It’s a Church, Not A Nightclub


Anyone who knows me well will tell you I’m not remotely religious – what you believe is entirely up to you so long as you don’t try to sell it to others – but I regard the churches of London as among its greatest treasures. And one of the pleasures of visiting a new city is to see its churches – for me the most astonishing (apart from the agoraphobia-inducing Vatican) must be the mosque and cathedral of Cordoba, one tucked inside the other in harmony. Churches are intended as sites of salvation and sanctuary, which makes it all the more appalling that St Paul’s Cathedral charges an eye-watering £15 to enter, although it sets aside a free area for worshippers.

Since March 1st of this year, the Temple Church, one of London’s oldest, dating from 1185 (Henry II is said to have been at the consecration) has been charging £3 to enter just because Dan Brown’s trashy potboiler brought tourists to the site. They have provided a cynical little space for worshippers, carefully arranged near the door where they can’t properly see in. Am I the only one who finds this incredibly offensive?

If the heavily visited urban churches are in need of repair, they can dig into their bulging coffers – but the Temple Church is very nicely renovated (too much so) and does not appear to need the money. The commodification of religion began with church shops but is taken a new step with entry charges; many are already rented out for book launches and other media events. Perhaps it’s time to go the whole hog and turn them into nightclubs.

20 comments on “It’s a Church, Not A Nightclub”

  1. BangBang!! says:

    I wanted to go to St Bartholomew the Great when I was last in London but I didn’t realise it charged. It’s only about 4 quid but I’m unemployed at the moment and I hadn’t budgeted for it. I’m in London again tomorrow to see the wonderful Shonen Knife as an early treat for my 50th birthday. Haven’t decided where I’m going to go this time though!

  2. Dan Terrell says:

    Is Shonen Knife the Japanese girl group? Punk-pop rock that’s been going for 25 years or more?
    Or is it a historic quartz knife – seldom put on display – that was taken from Boudica’s body and is held in the Queen’s treasury, although it’s considered a Welsh national treasure?

  3. glasgow1975 says:

    I agree there is something inherently wrong charging just to wander around a church, I don’t mind paying to go up a bell tower or take a tour, but just to walk around seems against the whole ethos. Although I suppose it’s just harking back to the old ways of fleecing the pilgrims. . .
    As for turning them into nightclubs, quite a few in Glasgow have been, and restaurants, performance spaces etc :o)

  4. glasgow1975 says:

    I’m guessing it’s the former Dan as they are currently on tour with a date in London tomorrow ;o)

  5. glasgow1975 says:

    and in Glasgow they will be performing in a former Church on Friday lol

  6. BangBang!! says:

    It is indeed the former Dan and I can’t wait!! Although I would deffo go out of my way to Boudica’s dagger!

  7. Gary says:

    Isn’t there a bit in the Bible where Jesus chucks the money-lenders out of the temple? Methinks he’d be rather peeved about church authorities charging for entrance. Rather misses the point, don’t you think?

  8. Dan Terrell says:

    A couple of years ago I was in a lovely “decommissioned” church in Germany. I have forgotten exactly which city without research, so trust me on this. The church was most historic and had been beautifully restored. In order to pay for its restoration and then to maintain the church, the church elders (?) had removed many of the pews and installed in herringbone order stand-alone walls with burial vaults for ashes. The departed’s relatives bought a vault and paid I’m sure a substantial amount for having their kin buried there. The money went to the burial wall site, church restoration and upkeep, and the grounds. It was in a street in the center of the city, was well lit and beautifully maintained, but tourists could only step into the front entrance which had a 12-14 ft plexiglass wall built around the natrix. The only services in the church were burials or commemorations. It was a lovely idea as a fine city church was saved and the departed were able to be buried within the city and without an expiration date, an exhume by date, so to speak which is common in Europe.

  9. Dan Terrell says:

    What’s with the right hand heading for this post? It is not called “It’s a Church, Not a Nightclub”. but rather Next Post or 15669. Is the number the number of posts that have been posted? Was there wine and crackers, poppers, when 15,000 was reached/ Did I miss that?

  10. admin says:

    Dan – pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
    There was no party, just a small inward leap for joy.

  11. Dan Terrell says:

    Admin: I thought it might be an Oz-like moment. However, he needs to stop his knee ruffling the curtain.
    Attempting to exit your good site from “Circus of Horrors” that post vanished only to be replaced briefly by a black “screen” with the upper left-hand words, I think since it was fast, “Exit Post”. And in the right hand list were the words: “Previous Post.”
    Not trying to be picky or annoying, but it is enjoyable every so often to spot a bit of light between the always tight seams.
    I can find nothing in WordPress for Dummies to explain this, but will now wait quietly for Snowy to come loping through.

