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Midwinter Light At Christ Church

December 21, 2013
by the gentle author

Today is the shortest day of the year and, at eleven minutes past five this afternoon, we pass the solstice taking us back towards shorter nights and longer days. At this time when the sun is at its lowest angle, Christ Church Spitalfields can become an intricate light box with powerful rays of light entering almost horizontally from the south and illuminating Nicholas Hawksmoor’s baroque architecture in startling ways. Yesterday’s crystalline sunlight provided the ideal conditions for such phenomena and inspired my to attempt to capture of these fleeting effects of light.

You may also like to read about

A View of Christ Church

The Secrets of Christ Church

Nicholas Hawksmoor’s Churches

35 Responses leave one →
  1. jeannette permalink
    December 21, 2013

    perfect. thank you so.

  2. December 21, 2013

    Beautiful! The long hours of darkness around the time of the Solstice have their own kind of inspiration, and can be a source of creativity, but it’s good to be reminded that it’s also the time of the birth of light. Very fine pictures.

  3. December 21, 2013

    What an extraordinarily good-looking church.

  4. December 21, 2013

    Thanks for the wonderful photos again, love how the light shines through the windows. Winter solstice is special for me, as it’s my birthday, and as I type this I am watching the sun rise, a beautiful start to a winter’s day. Valerie

  5. Paulo from Port Adelaide permalink
    December 21, 2013

    While you spent your shortest day of the year in the church at which my great x 6 grandfather was a member until his death in 1808, I have spent our longest day of the year polishing pews and brass ornaments of St Paul’s Anglican Church in Port Adelaide, where my great x 3 and great x 2 grandparents were wed, in preparation for our Christmas services.

    This delightful coincidence means a great deal to me as to see inside Christ Church has become my latest ambition. Today I got my first glimpse, and it is a wonder to behold. Our church is very humble in comparison.

    Thank you – and from the other side of the world may we wish today’s congregation of Christ Church, the readers of Spitalfields Life, and of course the gentle author himself all the best for Christmas and the coming year and thank you all for your contribution to making the world a better place. And believe me, you all do…

  6. December 21, 2013

    Stunning photographs.

  7. December 21, 2013

    Liminal and transcendent light ephemerally inhabiting this beautiful structure …
    Biomorphic and geometric beautifully balanced. So glad you created/posted this portfolio.

  8. Elizabeth cornwell permalink
    December 21, 2013

    What a wonderful church& what a wonderful architect Hawksmoor was!

  9. Greg Tingey permalink
    December 21, 2013

    Wonderful building.
    I’m very glad that the photo in “Images of England” for the RPS/English Heritage lists of this is … one of mine.

  10. December 21, 2013

    Seeing Christ Church for the first time in May is one of the highlights of my year. It took my breath away as I roamed around looking for the Tune Hotel.

  11. December 21, 2013


  12. Elizabeth permalink
    December 21, 2013

    Very beautiful photographs, thank you.

  13. armier permalink
    December 21, 2013

    Your photographs have been an inspirational delight this morning.
    Thank you so much.

    My first proper studio was in Brune Street . Then, in the 1980s, I very often took refuge from, well, quite a lot, in this magnificent and most masculine of London’s churches.

    I haven’t been able to get back to see my old friend in too long a while, but you took me there today.

    I’m grateful.

  14. December 21, 2013

    *** A Merry Christmas to The Gentle Author & and all Visitors of the SPITALFIELDS-LIFE-Website! All the best to you in 2014! ***

    Love and Peace ACHIM 🙂

  15. December 21, 2013

    Beautiful photos. Was in Spitalfields a couple of weeks ago – when I passed this church I had no idea of how beautiful it was inside. Wished I’d gone in now…..

  16. December 21, 2013

    I was blown away by these photographs, especially the first two; new light thro’ old windows.

  17. John F. permalink
    December 21, 2013

    A beautiful, carefully planned sequence – many thanks !

  18. Sarah Perry-Correia permalink
    December 21, 2013

    Beautiful church. And great photos. Especially the first one.

  19. Michael Brown permalink
    December 21, 2013

    Magnificent and inspirational images

  20. Roger Carr permalink
    December 21, 2013

    Wonderful photographs, wonderful church. In the same vein – I wonder what the inside of the Huguenot Church,Synagogue, Mosque, at the corner of Fournier Street and Brick Lane looks like?

  21. Ellen in NEW London, NEW England permalink
    December 21, 2013

    Thank you, gentle author. I will get out my camera and go church photo-ing! My own church has some very nice spaces and views and light. I am inspired.

  22. Andy Willoughby permalink
    December 21, 2013

    Such wonderful photos, especially the ones inside the church. So clear and sharp.

  23. Vivian permalink
    December 21, 2013

    To think I lived a stone throw away from this church when I was growing up and it was always closed. My friends and I would play on the swings in itchy park and look at the church and I always wondered what it was like inside. I got a glimpse of it in the late 70’s when it was being restored and to be able to go inside now is wonderful. Merry Christmas gentle author and all members of spitalfields life.

  24. Peter Holford permalink
    December 21, 2013

    Great photos. I went last year to take photos of this church along with St Botolph’s, St Leonard’s and St Matthew’s – all churches which my ancestors frequented. But my photos just didn’t do them justice. Thank you.

  25. Mos permalink
    December 22, 2013

    Thank you for these photo’s… Unlike Paulo, I write this from the other end of Adelaide, Aldinga Beach, and I too have wanted to see inside this church ever since I discovered many of my family have been baptised or christened inside this church. My mother’s family, the Burman’s, lived in Spitalfields from it’s inception, as Silk Weavers, and many of them have been baptised, and married, in this church. Living on the other side of the world, it is truly wonderful to be able to see the inside of this most amazing church… Thank you again, and have a lovely Christmas to you and your readers…

    Mos 🙂

  26. Sally permalink
    December 22, 2013

    Wow I love these photographs – thank you.

  27. Helen permalink
    December 22, 2013

    Lovely photographs, I especially like the ones of the outside of the church against the blue sky.

  28. Susan Grindley permalink
    December 31, 2013

    Many thanks for posting these beautiful pictures.

  29. January 1, 2014

    Beautiful! Your blog gets better and better! These are the best photos of Christ Church I’ve ever seen.

  30. January 1, 2014

    Magnificent images. Thank you so much for sharing them.

  31. Georgina Briody permalink
    November 15, 2015

    I have family connections with this church and, as a child, my father George Burnham would bring me to Spitalfields. I was brought up on stories about this church and I came back to it a few years ago as my great, great, great, great grandmother, Sarah Hurlin, was buried here. Her remains were excavated and taken to the Natural History Museum and I’m happy to say I was able to visit her this summer.

  32. Margret Strohbach permalink
    May 11, 2019

    These beautiful photos reminded me of an afternoon in Sagrada Familia in Barcelona – Antoni Gaudi had been able to create windows to lead the light lovingly into the saved nave of a church. Thank you for letting me see them!
    Margret Strohbach

  33. Margret Strohbach permalink
    May 11, 2019

    Mistake in my comment: it has to be “sacred nave” instead of “saved nave”, sorry.

  34. December 5, 2019

    My grandparent’s were married here in the late 1800’s.
    Beautiful photographs. Thank you.

  35. Mike Kay permalink
    July 2, 2021

    Beautiful pictures. Looks like the organ is missing, or have I misinterpreted? Was it being rebuilt or something at the time the pictures were taken?
    I’ve missed going to the organ recitals that were stopped by Covid.

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