When strolling through the streets of Trafalgar Square, you can sniff the elaborate bouquets at the Covent Garden Market, crane your head back to stare upwards at Nelson’s Column, and walk through Charles Dicken’s house. In the 15 minutes is takes to pace through one of London’s most famous attractions, you’ll witness centuries worth of history. Among the many sites to see is a Georgian church in the northeast corner dated back to 1222 known as St. Martin in the Fields.
Who was St. Martin?
Martin was born in AD 316 in Pannonia, today part of Hungary. He was reluctant to join the Roman army but was eventually forced to obey a military order. When riding his horse through the village one evening, the young soldier noticed a naked beggar huddled against the city gate. Martin cut his cloak from his back to give to the man. St. Martin could never justify war with his Christian beliefs, and eventually ran off to preach the word of God as a humble traveler, living most of his life as a recluse on an island near Milan.
History of the Church
In 1222, a dispute was recorded between William, Abbot of Westminster, and Eustace, Bishop of London on the Bishop’s authority over the church. The Archbishop of Canterbury decided in favor of the abbot and St Martin’s, then surrounded by fields, appears to have been used by the monks of Westminster.
The present church was designed by James Gibbs and completed in 1726. It has become one of the most significant ecclesiastical buildings in the English-speaking world. St Martin’s has always been at the heart of London, offering continued service amidst an ever-changing city.
St. Martin’s Today
Dick Sheppard, Vicar from 1914 to 1927 who began programs for the area’s homeless, coined St. Martin’s as the “Church of the Ever Open Door”. Remaining true to the sentiments of St. Martin, the church is famous for its work with young homeless people.
The church’s programs are supported by jazz concerts held in a café in the Crypt Houses. Home of the London Brass Rubbing Centre, the acoustics of the underground café provide the best sound for jazz in the city. Locals and visitors alike attend the events weekly to listen to swinging musicians, soak up some stunning Georgian architecture, and enjoy fantastic food and drink provided by the church.
Visit Trafalgar Square with AESU
AESU offers unique, thrilling travel programs for college students and young professionals at affordable rates. Each trip is action-packed and informal—designed just for people your own age. We are also able to design custom tours just for your group.
If you have any questions or want help booking your next London adventure, please contact AESU by calling 800-638-7640, or fill out the contact form found on our website!