Blessing of the River Thames – 14 January 2018

Posted on 15th January 2018 by Admin under Comment, Event, Location, Photograph

I came across this religous ceremony, the Blessing of the River Thames, by chance.  The story is that I had travelled to London Bridge for an organised photo walk around the Borough Market area.  Unfortunately, having mixed up my dates, I discovered it had taken place the previous day.  Oops.  The organiser is a friend and he informed me about this religious event in an exchange of texts after I realised my mistake. Every cloud, I suppose.  Ironically, my mate had been there the previous Sunday when he thought the ritual was going to take place.

The blessing is a short service held each January on the first Sunday after Epiphany.  This became the source of confusion about the date on the part of some sources.  Epiphany fell on a Saturday this year, which apparently resulted in the ceremony occurring eight days afterwards.  I do not understand sufficient about the Ecclesiastical calendar to proffer an explanation.

Clergy from Souhwark Cathedral

Participants from Southwark Cathedral


The ceremony involves the clergy and congegration from Southwark Cathedral to the south of London Bridge and their conterparts from the church of St Magnus the Martyr to the north.  Each processes to the middle of the bridge where they meet.  During the service, the clergy say prayers for those who have any form of association with the river.  This year those prayers included one to remember those  who lost their lives during last year’s terrorist attack in the area.  The blessing concludes with the symbolic act of throwing a wooden cross into the river.

Photographing the actual event was not particularly easy and the usual issues with street photography arose.  Such as providing context while not letting the subject disappear into the surroundings.  Neither could I get especially close to the proceedings once they got underway due to the number of those gathered around.  I concentrated on photographing the participants as they made their way from the cathedral. Afterwards, the crowds disappeared very quickly and I managed a few shots then as well.

As compensation for the difficulties I faced, seeing clergy in their finery walking along the street helped provide interest.  It is hardly a usual sight, especially in the middle of London.  There was an opportunity for humour, too. I particularly like the shot where the clerics are crossing the road against a red light.

More photos from the day

Southwark Cathedral clergy

Walking towards London Bridge


Ignoring a red light

Red light? What red light?



The party from St Magnus the Martyr were waiting for the participants from Southwark Cathedral to arrive


Cross on the water

The cross floating on the River Thames at the end of the service



In a scene which shows how busy the event was, the presiding bishop mingles with onlookers after the service


The presiding bishop

The bishop after the service – it was a popular event and I was not the only one taking photos


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