St Magnus the Martyr

On this day in either 1115, 1116, 1117 or 1118, 900 years ago, Magnus Erlendssen, the piously Christian Earl of Orkney, was murdered on the island of Egilsay.  The event is being commemorated in the City of London church dedicated to him by a Pontifical High Mass at 12:00 today, followed by Solemn Pontifical Vespers at 3:30.

The church was probably originally built in the twelfth century, sometime after Magnus’s sanctification in  1135.  It was subsequently rebuilt by Christopher Wren between 1671-87, after having been burned down in the Great Fire of London in 1666, and despite eighteenth- to twentieth- century modifications and restorations  retains much of the  “inexplicable splendour of Ionian white and gold” alluded to by T.S. Eliot in his 1922 poem “The Waste Land”.

Miles Coverdale (1487-1569), who, with William Tyndale, published the first authorised version of the Bible in English in 1539, and who was church rector here between 1564-66, is buried here.  Henry Yevele (c. 1320-1400), who was the master mason to three successive kings, Edward III, Richard II and Henry IV, between c. 1360-1400, during which time he either built or rebuilt much of Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster,  is also buried here.

Among the many treasures inside the church are: a modern statue and stained-glass window depicting St Magnus in a horned Viking helmet; further modern stained-glass windows depicting the churches of St Margaret New Fish Street and St Michael Crooked Lane, burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, and the chapel of St Thomas a Becket on Old London Bridge, demolished in 1831; and a modern scale-model of the bridge as it would have looked in its Medieval heyday.

On the outside wall is a Corporation Blue Plaque marking the approach to the Old London Bridge, built between 1179-1206.  Nearby are some stones from the bridge, and a timber from the Roman wharf purporting to date to 78, but in fact recently shown on tree-ring evidence to date to 62, i.e., the year after the destruction of Roman Londinium during the Boudiccan Revolt.

The church of St Magnus the Martyr is visited on our  “Historic Southwark”  standard walk, and on our “Dark Age (Saxon and Viking) London” themed special.

Further details of all our walks are available in the “Our Guided Walks” section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com), or by phone (020-8998-3051).

2 thoughts on “St Magnus the Martyr

  1. rafterd1972

    Wonderful post. Thank you for another glimpse into the very early stages of(modern) English history.

    Reply

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