A Prayer Pilgrimage: St Olave’s
Founded in late Anglo-Saxon times, the church is dedicated to St Olaf, a Christianized Viking king who died in 1030. For many years in the 17th & 18th centuries it provided a place of worship for French protestant Huguenot refugees, some of whose names are on memorial floor-slabs.
4 points of prayer
1) A war memorial dedicated to those from the then parish of St Olave who fell in the 1914-1918 World War. This is on the outside wall, to the right of the entrance, in a blocked doorway set into the tower exterior. Following damage, the head of the Christ figure was restored in 2016.
2) The Huguenot memorial floor-slabs inscribed with Flemish names, such as that to be found at the back of the church near the wall heater.
3) The reredos or altar triptych, dating from the early 1900s – the elaborate, screen-like structure behind the altar with its multiple colourful panels contains depictions of the Virgin and Child, angels, kings and saints, including St Olaf complete with his Viking double-headed axe with which he encouraged the heathen to convert to Christianity…
4) The ‘Stations of the Cross’: a sequence of 14 images depicting in mosaics Christ on the day of his crucifixion. The object of the images is to help the Christian faithful make a spiritual pilgrimage through contemplation of the events constituting the Passion of Christ. The sequence begins on the left-hand wall near the organ and continues counter-clockwise round the interior.
1. The War Memorial
as I read the names inscribed here
beneath the crucified prince of peace,
I pray for your spirit of reconciliation
to be active in the world and in myself,
that where there is hatred, love may prevail,
and where there is hurt, we may help to bring healing.
2. The Huguenot floor-slabs
as I walk on flagstones bearing the names
of many persecuted for their faith,
who found sanctuary and worship within these walls,
I pray for all today under attack for their faith.
May I foster a spirit of welcome and openness
as I in my turn long to be welcomed.
3. The Reredos
you feel remote beyond the altar
with Mary, and angels, and a saint with a menacing axe;
I pray for the vision to see, within the stylized symbols,
the truths of your majesty and power
at work in the lives of ordinary people:
we who are neither angels nor saints.
4. Stations of the Cross
inspired by the skill of the mosaicist
I follow the path taken by your Son
to the cross and the grave;
and pray for the strength to bear my own cross,
the willingness to help others bear theirs,
and trust in the resurrection life beyond the grave.