Tag Archives: St Paul’s

“The fame of the city of London” (William FitzStephen)

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Another in the occasional series on contemporary accounts and descriptions of the historic City of London, this memorable –  if gushing – one from the prologue to William Fitzstephen’s “Vita Sancti Thomae” or “Life of St. Thomas [Becket]”, probably penned in the 1170s or early 1180s  …

The fame of the city of London

Among the splendid cities of the world that have achieved celebrity, the city of London – seat of the English monarchy – is one whose renown is more widespread, whose money and merchandize go further afield, and which stands head and shoulders above the others. It is fortunate in the wholesomeness of its climate, the devotion of its Christians, the strength of its fortifications, its well-situated location, the respectability of its citizens, and the propriety of their wives. Furthermore it takes great pleasure in its sports and is prolific in producing men of superior quality.  Each of which characteristic I shall address in turn.

The mild climate

There, without question, “the mild sky doth soften hearts of men”, not so that they become “weak slaves of lust”, but so that they are not brutal and uncivilized, instead being of a kind-hearted and generous disposition.

Christian worship there

The bishopric is seated in the church of St Paul  there. At one time it was a metropolitan see, and it is believed that it will be again – if the citizens return to this island –  unless perhaps the title of archbishop, which the Blessed Martyr Thomas held, should preserve that status in Canterbury, which has it now. Since St. Thomas has graced both of those cities – London in the early part of his life, and Canterbury in the later part – each has just grounds to argue against the other, with regard to [a claim on?] that saint. In relation to Christian worship, there are also in London and in its suburbs thirteen conventual churches and one hundred and twenty-six  lesser, parish churches.

The setting and security of the city

On the east side stands the royal fortress [Tower of London], of tremendous size and strength, whose walls and floors rise up from the deepest foundations – the mortar being mixed with animal’s blood. On the west side are two heavily fortified castles [Baynard and Mountfichet].  Running continuously around the north side is the city wall, high and wide, punctuated at intervals with turrets, and with seven double-gated entranceways. Similarly, London had wall and turrets on its south side; but that greatest of rivers, the Thames, which teems with fish, through the ebb and flow of the tide lapping against the wall, has over time undermined it and caused it to collapse.  In addition, further to the west, two miles from the city and linked to it by a populous suburb,  there rises above the bank of that river the king’s palace, a structure without equal, with inner and outer fortifications.

The cultivated gardens

Beyond the suburban houses on every side and adjacent to each other, the citizens have beautiful and spacious gardens, planted with trees.

The pastures

To the north there are tilled fields, pastures, and pleasant, level meadows with streams flowing through them, where watermill wheels turned by the current make a pleasing sound. Not far off spreads out a vast forest, its copses dense with foliage concealing wild animals – stags, does, boars, and wild bulls.

The fields

The arable fields of the city are not gravelly and parched, but are like the fertile fields of Asia which “make glad the crops”; their cultivation fills the granaries “with sheaves of Ceres’ stalk”.

The spring waters

There are also in the northern suburbs of London springs of high quality, with water that is sweet, wholesome, clear, and “whose runnels ripple amid pebbles bright”. Among which Holywell, Clerkenwell and St. Clement’s Well have a particular reputation; they receive throngs of visitors and are especially frequented by students and young men of the city, who head out on summer evenings to take the air. Truly, a good city – if it has a good lord.

The reputation of the citizens

The city has won repute for its men and glory for its martial prowess, and has a very large population; so that, during the ruinous wars of the time of King Stephen, it was able to marshal an estimated 20,000 cavalry and 60,000 infantry fit for battle. The citizens of London are universally renowned and talked about for their superiority over those of other cities in the refinement of their dress, manners, and dining.

Proper behaviour

The married women of the city are true Sabines.

The schools

The three principal churches of London – St. Paul’s (seat of the bishop), Holy Trinity, and St. Martin’s – possess schools, by ancient right and privilege. But, thanks to the support of a number of those scholarly men who have won renown and distinction in the study of philosophy, there are other schools licensed there.  On holy days, the schoolmasters assemble their students at the churches associated with the particular festival, for purposes of a training exercise. There the students debate, some using demonstrative rhetoric, others using dialectical logic. Yet others “hurtle enthymemes”, while those who are more advanced employ syllogisms. Some undergo the debating exercise just to be put through their paces, it being like a wrestling match of the intellect; for others it is to help perfect their skills in determining the truth. The contrivances of sophists receive credit for the torrent and flow of their arguments. Others apply false logic. Occasionally some speakers strive to persuade by delivering rhetorical orations, taking care to observe the rules of their art and not to leave out anything related to them. Boys from different schools fling versified arguments against each other, disputing matters of grammatical principles or rules governing the use of the future or past tenses. There are those who make use of epigrams, rhymes, and metrical verse – types of sarcasm traditionally heard at street-corners; with “Fescennine License”, they freely ridicule their associates, without naming names. They hurl “abuse and jibes”; with Socratic wit they take digs at the character flaws of their fellows, or even their elders, and “bite more keenly even than Theon’s  tooth” with their “bold dithyrambs”. The audience being “ready to laugh their fill”, “with wrinkling nose repeat the loud guffaw”.

