Sometimes described as “one of the most beautiful churches in London”, this is not just a church that follows the Italian Catholic faith, but is in fact the Italian church in London.

Officially called St. Peter’s Italian Church, the church opened in 1863 to serve the large local Italian community and still serves the large local Italian community.

With an impressive entrance on the busy Clerkenwell Road, it’s only when you look at a map that you notice that the alignment is a little odd as it’s pointing southwest as opposed to the preference for an eastward-facing church. That’s likely due to the previous road layouts as the church was built inside an open courtyard, George Yard, and the entrance sat inside the bottom half of the yard with an alley leading to Hatton Wall.

So its original address was 22 Hatton Wall.

OS map 1868 with overlays

When the main Clerkenwell Road punched through the area in 1874–78, the entrance was exposed onto the new road, and they built a much grander entrance next to the existing tower.

Built to house 2,000 people, The Builder magazine of 26th September 1863 said that there was a provision in the design for an extension at the rear of the church to support 3,400 people. The design was also unique in the UK at the time, as it’s in the Roman Basilica style – that is a rectangular base split into aisles with columns, and was modelled on the church of San Crisogono in Trastevere in Rome.

Heading into the church, the central nave is higher than the two side naves, and in Catholic style, richly adorned on the ground floor level and much lighter and plainer in the upper spaces.

The sanctuary altar space is exceptionally richly decorated with italian marble and paintings — and above the coat of arms of Pope Leo XIII, who was Pope when the church was built.

As with most Catholic churches, there’s a host of chapels along the side walls, but the most significant is the chapel of Our Lady of Mt Carmel, and each year, the statue is taken down and paraded through the local streets. It takes place around July time and is worth attending if you’ve been to watch it.

A bit hidden at the rear of the church is one of the most impressive, if rather dusty, cribs I’ve ever seen.

Something you can’t see though, it the bell – known as the “Steel Monster”, one of the largest church bells in London, and even larger (if slightly lighter in weight) than the massive Great Tom at St Paul’s Cathedral.

In London, only Big Ben in the Elizabeth Tower is bigger and heavier.

As a Catholic church, it’s usually open daily to pop in and visit, and there’s also a guidebook in the church to read, which explains the meaning of the various chapels dotted around the church and their decoration.


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  1. Local Lad says:

    Also worth a mention is the Memorial in the Porch to all the Internees who lost their lives when the SS Arandora Star was sunk by a U-boat in July 1940.

  2. Nicholas Bennett says:

    “The Italian Catholic faith”, I appreciate what you are trying to say but there isn’t a separate Catholic faith for Italians. One universal church. Perhaps better described as the Catholic Church for those of Italian heritage in London.

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