Southwark Cathedral, the Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie, sits in an important historic and strategic position at the main entrance to the City of London from the Southbank of the river Thames.
On site of Roman Villa and probable 6th century convent, William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book records a monastery on this site during the reign of Edward the Confessor in the 11th century. After the Norman Conquest of 1066 William passed control of the church to his half-brother Odo, the Bishop of Bayeux.
Originally in the parish of St Saviour's in the diocese of Winchester, the present gothic church was built between the 13th and 15th centuries, although parts date back to Norman times. At that time the Bishop of Winchester’s Palace was closed by, remains of which can be seen in nearby Clink Street.
The 50m tower was added in the 15th Century and it was from this vantage point that Wenceslas Hollar drew his famous picture of the 1666 Great Fire of London.
During the 16th century there were strong connections with Elizabethan theatre, recognised in the large stained glass window dedicated to William Shakespeare whose Globe theatre is nearby.
Shakespeare’s brother, Edmund was buried in the church 1607, the same year John Harvard, founder of the prestigious American University, was baptised there. John is remembered by the Harvard Memorial Chapel in the North Transept.
By the early 19th century the church had fallen into disrepair. Partly restored it became a cathedral church when the diocese of Southwark was created in 1905.
In Millennium Year new buildings were erected on the site where the priory once stood and officially opened by Nelson Mandela in 2001.
A glass covered walkway connects the cathedral with the award winning new buildings which includes a refectory, library, and garden space. There are monuments to Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu inside.