The daily routine of the city

Every morning you can find those carrying on their various trades, those selling specific types of goods, and those who hire themselves out as labourers, each in their particular locations engaged in their tasks. Nor should I forget to mention that there is in London, on the river bank amidst the ships, the wine for sale, and the storerooms for wine, a public cookshop.   On a daily basis there, depending on the season, can be found fried or boiled foods and dishes, fish large and small, meat – lower quality for the poor, finer cuts for the wealthy – game and fowl (large and small). If friends arrive unexpectedly at the home of some citizen and they, tired and hungry after their journey, prefer not to wait until food may be got in and cooked, or “till servants bring water for hands and bread”, they can in the meantime pay a quick visit to the riverside, where anything they might desire is immediately available. No matter how great the number of soldiers or travellers coming in or going out of the city, at whatever hour of day or night, so that those arriving do not have to go without a meal for too long or those departing leave on empty stomachs, they can choose to detour there and take whatever refreshment each needs. Those with a fancy for delicacies can obtain for themselves the meat of goose,  guinea-hen or woodcock – finding what they’re after is no great chore, since all the delicacies are set out in front of them. This is an exemplar of a public cookshop that provides a service to a city and is an asset to city life. Hence, as we read in Plato’s Gorgias, cookery is a flattery and imitation of medicine, the fourth of the arts of civic life.

Smithfield

In a suburb immediately outside one of the gates there is field that is smooth, both in name and in fact. Every Friday (unless it is an important holy day requiring solemnity) crowds are drawn to the show and sale of fine horses. This attracts the earls, barons and knights who are then in the city, along with many citizens, whether to buy or just to watch. It is a delight to see the palfreys trotting gently around, the blood pumping in their veins, their coats glistening with sweat, as they alternately raise then lower both feet on one side together. Then to see the horses more suitable for squires, rougher yet quicker in their movements, simultaneously lifting one set of feet and setting down the opposite set. After that the high-bred young colts, not yet trained or broken, “high-stepping with elastic tread”. Next packhorses, with robust and powerful legs. Then expensive war horses, tall and graceful, “with quivering ears, high necks and plump buttocks”. Prospective buyers watch as all are put through their paces: first, their trot, followed by their gallop (in which their two sets of legs, front and rear, are thrust out forwards and backwards, in opposition to each other).  On occasions when a race is about to be held between these chargers – or perhaps other steeds who, like their kind, are strong enough to bear riders and lively enough to race – the fact is loudly proclaimed and a warning goes up to clear lesser horses out of the way. Two or sometimes three boys prepare themselves to take part as riders in such contests between the fleet-footed creatures. Skilled in controlling horses, they “curb their untamed mouths with jagged bits”; their biggest challenge is to prevent one of their competitors from taking the lead in the race.  The horses too, in their own way, psych themselves up for the contest: “their limbs tremble; impatient of delay, they cannot stand still”. When the starting signal is given, they leap forward and race off with as much speed and determination as they can muster. The riders, eager for glory and hoping for victory, try to outdo one another in using spurs, switches or cries of encouragement to urge the horses to go faster. You start to believe that “all things are in motion”, as Heraclitus put it, and lose faith in Zeno’s theory that motion is impossible – so that no-one could ever reach the end of a racetrack!  In a separate part [of Smithfield] are located the goods that country folk are selling: agricultural implements, pigs with long flanks, cows with swollen udders, “woolly flocks and bodies huge of kine”. Also to be found there are mares suited for pulling ploughs, sledges, and two-horse carts; some have bellies swollen with foetuses, while around others already wander their newborn – frisky foals who stick close to their mothers.

