A Church Well Traveled

9 years 3 months 5 days ago June 20, 2007 Jun 20, 2007 Wednesday, June 20 2007 Wednesday, June 20, 2007 3:32:21 PM CDT in News

St. Mary's is not just part of Westminster College's campus. It used to live across the pond. In fact, Christopher Wren restored and redesigned it in 1677.

It was dismantled after it burned-out in London. The 700 tons of stones were shipped across the ocean, then put back together in the middle of Fulton.

Former Westminster Administrator Jack Marshall said, "At that time, most people thought it was a hair-brained scheme probably would never see reality."

It all started with the goal to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Winston's Churchill's visit to Westminster.

"Life magazine had done a spread on Christopher Wren churches, specifically on some of the churches that were damaged during the second World War. The President said, wouldn't it be nice to get one of those London churches to make the Churchill Memorial," said Marshall.

The committee selected St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, a church with a lot of history.

"St. Mary the Virgin was built in the 12th century. Flattened by the great fire of London," said Marshall.

Dr. Rob Havers is the Executive Director of the memorial.

"And then removed to Missouri in the 1960's. The oldest building in North America and a fabulous attraction for Westminster and mid-Missouri," said Havers.

What they removed from London were the columns and, essentially, just the frame of the church. "Each of the stones was numbered and it was like putting a jig-saw puzzle back together again. Took close to three years to do the whole project," said Marshall. The cost of the entire project was about $3.5 million.

Today, it would cost almost $23 million.

The church and its shipment were donated, but the interior had to be created from scratch.

"The inside is reconstructed accurately as to how it would have been in its hey day in the 17th century as Wren would have imagined it," said Havers.

The church is complete with a replica organ, straight-back pews, and clear glass windows, not stained. Havers said, "Wren was very adamant that the best way to show off a church was with natural light."

One of the newest additions to the church is one of the oldest. A pulpit was handcrafted in 1683. It was from an original Christopher Wren church in London, and it was donated to the Churchill Memorial in 2002 in memory of the victims of 9/11.

Havers still marvels the church's existence in Fulton.

He said, "It's hard to imagine that in the middle of Missouri we actually have a church from the 17th century all the way from London. It's very easy to overlook the origins because you don't really imagine they could be the origins."

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