The Long Forgotten First Piazza In London

Covent Garden piazza and market in 1737, picture copyright of

Facade of the St. Paul’s Church in 2003

Fans of the London Opera have been going to Royal Opera House in Covent Garden Square for years. But I wonder how many of them know that there was actually a “square” or so-called “Piazza” at the original Covent Garden. I have seen many paintings depicting the long vista from the piazza looking at the extraordinarily plain façade of the St. Paul’s Church. But twice I went there, there was no piazza or any long vista. Instead, there was a huge gable-roofed market-and-pub structure right at the center surrounded by the colonnaded buildings on three sides, and the church on the remaining side.

It is such a shame that the first piazza created in London more than 400 years ago was covered up by a market-plus-pub. The architect Inigo Jones, one of my favorite architects, actually liked the piazzas he saw in Italy so much that he brought the idea back to England. So bad the English just wanted to make money and built a market right in the piazza and people eventually forgot about it. And they built the market so big that I could not even take a good picture of the façade of the church. This facade was actually significant as it was supposed to be the first classical church built in England that was stripped of unnecessary ornaments. It would be an amazing experience if the piazza comes back to life one day.

covent garden, london, united kingdom – 3:26pm, aug 26, 2003

Covent Garden Market in 2003

One of the colonnades surrounding the original piazza

One of the colonnades surrounding the original piazza


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