Where Ancient Greece Meets Anglicanism

The new St Pancras Church in England is inspired by Greek architecture. Credit: Sue Wallace/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0

New St Pancras Church is a Greek Revival church in Bloomsbury/St Pancras, London. Although its name suggests otherwise, it was built between 1819 and 1922 and was designed by William Inwood and his son Henry William Inwood.

If you are a visitor to London and find yourself on Euston Road, chances are the magnificent building will catch your eye. It looks like a museum or a gallery with its impressive Greek columns, but it is an Anglican church.

It is called St Pancras New Church to distinguish it from St Pancras Old Church, which stands a little further north. It should be noted that Pancras is the English version of the word Παγκράτιος (Pangratios) meaning “one who holds all”.

New St Pancras Church inspired by ancient Greece

The church is built in an ancient Greek Revival style, using the Ionic order. It is built of brick, clad in Portland stone, except for the portico and the tower above the roof, which are entirely of stone. All the exterior decoration is in terracotta.

The architects were inspired by two emblematic monuments of ancient Greece, the Erechtheum, on the Acropolis, and the Tower of the Winds, in Athens. The doors are closely modeled on those of the Erechtheum, as is the entablature and much of the other ornamentation.

caryatids st pancras new church london ancient greek
The ancient Greek-style caryatids featured on the new St Pancras Church in London. Credit: public domain

Henry William Inwood was in Athens when the plans for St Pancras were accepted. He brought plaster casts of Erechtheum details and some excavated fragments back to England.

The impressive caryatids are the work of John Charles Felix Rossi and they are in terracotta, built in sections around cast iron columns. The inspiration for the design of the church is the Ionic temple of the Erechtheum on the Acropolis.

The new St Pancras Church is the most expensive church to be built in London since the reconstruction of St Paul’s Cathedral. It was designed to accommodate 2,500 people.

The cornerstone was laid by the Duke of York in a ceremony on July 1, 1819. It was engraved with a Greek inscription, saying “Let the light of the blessed Gospel thus illumine the dark temples of the heathen forever”.

The church is still used as a place of worship and Reverend Anne Stevens is the current vicar. In recent years, the church has also become a concert hall and art gallery with a capacity of 450 people, hosting live music performances and art exhibitions.

The UK is home to a historic Greek community

The economic crisis in Greece has left many young people without hope of finding well-paid jobs in Greece, bringing waves of Greeks leaving the country in its wake.

In search of better opportunities, many Greeks traveled to the United Kingdom, which is home to around 300,000 to 400,000 people of Greek descent.

Although large numbers of Greeks have moved to European countries in recent years, there is a long history of immigration from Greece to the UK, which spans centuries.

Greek communities in the UK date back to ancient times, when the Romans colonized the British Isles. Immigration from Greece continued through the Middle Ages into the modern period.

After England colonized Cyprus in 1878, the country’s Greek population exploded, with many Greek Cypriots settling in England from the early 20th century until the British left the island in 1960.

According to recent data, more than 57,000 UK residents were born in Greece, many of whom are students. Greece consistently ranks among the top countries of origin for overseas students in the UK, along with China and India.

Martha J. Finley