We have recently returned to using our proper name “Holy Sepulchre” in most of our publicity and references to the church, rather than the often used alternative “Saint Sepulchre.” Our hope is that this will give greater prominence to the meaning and significance of our name, as well as making things simpler and less confusing for visitors.
What’s in a name?
Our name is an important part of our identity as a church – not only does it identify who we are (and distinguish us from other churches), it also has a spiritual angle connecting us to the place of Jesus’ death and resurrection after which we are named. In many ways calling ourselves ‘Holy Sepulchre’ has been an inspiration and prayer over the years, focussing our identity around the cross and as a place of resurrection. The name probably originally arose and was inspired in the twelfth century by our geography – like our original namesake in Jerusalem, we were located just outside one of the north-west gates of the City (Newgate) and outside the City wall.
Holy or Saint?
A walk around the church or the surrounding city may leave a casual visitor confused as to what our actual name is – some signs call us ‘Holy Sepulchre’, some call us ‘St. Sepulchre’ and some call us both! The reality is that both are actually the same name. ‘St. Sepulchre’ is simply an anglicised form of the Latin sancti sepulchri…which means ‘Holy Sepulchre’.
Over the years, as Latin has been used less and less, the meaning of ‘St. Sepulchre’ has often been lost, and these days people coming across the name often ask ‘who’ St. Sepulchre was, or comment that they have never heard of ‘him’.
By returning to the original name of ‘Holy Sepulchre’ we hope to be able to cut out some of the confusions and questions people have, as well as highlighting the actual meaning of our dedication.
If there is confusion around whether we are called Holy Sepulchre or Saint Sepulchre, there seems to be even less clarity around what geographical identifier should go with the name. Over the years we have been listed as ‘Skinner Street’, ‘without Newgate’, ‘over against Newgate’, ‘Holborn Viaduct’, ‘Holborn’, ‘in the Bailey’, ‘London and Middlesex’, and simply ‘London.’ Unfortunately there are challenges with almost all of these – some refer to locations that no longer exist (Skinner Street or Newgate), some are incorrect or refer to boundaries that have long since moved (Middlesex or Holborn), and others are correct but tend to confuse people (in the Bailey or Holborn Viaduct). While perhaps a little broader in scope than ideal, ‘London’ has the advantages of both connecting us to our heritage as a City church and being the simplest and most easily understood of the different historical options.
We hope that by returning to calling ourselves ‘Holy Sepulchre London’ we will be able to cut through some of the confusions around our name, while at the same time connecting to our heritage and history and the spiritual roots of what we are called.