St Stephen Walbrook, re-built in 1680 after the great fire of London, is one of Christopher Wren’s most famous churches, a timeless work of art and, as stated by the prominent art historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, one of the 10 most important buildings in England.
Widely admired throughout 18th century Europe the Italian sculptor-architect, Canova considered Wren’s church as a masterpiece and compared it to the best architecture in Rome.
The church was originally connected to other building so the roughly finished exterior does not indicate the beauty and splendour of the interior, “so rich a jewel in so poor a setting”- Bumpus.
At that time Christopher Wren was the King’s architect and surveyor, lived at No. 15 Walbrook and was a parishioner of St Stephens. His plans for St Stephen Walbrook, considered a prototype for his construction of St Paul’s Cathedral, were based on perfectly rectangular geometry and natural sources of light so making everything fit into place with apparent simplicity.
The 65ft roman dome, the first in Britain, is centred over a square of twelve columns. The base of the dome is supported by eight equal arches. The arches, which form a circle within the square are supported by eight of the twleve columns.
The lath and plaster facings on elaborate carpentry frames, the omission of galleries and the light shining through the eight arches give “an unparalleled feeling of lightness of weight and brightness of illumination”.
The interior also includes the great St Stephen’s altarpiece, a mosaic floor and Henry Moore's controversial massive white polished stone altar.
One of the most famous vicars of St Stephen’s was Chad Varah, the founder of the Samaritans, the world-wide voluntary listening and counselling service to those in personal distress.
River Walbrook, a key freshwater source in Roman London, was covered over in the 15th century and still runs underground today.