church.

At the conclusion of the service, the Masters and their Clerks processed in free form to the Great Hall of the Hospital for a reception and speeches. We received accounts of the excellent work of the Barts NHS Trust and Barts Charity which had awarded a staggering £28.5m of grants to new projects during the last financial year.