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The Ecclesiological Society

For those who love churches

Our history


Before the existence of our Society, the Cambridge Camden Society had been founded in 1839. In 1845 it moved to London, and changed its name to the Ecclesiological Society. That society had a major influence on the development of church architecture during the mid-nineteenth century. Its famous journal, The Ecclesiologist, was published between 1841 and 1868, and combined scholarly articles with trenchant criticism.

But that society faded away soon after 1868. The publicity for our Society when we were founded in 1879 described us as a ‘successor’ to that society. More details of the history of our Society can be found here, including a note on our relationship with the earlier society of the same name.

Over the years our Society has usually published a journal. For the first sixty years we published the Transactions of the St Paul’s Ecclesiological Society. This was followed by a more intermittent series, the Transactions of the Ecclesiological Society (by then the Society had changed its name), until about 1957. Other publications followed, including a useful series of short monographs, and a lively newsletter. The Society now produces annually a journal (Ecclesiology Today), and a newsletter (Church Crawler, twice a year) as well as the published proceedings of our annual conference. Details of these will be found on the publications page.

We also arrange visits and organise talks and lectures, as we have been doing for more than 130 years.

The Society's seal

The Society has a splendid seal adopted by the Cambridge Camden Society in 1844 (larger image here). The Ecclesiologist for September of that year commented that readers ‘will perceive that the Society has cemented its corporate existence by the adoption of a new and beautiful seal’.

Designed by Augustus Welby Pugin (his ‘AWP’ can be seen under the floral decoration at the foot of St John on the left), the scroll at the bottom was added in 1937 to the design of Sir Ninian Comper.

The centre of the seal, beneath rich tabernacle work, shows the Virgin and Child, with an orb surmounted by a cross. To the left is St George. To the right is St Etheldreda, foundress of Ely in the year 673 and thus the patroness of the diocese in which the Cambridge Camden Society was founded in 1839. She holds a staff; beneath her is a shield of three crowns, the arms of Ely. Flanking these two figures are St John the Evangelist (to the left) holding a chart of the new Jerusalem, with his symbol of an eagle at his feet, and St Luke accompanied by his symbol of the winged ox. These two evangelists are traditionally regarded as patrons of architecture and the fine arts.

In the outermost panels are, to the left, a ruin, and to the right, its transformation into a fine cruciform church. This transformation can be compared with the first pair of drawings in Pugin’s Contrasts (1836).

Finally, in the lower part of the seal is the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Cambridge, commonly known as the ‘Round Church’ which was restored by The Cambridge Camden Society in 1841-4. At the very bottom is an angel holding a scroll bearing the words ‘Quam dilecta’, the opening words  of Psalm 84. Around the seal’s edge is the legend Sigillum Societatis Camdenicae Cantabrigiensis A. S. MDCCCXXXIX (the seal of the Cambridge Camden Society [founded in] 1839).

Join us

Anyone who loves churches can join the Society.

Find out more

Our annual reports

The Ecclesiological Society has a Council of up to 15 members and holds an annual AGM. We also have a President and Vice-Presidents, all eminent in the field of ecclesiology. We are governed by our laws. We are a registered charity (no 210501).

Each year we produce an annual report, accounts, and minutes of our AGM.