The tower of St John the Divine Kennington is 212 ft (64.6 m) high. It was completed in 1888 to designs by George Edmund Street in the style of the great Medieval Gothic churches, decorated with carved stone ornaments and gargoyles.
Click/tap on the different parts of the tower to get a closer look at the carvings.
Over the years weather and pollution eroded the stonework and it was decided to carry out a major restoration. After years of fundraising the project began in 1993. To raise money, members of the congregation were given the opportunity to sponsor a gargoyle portrait of themselves. Ratee & Kett stonemasons replaced decayed stones and carved new and exciting gargoyles of public figures and local people.
The weathercock at St John the Divine is 4.2m high and made of wrought iron, mounted on an iron rod which extends into the spire and is fixed to the outer masonry by a spider's web of tension rods. It was originally fixed in position on 7 December 1888. During the restoration work of 1993, the cock and ball were re-gilded and re-mounted.
Weathervanes have existed since Roman times. It is thought that the traditional cockerel symbol began to be used in the 9th century when Pope Nicholas I decreed that all churches must show the symbol of a cockerel on its dome or steeple as a symbol of Peter's betrayal of Jesus (Luke 22:34), when Peter denied Christ three times before the rooster crowed.
When the spire was restored in 1993-4, a new set of grotesques was carved to adorn the stonework. Many of the carvings are rather irreverent depictions of famous faces, but the figures also include caricatures of worshippers at St John the Divine who supported the restoration fund by sponsoring a gargoyle. The carvings are over 200 feet up in the air, but here is a photo gallery so you can take a closer look - you may recognise some of the faces!
In the gargoyles, look out for:
Gargolyes are an old form of architectural sculpture which usually feature animals, people or fantastical creatures. Traditionally they are comic, grotesque caricatures which are supposed to scare away evil spirits. They have been used on buildings since Roman times and are mostly seen on Medieval churches, but during Victorian period they made a comeback with Gothic Revival architecture.
Technically, a carving is only referred to as a gargoyle if it includes a spout to drain water, so strictly speaking the figures adorning St John the Divine are really called grotesques.
On each of the four corners of the spire are mounted sultped figures representing the Four Apostles (or Four Evangelists), the disciples of Jesus who are traditionally credited with writing the Four Gospels. Traditionally in ancient Christian art, the Apostles have been represented by mystical symbolic figures which are descirbed as the four living creatures in Revelation 4:7 and this tradition was continued by the Victorian church builders.
The Apostle associated with the first Gospel was a Roman tax collector who was called by Jesus to be His disciple. Matthew is traditinally represented by a winged man or angel
Respresented by a winged lion, Mark founded the Church of Alexandria and is traditionally credited as the writer of the Gospel of Mark.
Luke was a physician from Antioch who became a follower of Christ in the Early Church. His symbol is a winged ox or bull.
Saint John the Divine is the patron saint of this church. He was a disciple of Christ and founded churches in Asia Minor. He is repsresented by an eagle.