Ships and commerce

Middlemen from every nation under heaven are pleased to bring to the city ships full of merchandize:

“Gold from Arabia; from Sabaea spice and incense; from the Scythians arms of steel
well-tempered; oil from the rich groves of palm that spring from the fat lands of Babylon; fine gems from Nile; from China crimson silks; French wines; and sable, vair and miniver from the far lands where Russ and Norseman dwell”.

According to the chroniclers, London is far older than Rome. For it was founded by the same race of Trojans, but by Brutus prior to Rome’s foundation by Romulus and Remus. Consequently both still have in common  the same ancient laws and institutions. The one, just like the other, is divided into wards.  In place of consuls, London has sheriffs chosen annually. It has a senatorial order and lesser officials. It has a system of sewers and conduits in the streets. Judicial pleas, arguments, and deliberations each have assigned places, their courts. It has days fixed by custom  for the holding of assemblies.

 Religious observances

I cannot think of any city more commendable for the habits of its citizens in attending church, in observing the divine festivals, in giving alms, in providing hospitality, in formalizing betrothals, in contracting marriages, in celebrating weddings, in throwing banquets, in keeping guests entertained, as well as in attention to the burial and funeral needs of the deceased. The only problems that plague London are the idiots who drink to excess and the frequency of fires.  To all this I should add that almost all the bishops, abbots, and lords of England are residents and, for all practical purposes, citizens  of London. They have imposing houses there, where they stay and make lavish expenditures when summoned to the city by the king or archbishop to take part in councils or important gatherings, or when they come to deal with private business.

Recreational activities

Let us look more closely now at the city’s recreations, since it is not productive for urban society to be always serious or practical – it also needs to smile and have fun. In relation to which, on the signet seals of the High Pontiffs, down to the time of Pope Leo, there was engraved on one side Peter the fisherman and over him a key, as though it were being passed down from heaven by the hand of God; around which, the motto “For me thou lef’st the ship; take thou the key”. While on the other side was engraved a city, with the words “Golden Rome”. Again, it was said in praise of Rome and Caesar Augustus:  “All night it rains; with dawn the shows return.  Caesar, thou shar’st thine empery with Jove.”

Miracle plays

In place of such theatrical performances and plays, London has religious drama portraying the miracles performed by the Holy Confessors or the sufferings endured by martyrs illustrating their constancy.

Cockfighting and ball games

Let us begin with boys’ games (for we were all boys once). Each year on the day called “Carnival” schoolboys bring fighting-cocks to their schoolmaster, and the entire morning is given over to the boyish sport, for there is a school holiday for purpose of the cock fights.  After lunch all the youth of the city go out into the fields to take part in a ball game.   The students of each school have their own ball; the workers from each city craft are also carrying their balls. Older citizens, fathers, and wealthy citizens come on horseback to watch their juniors competing, and to relive their own youth vicariously: you can see their inner passions aroused as they watch the action and get caught up in the fun being had by the carefree adolescents.

War games in the fields

Every Sunday in Lent, after lunch, a “fresh swarm of young gentles” goes out into the fields on chargers and “steeds skilled in the contest”, each being “apt and schooled to wheel in circles round”. Crowds of the lay sons of citizens pour through the city gates armed with military spears and shields; the younger carry spears whose metal point has been removed. “They wake war’s semblance” and practise military exercises. With a view to joining in the combats, there come many of the king’s entourage, when he is in residence; and from the households of earls and barons, young men not yet invested with knighthood. Each is consumed by a hope for a victory. The fierce horses whinny, “their limbs tremble; they champ the bit; impatient of delay they cannot stand still”.   When finally “the hoof of trampling steed careers along”, the young horsemen have divided themselves into troops; some unhorse their comrades and speed past, while others chase those who retreat, but fail to catch them.

Naval exercises

At Easter they hold games that are a sort of naval tournament. A shield being securely fastened to a mast fixed mid-river, a young man standing in the prow of a small boat, propelled by the current and by several rowers, has to strike that shield with a lance. If he can splinter the lance by striking it against the shield and manage to avoid being thrown off his feet, his prayers have been answered and his objective achieved. If on the other hand the lance strikes it square on without breaking, he’ll be cast into the fast-flowing river, and the boat will move on beyond him. However, there are anchored on either side two boats holding several young men to pluck out of the river any contestant who has taken a plunge, once his head emerges above water-level or “once more bubbles on the topmost wave”. On the bridge and on galleries overlooking the river are numerous spectators, “ready to laugh their fill”.

Summer games, such as wrestling and the like

On festival days throughout the summer young men exercise through sports such as athletics,  archery, wrestling, shot-put, throwing javelins (by use of a strap) beyond a marker, and duelling with bucklers. “Cytherea leads the dance of maidens and the earth is smitten with free foot at moonrise”.

