St. Mark’s English Church is just on the ‘other side’ of the Arno, a few steps away from the river, nestled between mom ’n’ pop shops on the busy via Maggio. But the striking statue that stands tall in an alcove on the wall hints to passersby that something special lies within.
Established on May 1, 1881, the church is part of an old Medici palace that was once owned by Machiavelli and later renovated in the neo-Renaissance style, still evident today. St. Mark’s not only holds mass, but also plays an essential cultural role in the community. The resident opera company is entering its 10th successful season, and the church has begun offering concert choir performances. It supports several charities, including a children’s home in South India and a community in Malawi, and the church gives to the British Institute as well as serving the homeless in Florence (more than 75,000 hot meals to those in need at last count). The church has expanded over the years, with an established congregation in Siena and a growing congregation in Bologna. The Florence location seats 400, averaging about 150 regularly at services. Currently in the process of setting up a fund-raising campaign to restore the building, St. Mark’s also hopes to purchase a new organ.
Father William Lister stands at the altar in St. Mark’s.
‘The more we can develop and diversify things here, the better. It has become a varied sort of place,’ says Father William Lister, who began a 10-year assignment to St. Mark’s in September 2012. Previously, he was a chaplain in the British army, a position he held for 16 years.