Tag Archives: Matthew Paris

Shock and awe in London and Paris (Matthew Paris, 1247)

matthew-paris

According to the contemporary chronicler Matthew Paris, in his Chronica Majora and Historia Anglorum, on this day, the vigil of St Valentine,  in 1247:

“There was a great earthquake in many places of England, especially in London about the banks of the Thames, destroying many houses”.

Paris was also a  Benedictine monk, scribe and illuminator of manuscripts, based at St Albans Abbey (see also February 2nd posting here). He was of French origin.

 

“A perfect storm”, or “London is drowning and I live by the river” (Matthew Paris, 1241)

On this day, the Feast of St Edmund, in 1241, began  a great rain-storm.   Matthew Paris wrote:

“[D]istinct thunder attended by lightning, a sad presage of the approach of a lengthened tempest, alarmed the hearts and ears of mortals; nor was the warning false, for it was followed by continued unseasonable weather, and by an unpleasant and disturbed state of the air, which continued for several days.  Such deluges of rain fell, that the river Thames, overflowing its usual bounds and its ancient banks, spread itself over the country towards Lambeth … and took possession, far and wide, of the houses and fields in that part.  Owing to the inundation of the water, people rode into the great hall at Westminster on horseback.  … Thus the year passed away, … generating epidemics and quartan agues [outbreaks of a strain of malaria characterised by a fever every fourth day, caused by the parasitic protozoan Plasmodium malariae, in turn transmitted by the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito]”.

As noted in the February 13th posting, Matthew Paris was a Benedictine monk, scribe, illuminator of manuscripts and chronicler, based at St Albans Abbey. He was of French origin.

The Knights Templar and Hospitaller

altar-table-brought-back-from-mount-carmel-by-knights-templar-all-hallows-barking

The Knights Templar came into being in around 1129 as an Order of “fighting monks” tasked principally with the protection of  Christians on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and with participation in Crusades, and incidentally with infrastructure and finance.  They soon became immensely wealthy and powerful, and at the same time the subject of much mistrust, on account of the secrecy surrounding  their activity, making themselves many dangerous enemies as well as friends.

On 13th October 1307 – according to myth the original unlucky “Friday the Thirteenth”,  the leaders of the Knights Templar were arrested on a  variety of charges, at least some no doubt trumped up by debtors and other vested interests, under a warrant reading “God is not pleased. We have enemies of the faith in the Kingdom” (“Dieu n’est pas content, nous avons des ennemis de la foi dans le Royaume”).  They were later tortured into confessing to having “spat three times on the Cross” (” … craché trois fois sur la Croix … “), and done to death by being burned at the stake, and the entire Order was  eventually disbanded, essentially to be subsumed into that of the Knights Hospitaller.

Interestingly, there are two Knights Templar or Hospitaller sites still in existence in London.

One  is Temple Church, in a precinct off Fleet Street.  The church was originally built in 1160-85 and 1220-40 (although it has been restored or rebuilt on a number of occasions subsequently, most recently following bomb damage sustained during the Blitz).  The round nave, modelled on either the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, is twelfth-century, and Norman, or Romanesque in style, with typically round-arched windows.    The rectangular chancel is thirteenth-century, and Early Gothic, with pointed-arched lancet windows.  The famous Purbeck Marble effigies of Knights Templar are also thirteenth-century.  The alabaster altar-tomb to Edmund Plowden, the Treasurer of Middle Temple, dates to 1584; the  monument to Richard Martin, the Recorder of London, to 1615.

The other is the Priory of the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, in a precinct in Clerkenwell.  The priory was originally built in around 1145, and destroyed during the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381 (it was actually deliberately targetted at this time because  the then prior, Robert Hales, was also the Lord High Treasurer, and responsible for the introduction of the hated Poll Tax).  It was rebuilt by Prior John Redington immediately afterwards and restored by Prior Thomas Docwra in 1504, and dissolved in 1540 (it is said that the last prior, William Weston, died on the very day the priory was dissolved, of a broken heart).  The former priory and later parish church, also with a round  nave, was substantially destroyed during an air raid  on the last night of the Blitz, 10th-11th May, 1941, and subsequently rebuilt.  Remarkably, the original crypt of 1145 still survives.  A separate gate-house of 1504 also survives.  The gate-house served between 1560-1608 – that is, immediately after the Dissolution – as the “Office of the Revels” (how wonderful!), where theatrical performances were licensed, and sets and costumed procured.  It re-entered the possession of the  by-then Order of St John in 1873, and now houses the Order’s museum.