Winter baiting of boars, bull and bears with dogs

On most festival days during winter, before lunch, boars foaming at the mouth and hogs armed with “tusks lightning-swift” fight for their lives; they’ll soon be bacon. And fat bulls with horns or monstrous bears, under restraints, are set to fight against hounds.

Games on the ice

When the great marsh [Moor Field] that laps up against the northern walls of the city is frozen, large numbers of the younger crowd go there to play about on the ice. Some, after building up speed with a run, facing sideways and their feet placed apart, slide along for a long distance. Others make seats for themselves out of ice-slabs almost as large as millstones, and are dragged along by several others who hold their hands and run in front. Moving so quickly, the feet of some slip out from under them and inevitably they fall down flat. Others are more skilled at frolicking on the ice: they equip each of their feet with an animal’s shin-bone, attaching it to the underside of their footwear; using hand-held poles reinforced with metal tips, which they periodically thrust against the ice, they propel themselves along as swiftly as a bird in flight or a bolt shot from a crossbow. But sometimes two, by accord, beginning far apart, charge each other from opposite directions and, raising their poles, strike each other with them. One or both are knocked down, not without injury, since after falling their impetus carries them off some distance and any part of their head that touches the ice is badly scratched and scraped. Often someone breaks a leg or an arm, if he falls onto it. But youth are driven to show off and demonstrate their superiority, so they are inclined to these mock battles, to steel themselves for real combat.

Those who amuse themselves with birds of prey

Many citizens enjoy sports involving high-flying birds – falcons, hawks and the like – or hounds for hunting in the woods. The citizens have hunting rights in Middlesex, Hertfordshire, throughout the Chilterns, and in Kent as far as the river Cray. The Londoners, in a time when they used to be called Trinovantes, repulsed Caius Julius Caesar, who “rejoiced to make no way save with the spilth of blood”. Regarding which, Lucan writes: “To the Britons whom he sought, he showed his coward back”.

Sons and daughters of the city of London

The city of London has been the birthplace of a number of persons who brought under their rule many kingdoms and the Roman empire, and many others who, through their excellent qualities, have been “raised to the Gods as lords of earth”, just as had been promised to Brutus by Apollo’s oracle:

“Brutus, past Gaul beneath the set of sun, there lies an isle in Ocean ringed with waters.  This seek; for there shall be thine age-long home. Here for thy sons shall rise a second Troy, here from thy blood shall monarchs spring, to whom all earth subdued shall its obeisance make.”

During Christian times it gave birth to the noble emperor Constantine, who dedicated the city of Rome and all symbols of empire to God, St. Peter, and Silvester the Roman pope, to whom he showed his subordination by holding his stirrup; he preferred the title Defender of the Holy Roman Church, rather than the traditional one of emperor. So that the peace of His Eminence the Pope should not be disturbed by the hurly-burly of worldly affairs occasioned by his presence, Constantine entirely withdrew from the city he had handed over to the Pope, and built the city of Byzantium for himself.

In modern times, London has produced majestic and celebrated rulers: the Empress Matilda, King Henry III, and the blessed Thomas the archbishop, Christ’s glorious martyr, “than whom she bore no whiter soul nor one more dear” to all good people in the whole of the Latinized world”.

Lightning strikes “Old”  St Paul’s (1444)

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On this day in 1444, the spire of “old” St Paul’s Cathedral (*) was destroyed by lightning.  A replacement spire was completed in 1462, and itself destroyed by lightning in 1561 (see also June 4th and July 2nd postings).

“Old” St Paul’s was built in the Norman, or Romanesque, to Early Gothic styles in the years after  1087 by the  Bishop, Maurice and his successors; rebuilt and extended in the Gothic style in 1221-1240,  and in the “New Work” of 1269-1332; renovated in the Renaissance  style by Inigo Jones in 1633-1641, and again by Wren, after the Civil War, during which it had been occupied by  Parliamentary troops and horses, in 1660; and burnt down in  the Great Fire of 1666.  There is a model of “old” St Paul’s in the Museum of London.  It was clearly an impressive building, measuring some 600’ in length, and rising to a height of between 460-520’ (estimates vary),  inclusive of the spire.  As John Denham wrote in 1624:   “That sacred pile, so vast, so high/That whether ‘tis a part of earth or sky/Uncertain seems, and may be thought a proud/Aspiring mountain or descending cloud … ”.

