The caryatids on the crypt at S Pancras Church in London

Caryatids in London.

St Pancras Parish Church is a Greek Revival church built between 1819 and 1822. Besides being one of the most important 19th century churches in England, the church has an architectural feature of interest to archaeologists and those interested in the use of the past in contemporary contexts. At the eastern end of the church, and on either side of the apse are two tribunes designed to imitate the Erechtheum with its ‘porch of the caryatids’ on the Acropolis in Athens. Four caryatids (an architectural feature where a sculptured female form was used in place of a column), modelled by John Charles Felix Rossi, made of terracotta around cast-iron columns. Each caryatid holds either an extinguished torch or an empty jug, and stand in front of a stone sarcophagus, relevant symbols for their position above the entrance to the church’s burial vault.

The crypt extends the full length of the church and was designed to take 2,000 coffins. When in 1854 this practice was ended in all London churches and the St Pancras cemetery was opened, 476 interments had been recorded. Later, the crypt served as an air-raid shelter during both World Wars, and is now used as an art gallery.

Period: Historic
Site: Church

Facilities & Visiting St Pancras New Church Crypt:
open-year-round 24-hours photographs-allowed
The replica ‘porch of the caryatids’ can be seen from the street on the corner of Duke Road and Euston Road.

Where is St Pancras New Church Crypt?
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Not far from St Pancras New Church is the British Museum, certainly within walking distance, is one of the original caryatids from the Acropolis in Athens – on which the St Pancras caryatids were modelled. It was removed by Lord Elgin sometime between 1801 and 1812 along with many other sculptures that have come to called the ‘Elgin Marbles’ and which are now on display in the Duveen Gallery of the museum. The remaining five original caryatids are now in the Acropolis Museum in Athens. The Erechtheum on the Acropolis now has replicas of each of the six caryatids. The collection of sculptures from the Acropolis were acquired by the British Museum in 1816, and the building of St Pancras New Church commenced in 1819.

Further Information:

Photographs of St Pancras New Church Crypt

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