Friday, June 29, 2007

Day Seven In London

Thursday, September 6

The Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Street
Cadogan Hall
Sloane Square
The Royal Court Theatre
The Royal Hospital, Chelsea
The National Army Museum
Peter Jones

We will have breakfast at our hotel again, and at 8:30 a.m. we plan to take the subway to Sloane Square Station.

We will begin our day by visiting The Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Street, a large and flamboyant structure melding English Perpendicular architecture with architecture from The Arts And Crafts Movement--with architectural elements from The Italian Renaissance thrown in for good measure! It is a bizarre building, inside and out, and yet it somehow works.

The interior is a riot of color and texture, with bold and fearless statuary carving, decorative metal work and stone work, and stained glass. Much of the interior decoration was designed by William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones.

Holy Trinity is an unusual and rewarding church to visit, and we plan to spend an hour exploring the church interior, and walking around the full church exterior.

Behind the church, in the next block, we will examine the exterior of Cadogan Hall, long London’s principal Christian Science Church until it fell into disuse. Cadogan Hall was recently restored and has now reopened as London’s newest concert venue, home of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

From Cadogan Hall, we will proceed to Sloane Square and walk around the square, viewing the many buildings that surround the square, including The Royal Court Theatre.

From Sloane Square we will walk to The Royal Hospital, Chelsea, founded in the late 17th Century as a home for old and disabled soldiers. The Royal Hospital still serves its original function.

The entire series of buildings was designed by Christopher Wren. I find the exteriors to be entirely unremarkable. Wren supposedly was inspired by the architecture of The Invalides in Paris, but the exteriors of The Royal Hospital, Chelsea, in no way approach the splendor and interest and distinction of The Invalides.

One of the buildings at The Royal Hospital was destroyed by German bombs, dropped from a zeppelin, during World War I. The building was not reconstructed until shortly before World War II, and the same building was destroyed a second time by a V-2 rocket in the latter months of the latter war. It was not rebuilt a second time until the late 1960's.

We will visit the various courtyards and gardens of The Royal Hospital, and then visit the only portions of the main building open to the public: the Octagon, the Great Hall, and the Chapel, which is the most beautiful part of The Royal Hospital.

The chapel of The Royal Hospital is my very favorite Wren church interior. Of unique design and unique proportions, with an unusual interior semi-dome painted by Sebastiano Ricci, it is a beautiful exploration of space and light and color, and yet it is somber and devotional. The chapel has unique and beautiful woodwork, perhaps the finest woodwork of any Wren church, and the woodwork defines and divides up the space beautifully.

After visiting the chapel, we will visit the small Royal Hospital Museum.

Once our visit to The Royal Hospital is complete, we will go next door and continue our exploration of The National Army Museum.

We will first have lunch in the museum café (this will be our second lunch in the museum café, but we truly have little choice, because this is a residential area, and there are no suitable dining venues nearby), and after lunch we will explore the museum exhibitions addressing both World Wars. The World War displays are quite detailed, and they are excellent.

Late in the afternoon, we will retrace our steps from The National Army Museum to Sloane Square.

At the square, we will enter the large department store that resides on the west side of the square, Peter Jones. We will proceed to the store’s seventh floor and have coffee and cakes in the restaurant, which provides excellent views of the skyline of Kensington to the north. The roofs of the South Kensington museums and The Brompton Oratory may be observed, as well as a large number of church spires. It is a very charming view.

After eating, we will spend an hour or two wandering through this enormous store, which occupies an entire city block. The building was recently renovated, at considerable expense (107 million pounds!), and it is a very pleasant department store to explore. We will remain in the store until closing time, at which point we will walk to the nearby home of my older brother’s in-laws, where we will be dinner guests.

After dinner, my brother and Josh and I will take the subway back to our hotel, but my older brother’s in-laws, no doubt, will insist upon driving my parents back to our hotel.

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