St Paul’s Cathedral is visited, although not entered, on our  “London Wall”, “Tower to Temple”, “Historic Smithfield, Clerkenwell and Holborn” and “St Paul’s to Westminster Abbey” standard walks, and on our “Dark Age London”, “Medieval London”, “Medieval City Highlights”, “Tudor and Stuart London”, “Tudor and Stuart City Highlights”, “Lost City Highlights”, “Great Fire of London” and “Lost Wren Churches” themed specials.

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).

(*) The name is something of a misnomer, as by the time it was built, there had already been three cathedrals on the site, built in 604, 675 and 962 (see also December 2nd posting).

 

The second Great Fire of London

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On this day in 1940, an air raid by the German Luftwaffe led  to the so-called “Second Great Fire of London” (see  M.J. Gaskin’s “Blitz”, published by Faber & Faber in 2005;  see also September 16th, 2015 posting on “The London Blitz, and the London County Council Bomb Damage Maps“). Tens of thousands of incendiary bombs were dropped, and the small individual fires that they set off soon coalesced into a great conflagration that threatened the entire city centre.  Over 200 people were killed, and damage to property was on a then unprecedented scale.  The area around St Paul’s was essentially razed to the ground, and although the cathedral itself miraculously survived essentially intact, due to the heroic actions of the firefighters of the St Paul’s Watch, a number of other Wren churches were seriously damaged, and two, St Mary Aldermanbury and St Stephen Coleman Street, were substantially destroyed.  Remarkably, St Mary Aldermanbury was rebuilt, out of salvaged material, and according to Wren’s original design, in Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, in 1966 (as a memorial to Winston Churchill, who had made his famous “Iron Curtain” speech there in 1946).

The sites of St Mary Aldermanbury and St Stephen Coleman Street are visited on our “Lost Wren Churches” 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, or by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com).

These and other sites associated with the raid are visited on one of the walks organised by our friends at “Blitzwalkers” (http://www.blitzwalkers.co.uk).

The rebuilding of London after the Great Fire of 1666  (Samuel Pepys, 1666)

On this day in 1666, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary:

“[T]hrough the City … , observing the ruins … .  So … to the [rebuilt] Upper ‘Change, which is almost as good as the old one; only shops are but on one side”.

Remarkably, a matter of mere  weeks after the devastating Great Fire of September 2nd-6th, the City was already getting back on its feet and beginning to function as normal again.

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It would be over forty years, though,  before the  rebuilding process was completed, with Christopher Wren’s St Paul’s Cathedral only finally topping out on October 26th, 1708, and not officially opening until Christmas Day, December 25th, 1711.  Wren’s grandiose plans for the redesigning of the layout of London after the Great Fire (see December 21st posting) were eventually  abandoned on the grounds of practicality and expediency in favour of  one involving much less legal wrangling and groundwork, and much more like the old one.  The  new City was to differ from the old one, though, in several  important respects.  The old narrow streets were to be replaced with new wide ones, designed to  simultaneously hinder the spread of fire and unencumber the flow of traffic.  The  old  houses were to be replaced by new ones of four categories of standard build, of fire-proof stone and brick rather than timber; and the old  breeding-grounds for disease were to be swept aside in the process, although incidentally rather than  by design.  And, as another incidental, the old organic economy was to be replaced by a modern mineral economy, considerably ahead of its time, fuelled by coal rather than wood.  The cost of the entire enterprise, incidentally, was covered by an emergency  tax on coal imposed by Act of Parliament.

The rebuilding of London after the Great Fire is discussed on various of our walks, including the “Great Fire … ” and “Lost Wren Churches” themed specials.

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).

Robbing Peter to pay Paul (Westminster Abbey)

On this day in 1540, the Abbey Church of St Peter Westminster was made a Cathedral with its own See.   Not long afterwards, it was incorporated into the Diocese of London, and much of its estate was sold off to pay for repairs to St Paul’s – hence the expression, “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.  It is now a “Royal Peculiar”.

The abbey was originally founded, as the Benedictine monastery of St Peter, by the Bishop of London, Dunstan, under the Saxon King Edgar, in 960, on what was then Thorney Island – according to legend, on the site of a church founded by Sebert in around 604 (the same year that St Paul’s was founded).

