Tag Archives: Westminster Abbey

The consecration of Westminster Abbey (1065)

edward-the-confessors-body-being-brought-to-the-abbey-for-burial-in-1066

Westminster Abbey was consecrated on this day  in 1065 (see also December 17th and December 25th postings).

A monk of St Bertin’s Abbey wrote of its construction:

“Outside the walls of London … stood a monastery [founded by Bishop Dunstan under King Edgar the Peaceable and] dedicated to St Peter, but insignificant in buildings … .  … The king [Edward the Confessor], therefore  … gave his attention to that place, for it both lay hard by the famous and rich town and also was a delightful spot, … [and] … decided to have his burial place there [he was to die on January 5th, 1066].  Accordingly, he ordered that out of the tithes of all his revenues should be started the building of a noble edifice, worthy of the Prince of the Apostles; so that, after the transient journey of this life, God would look kindly upon him, both for the sake of his goodness and because of the gift of lands and ornaments with which he intended to ennoble the place.  And … there was no weighing of the costs, … so long as it proved  worthy of … God and St Peter”.

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).

The  coronation of William the Conqueror  (Orderic Vitalis, 1066)

1-the-coronation-of-william-the-conqueror-westminster-abbey-as-depicted-by-matthew-paris

On this day in 1066, William I was crowned king of England in Westminster Abbey.  One Orderic Vitalis wrote of the occasion:

“So at last on Christmas Day …, the English assembled at London for the king’s coronation, and a strong guard of Norman men-at-arms and knights was posted round the minster to prevent any treachery or disorder.  And, in the presence of the bishops, abbots, and nobles of the whole realm of Albion, Archbishop Ealdred consecrated William duke of Normandy king of the English and placed the royal crown on his head.  This was done in the abbey church of St Peter the chief of the apostles, called Westminster, where the body of King Edward [the Confessor] lies honourably buried.

But at the prompting of the devil, who hates everything good, a sudden disaster and portent of future catastrophes occurred.  For when Archbishop Ealdred asked the English, and Geoffrey bishop of Coutances asked the Normans, if they would accept William as their king, all of them gladly shouted out with one voice if not one language that they would.  The armed guard outside, hearing the tumult …, imagined that some treachery was afoot, and rashly set fire to some of the buildings.  The fire spread rapidly …, the crowd who had been rejoicing … took fright and throngs of men and women of every rank and condition ran out of the church in frantic haste.  Only the bishop and a few clergy and monks remained, … and with difficulty completed the consecration of the king who was trembling from head to foot.

… The English, after hearing of the perpetration if such misdeeds, never again trusted the Normans who seemed to have betrayed them, but nursed their anger and bided their time to take revenge”.

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).

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).

1-henry-iiis-thirteenth-century-north-entrance-with-rose-window

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”.

Henry VII’s Lady Chapel, Westminster Abbey

This year sees the 500th anniversary of the consecration of Henry VII’s Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey.  The anniversary  is being commemorated by a series of events at the Abbey.  Last night’s event was  a *free* lecture by Christopher Wilson, Emeritus Professor of Architectural History at University College London, on the architecture and fittings of the Lady Chapel, entitled “Of suche as apperteigne to the gifte of a Prince”.

It appears from the sparse surviving documentation that work on the Lady Chapel began in 1503, almost certainly under the supervision of the Master Mason Robert Jannings, and was substantially complete by 1508.  The Lady Chapel is the very pinnacle of the Perpendicular Gothic, and in its time, it was referred to – by John Leland – as “orbis miraculum” (“the wonder of the world”).

1 - General view of interior (by Canaletto)

Perhaps the most famous feature of the  interior is the truly spectacular fan-vaulted ceiling, from which  pendants drip like drops of Christ’s blood.  The similarly delicately-wrought and life-like statuary is almost certainly the work of Brabantian masters.

On the outside, too, the “domelets” resemble those in depictions of Jerusalem in Netherlandish paintings.

The Lady Chapel houses the tombs of Henry VII and his wife,  in the apse, and also those  of Edward VI, Elizabeth I, Mary I, James I and Charles II.  It was evidently also originally intended to re-house the tomb to Henry VI, but that lies still in   St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, as it has since 1484.

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, by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com), or by phone (020-8998-3051).

 

The consecration of Westminster Abbey (1065)

The shrine of Edward the Confessor, Westminster Abbey - Copy

Westminster Abbey was consecrated on this day  in 1065 (see also December 17th and December 25th postings).

A monk of St Bertin’s Abbey wrote of its construction:

“Outside the walls of London … stood a monastery [founded by Bishop Dunstan under King Edgar the Peaceable and] dedicated to St Peter, but insignificant in buildings … .  … The king [Edward the Confessor], therefore  … gave his attention to that place, for it both lay hard by the famous and rich town and also was a delightful spot, … [and] … decided to have his burial place there [he was to die on January 5th, 1066].  Accordingly, he ordered that out of the tithes of all his revenues should be started the building of a noble edifice, worthy of the Prince of the Apostles; so that, after the transient journey of this life, God would look kindly upon him, both for the sake of his goodness and because of the gift of lands and ornaments with which he intended to ennoble the place.  And … there was no weighing of the costs, … so long as it proved  worthy of … God and St Peter”.

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, by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com), or by phone (020-8998-3051).

Robbing Peter to pay Paul (Westminster Abbey)

Westminster Abbey West Towers by HawksmoorDecember 17th – 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”.

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).  It was rebuilt under Edward, “The Confessor”, in the years up to 1065, rebuilt again,  in the Early Gothic style, under Henry III, in 1245-72, and extended, in the Late Gothic style, under a succession of kings, including Henry VII, in 1376-1516 (in part by the master mason Henry Yevele).

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

Wonderful grotesques on Henry VII’s early sixteenth-century Lady Chapel

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 South Entrance

Henry III’s thirteenth-century north entrance with Rose Window (Church of St Margaret to left)

Martyrs' Memorial

Twentieth-century martyrs’ memorial

Westminster Abbey West Towers by Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor’s eighteenth-century west towers

Gothic architecture

Thirteenth-century flying buttresses

Chapter House, Westminster Abbey

Henry VII’s early sixteenth-century Lady Chapel

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 “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).

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

Henry III’s thirteenth-century Chapter House (left) and Henry VII’s early sixteenth-century Lady Chapel (right)