In 1237, Matthew Paris  chronicled the departure of  a party of Knights Hospitaller to the Holy Land  as follows: “They … set out from their house at Clerkenwell, and proceeded in good order, with about thirty shields uncovered, with spears raised, and preceded by their banner, through the midst of the City, towards the bridge, that they might obtain the blessings of the spectators, and, bowing their heads with their cowls lowered, commended themselves to the prayers of all”.

Temple Church is visited on our “Tower to Temple”, “Historic Smithfield, Clerkenwell and Holborn” and “St Paul’s to Westminster Abbey” standard walks, and on our “Medieval London” themed special;  the Priory of St John on our “Historic Smithfield, Clerkenwell and Holborn” and “Medieval London” ones.

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, or by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com).

Shock and awe in London and Paris (Matthew Paris, 1247)

 

matthew-paris - Copy

According to the contemporary chronicler Matthew Paris, in his Chronica Majora and Historia Anglorum, on this day, the vigil of St Valentine,  in 1247, “there was a great earthquake in many places of England, especially in London about the banks of the Thames, destroying many houses”.

Paris was also a  Benedictine monk, scribe and illuminator of manuscripts, based at St Albans Abbey (see also February 2nd posting here). He was of French origin.

Shock and awe in London and Paris


13th February
– According to the contemporary chronicler Matthew Paris, in his Chronica Majora and Historia Anglorum, on this day, the vigil of St Valentine,  in 1247,

“there was a great earthquake in many places of England, especially in London about the banks of the Thames, destroying many houses”.

Matthew Paris

Matthew Paris

Paris was also a  Benedictine monk, scribe and illuminator of manuscripts, based at St Albans Abbey (see also blog posting here). He was of French origin.

The Elephant that Never Remembered

Contemporary drawing of the elephant and its keeper (by the monk and chronicler Matthew Paris)February 2nd (Groundhog Day) – On this day in 1255 Louis IX of France presented to Henry III one of the wonders of the age, an African elephant, to exhibit in the Royal Menagerie in the Tower of London.

Surviving records indicate that transporting the elephant to the Tower cost £6 17s 5d; building  a special house for it there,  measuring 40’  long by 20’ wide, more than £22; and keeping it for the nine months between December 1255 and September 1256, £24 14s 3½d – and all this at a time when a knight could live comfortably for a year on £15.

The elephant even had its own keeper, one Henri(cus) de Flor.  Unfortunately, it appears that he gave it  red wine to drink, a surfeit of which eventually killed it, in 1257.  The poor creature was buried in the Tower in 1258.  A   request was later made for its bones  to be dug up and given to the Sacrist of Westminster Abbey “for doing with them what the king had instructed him”.  Sadly, there is no surviving record of what became of this request!

Contemporary drawing of the elephant and its keeper (by the monk and chronicler Matthew Paris)

Contemporary drawing of the elephant and its keeper (by the monk and chronicler Matthew Paris)

The Tower is visited, although not entered,  on our  “London Wall – A Story of Survival” and “Tower to Temple – The Heart of the City” standard walks, and on our “Medieval London”, “Post-Medieval London” and “Lost City Highlights” themed specials.

Further details of all our walks are available in the “Guided Walks” section.  Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section, by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com), or by phone (020-8998-3051).

Shock and awe in London and Paris

13th February – According to the contemporary chronicler Matthew Paris, in his Chronica Majora and Historia Anglorum, on this day, the vigil of St Valentine,  in 1247, “there was a great earthquake in many places of England, especially in London about the banks of the Thames, destroying many houses”.

Matthew Paris

Matthew Paris

Paris was also a  Benedictine monk, scribe and illuminator of manuscripts, based at St Albans Abbey (see also February 2nd posting here). He was of French origin.