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3 - Henry III's thirteenth-century Chapter House (left) and Henry VII's early sixteenth-century Lady Chapel (right).JPG

It was rebuilt under Edward, “The Confessor”, in the years up to 1065, rebuilt again,  in the Early Gothic style, under Henry III, in the mid thirteenth century, …

4 - Henry VII's early sixteenth-century Lady Chapel.jpg

5 - Wonderful grotesques on Henry VII's early sixteenth-century Lady Chapel  .JPG

… and extended, in the Late Gothic style, under a succession of kings, including Henry VII, in the late fourteenth to early sixteenth (in part by the master mason Henry Yevele).

6 - Hawksmoor's eighteenth-century west towers.jpg

7-twentieth-century-martyrs-memorial

The present structure is essentially surviving thirteenth- to sixteenth- century,  although with some eighteenth-century additions in the form of  the west towers,  by Hawksmoor, and some twentieth-century  additions and restorations.  There are a great many important monuments in the interior, including those of no fewer than seventeen monarchs.  An equally large number of important state occasions have been held in the abbey, including all of the Coronations since that of the first Norman King, William I, the Conqueror, in 1066.  The fore-runner of Parliament, the “Great Council”, first met in the Chapter House here in 1257, only later moving to nearby Westminster Hall.

Westminster Abbey is visited – although not entered – on our “St Paul’s to Westminster Abbey” standard walk, and on our “Medieval 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, or by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com).

 

Henry V’s triumphal return to London after Agincourt (1415)

Unidentified king being greeted by dignatories

On this day in 1415 took place Henry V’s triumphal return to  London after his famous  victory over the French at the Battle of Agincourt on October 25th.  An anonymous author wrote the following eye-witness account:

“[T]he citizens went out to meet the king at the brow of Blackheath, … the mayor and … aldermen in scarlet, and the … lesser citizens in red cloaks with red-and-white party-coloured hoods, to the number of about 20000 … . And when the king came through the midst of them … and the citizens had given glory and honour to God, and congratulations to the king … the citizens rode before him towards the city, and the king followed … .

When they arrived at the … bridge … there placed on the top of the tower was  an enormous figure, with … the keys of the city hanging from a staff in his … hand … .

… And when they reached the … aqueduct in Cornhill they found the tower hidden under a scarlet cloth stretched in the form of a tent, on spears hidden under the cloth.  Surrounding … were the arms of St George, St Edward, St Edmund and of England, … inset with this pious legend: ‘Since the king hopes in the Lord and in the mercy of the highest, he shall not be moved’.  Under a covering was a band of venerable white-haired prophets, … who released, when the king came by, sparrows and other small birds in great cloud as a …  thanksgiving to God for the victory He had given …, while [they] sang in a sweet voice … [a] psalm … .

Then they went on to the tower of the conduit at the entrance to Cheapside which was decked with an awning of green … and erected to resemble a building.

… And when they came to the [Eleanor] cross in Cheapside … it was hidden by a beautiful castle of wood … .

… And when they came to the tower the conduit at the exit to Cheapside towards St Paul’s, … above the tower was stretched a canopy sky-blue in colour … and the top … was adorned by an archangel in shining gold … .  Below … was a figure of majesty represented by a sun darting out flashing rays … .

… Such was the dense throng of people in Cheapside … that a bigger or more impressive crowd had never gathered before in London.

But the king himself went along, amidst … the citizens, dressed in a purple robe, not with a haughty look and a pompous train … but with a serious countenance and a reverend pace accompanied by only a few of his most faithful servants; following him, guarded by knights, were the captured dukes, counts and the marshal.   From his silent face and … sober pace it could be inferred that the king … was giving thanks and glory to God alone and not to man.  And when he had visited the sanctuary of SS Peter and Paul, he rode away to his palace of Westminster, escorted by his citizens”.

The Gunpowder Day Sermon (John Donne, 1622)

On this day in 1622, on the seventeenth anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, the Dean of St Paul’s, John Donne, felt compelled to a sermon reassuring the congregation as to the ongoing commitment to the Protestant cause of the King, who was himself widely suspected of harbouring Catholic sympathies.   In his sermon, Donne described the King as “in his heart, as farre from submitting us to that Idolatry, and Superstition, which did heretofore oppresse us, as his immediate Predecessor [Elizabeth I], whose memory  is justly precious to you, was”.  

gunpowder-sermon

There is a virtual reconstruction of the event at www.vpcp.chass.ncsu.edu.  It shows the sermon being given outside the cathedral, at (St) Paul’s Cross, whereas the original was actually given indoors on account  of inclement weather (“ a vicious squall of November rain”).

St Paul’s Cathedral is visited, although not entered, on various of our walks.

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).