Trafalgar Square with St Martin-in-the-Fields in the background, London
St Martin-in-the-Fields, a Protestant church, was designed by the Roman Catholic Scot James Gibbs. Whilst listed in various places as a ‘must see’ travel destination, I found the church itself to be rather bland - although it was very well maintained.
Gibbs’ earlier work at St Mary-le-Strand, one of the two ‘island’ churches in the middle of The Strand (opposite Somerset House and King’s College London) was a much more beautiful building, although apparently Gibbs was instructed to tone down the Italian and Roman Catholic architectural influences found in the Baroque St Mary when designing St Martin.
Unfortunately, St Mary-le-Strand is less famous than both St Martin and the other Strand ‘island’ church, St Clement Danes (featured in the song, ‘oranges and lemons and the bells of St Clements’). St Clement is the central church of the Royal Air Force, therefore receiving significant funds for upkeep from them. St Martin, due to its location, receives much tourist (and trust) monies. St Mary receives little, and so has somewhat of an unkept appearance.
I found this a shame, as it was by far the most pleasant of the three. The reverend there took the time to show me around, explain the history I paraphrase above, point out features of the architecture, and even insisted I play the grand piano and organ there. Just goes to show what one might discover if they stray off the tourist track.
*I unfortunately do not have an adequate photo of St Mary-le-Strand, although I will hopefully one day rectify this…