A sign outside the cathedral reads:
For over 1,000 years Christians have worshipped here.
AD 606 - a convent
AD 1106 - a priory
AD 1540 - a parish church
AD 1905 - a cathedral
The oldest gothic church building in London.
Gower, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Massinger, Fletcher, Alleyn,
Jonson, Harvard, Bishop Andrewes, and Dickens are among those associated with this church."
Wikipedia (visit link
) further informs us:
"The present building is mainly Gothic, from 1220 to 1420, although the nave is a nineteenth-century reconstruction in a thirteenth-century style...
The earliest reference to the site was in the Domesday Book survey of 1086, wherein the "minster" of Southwark seems to be under the control of Bishop Odo of Bayeux (William the Conqueror's half-brother). It is unlikely that this minster pre-dates the conversion of Wessex in the mid-seventh century, or the foundation of the "burh" ca AD 886. There is no proof of any claims, as presently made by the Cathedral authorities, that a convent was founded on the site in 606 nor of the claim that a monastery was founded by St Swithun in the ninth century. The Old English minster was a collegiate church servicing a south Thames area. In 1106, Henry I's reign, the latter became an Augustinian Priory: this was founded with the patronage of the Bishops of Winchester which relationship was re-inforced by the establishment of their London palace immediately neghbouring the Priory to the west in 1149; a remaining wall and rose window of the refectory of the Palace survives on nearby Clink Street. Norman stonework can still be seen, and Thomas Becket preached here before departing to Canterbury, days before his murder in 1170.
The Priory was dedicated to the Virgin Mother as 'St Mary' but had the additional soubriquet of 'Overie' ('over the water') to distinguish it from the many other churches in the City with the same name.
The main structure of the present church was built between 1220 and 1420, making it the first Gothic church in London.
The church was rebuilt following a fire in 1212. In its thirteenth century state - much of the basic layout of which survives today - the church was cruciform in plan, with an aisled bay of six naves, a crossing tower, transepts, a five bay chancel, and a retrochoir or “Lady Chapel” , the form of which has also been interpreted as group of four chapels with separate gabled roofs, two opening from the choir, and two from each aisle. There was a parochial chapel attached to the south transept. The so-called “Bishop’s Chapel” was later added at the east end.
In the 1390s, it was again devastated by fire, and in around 1420, once again a Bishop of Winchester Henry Beaufort, assisted with the rebuilding of the south transept and the completion of the tower."