Located off Ave Maria Lane in the City of London is a tiny thoroughfare named Amen Corner.
This location of this short laneway – which leads to the U-shaped (and gated) Amen Court – makes the name no great surprise. It lies just to the north-west of St Paul’s Cathedral and is one of a number of religiously named streets in the area (others include Paternoster Lane, Paternoster Square, Paternoster Row and Canon Alley).
The corner apparently became so-named in relation to a prayer chanted by monks. It’s said that on the day of the Feast of Corpus Christi, the monks would process through the streets, chanting prayers as they did so.
The first prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, was started in Paternoster Row – itself named after the first couple of words in the prayer when recited in Latin (“Pater Noster” which translates as “Our Father”). The monks would then process westward and by the time they reached the corner of Paternoster Lane and Ave Maria Lane, they would be at the end of the prayer – “Amen”. Hence Amen Corner.
Amen Corner was, from 1614 until the Great Fire of London in 1666 when it was destroyed, the location of a three storey house which served as the headquarters of the the Royal College of Physicians.
Ave Maria Lane, meanwhile, is named after the next prayer the monks would recite after turning the corner – “Ave Maria” (Hail Mary”).
Amen Court, which isn’t accessible to the public, is home to a short terrace of 17th-century houses where the cathedral’s canons have traditionally lived.
At its western end is a wall which once marked the boundary of Newgate Prison and which itself has an interesting history. The spectral ‘Black Dog of Newgate’ was said to have been sighted crawling along its top just prior to an execution taking place in the prison.