  12. John Howard says:

    Come to our aid Snowy, we know you can .

    As for neither one thing nor another in reference to churches, I think that ideally the church authorities should either sell the buildings off so that they can then become the other things that they can or, if they are being kept ‘in the fold’ as it were, let them be appreciated by all as the beautiful buildings they are. If the attitude is ‘this is ours and if you want to see it then you have to pay for it’ then lets hear that loud and clear rather than having a stealth tax. As glasgow1975 mentions there are a number of churches in Glasgow that have been sold and converted, the Oran Mor bar for one.

    Obviously some of these buildings bring in a lot of tourists, St Peters, St Marks, The Gaudi etc abroad and in this country St Pauls, Coventry, York and so on here, so if there is a need for cash for the refurbishing/renovation of these buildings then how about obtaining the funding through the local authorities who benefit from and actively seek that income?

  13. Helen Martin says:

    This is an argument that goes on and on. As a church attender (although not C of E)I looked forward to attending services in some of the great English churches. We attended evensong at St. Paul’s and communion at York Minster on Battle of Britain Sunday. The charges were explained very politely by the attendants and we accepted that, while we were astounded that most museums were free. Every community handles things in the best way it can and so many people have such strong negative feelings toward organized religion of any kind that I’m not surprised that there’s little public money for church maintenance. We paid the entrance for York and patronised the cathedral shop as well as talking on Saturday to the airmen’s wives who were doing flower arrangements for the next day. After the Sunday service there was coffee in the chapter house(for which we’d not paid the extra fee the day before)so we saw it working, as it were. York struck me as a neighbourhood church that just happened to be ages old, historically important, and enormous. There is no way that it will ever have crowds the way it did when it was a place of pilgrimage, but there is so much history you can learn from reading the walls. The plaque placed by the husband and mother of a young woman who died of a wasting disease while on pilgrimage just a year after her marriage. St. Margaret’s near the Houses of Parliament has a memorial to a 10 year old girl who was described by her parents as a perfect daughter. They wished her memory to act as a model for other girls. These are moving bits which help us see into the past. Personally, I feel that churches in proper use are connections to those who preceded us and I don’t mind contributing to their upkeep.

  14. snowy says:


    “Its a glitch in the system. It happens when they change something.”

    I was going to make a reference to taking a blue pill, but realised that could go down very, very badly.

    [The real answer is so excruciatingly dull it defies description. But to give you an idea, run through your browser menus until you find a button that says View, Source or View, Page Source. You can see what’s under the bonnet/hood and how easily it can go wrong.]

    [I’m now going to have to look up what sort of creatures ‘lope’, I do hope they have fangs. But knowing my luck it will probably be a very small duck.]

  15. Dan Terrell says:

    A lot of fine animals lope, including the fox, the deer, the big cat on the chase, the antelope, etc. You should be able to identify with one… oh, and the wolf when happy.

  16. Mantichore says:

    A question without much connection with the above: a friend of mine was wondering about the origin of the term “a Nazareth”, as a sort of floating market of thieves in London. I expected the London Brewer would have the answer, and it disappointed me sorely by not having it. So I thought you might step into the breach. Any idea about it?

  17. snowy says:

    Forgive me for poking my snout in.

    I had a very cursory search and nothing obvious pops up. May I suggest that you try a dictionary of ‘thieves cant’ or ‘vulgar tongue’ or even dialect. Unfortunately the OED is paywalled, but if you can find anything still open resembling a library I think access is free there.

    Letting my imagination run riot, a link to the money changers in the temple seems vaguely plausible, but that was Jerusalem and not Nazareth. Though the Templars did change money, and were prominent in the City until dissolved.

    Though on further thought it could be any of a number of Marché ouvert that existed at in the past.

  18. Mantichore says:

    Yes, I’ve thought of the moneychangers, and of vague connections such as the common saying “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” but I lack confirmation – and it really sounds like a reach.

  19. Mantichore says:

    Hm. “October 5th, 2012 at 3:20 am”. I wrote that message at twenty minutes past noon. Even taking into account the one-hour time difference between France and England, methinks there’s a problem.

  20. snowy says:

    It could be just be the local time where the servers are hosted. That would be approx -9hr time shift. Some where on the West coast of the US perhaps. It should be fixable using the WordPress control panel.

    A Nazareth Market crops up in a Leslie Thomas novel set in Willesden, to describe a marché ouvert where stolen goods could be traded sort of legally from dusk til sunrise.

    Nazareth seems to have been an extraordinarily common name for Workhouses, Poorhouses and Infirmaries for centuries and appear all over the country.

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