Historic Fulton church to ring bells in remembrance of WWII air raids

Friday, December 17, 2010 | 5:04 p.m. CST; updated 3:34 p.m. CST, Monday, December 27, 2010

* CORRECTION: This sentence was altered to delete references to John Milton and William Shakespeare, who were incorrectly said to be patrons of the Wren-designed church.

COLUMBIA — The Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury used to stand in London; now, it’s in Fulton. On Dec. 29, its bells will ring in unison with those at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

The event — at 12:15 p.m. here and 6:15 p.m. there — will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the largest German air raid of WWII, the effects of which ultimately brought the church to its current Midwestern setting.

Designed in 1676 by famed British architect Sir Christopher Wren, who also designed St. Paul’s Cathedral, St. Mary’s was partially destroyed in the Blitz. The bell-ringing will mark that moment in tandem with the city where the Blitz took place.

“It’s meant as a symbolic moment rather than a participatory event,” said Rob Havers, executive director of the National Churchill Museum.

Havers said the church, which now houses a museum, is as magnificent now as it was 300 years ago*. It reached its current location in the American heartland after being carefully dismantled in London — where it had never been repaired after the raid — and reassembled in Fulton.

Sir Winston Churchill gave his legendary “Iron Curtain” speech at Westminster College in Fulton in 1946, which gave the location enough significance to qualify it to receive the church.

Havers was contacted by event organizers in London, where grander events that include a convoy of wartime fire vehicles will commemorate the air raid anniversary.

“This event serves to remind us that the church comes from another place, as well as the Anglo-American unity in the time of war, which is applicable right now,” Havers said. “These are different times, but one strand of continuity is that we’re on war on foreign shores together. It’s a different scale than WWII, but it’s significant nonetheless.”

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