hidden europe 36

England’s imprint: the Anglican Church in Europe

by Nicky Gardner


Across Europe, former Anglican church buildings have been redeployed to all manner of extraordinary uses: from galleries via museums to night clubs. We trace the spread of Anglican churches throughout the continent.

In 1845, the Reverend George Edward Biber took a break from writing about doctrinal matters to produce a handsome directory of Anglican churches across the continent. Biber had in mind that his book might assist “English travellers who are anxious to preserve, amid the distractions of foreign lands, their home habits of devotion.”

Biber’s listings swept from Lille to Lisbon, from Rome to Riga, documenting places where English travellers might suspend their restless curiosity about all things foreign and find, in a Sunday service, a little corner of England. Biber documented the spread of Anglican congregations across Europe, and the number was to more than treble again between the publication of Biber’s book and the outbreak of World War I.

In the early days few of these Anglican congregations had their own buildings, but from about the time of Biber’s book the imperative to build an English church was very great. And sometimes more than one church in a single town. The range of Anglican churches across the continent reflected competing factions within the home Church. In our Boulogne feature in this issue of hidden europe, we comment that the French port at one time boasted two Anglican churches, one aimed at High Anglicans and the other more geared to the Lows.

In nineteenth-century Switzerland, hoteliers were especially keen to woo British visitors, and many established Anglican chapels in their grounds, or set aside a room for Sunday services.

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