Westminster Part I: The Art, Architecture and Archaeology of the Royal Abbey 9781910887257, 9781910887240, 9781910887295, 9781910887288

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Table of contents :
Half Title
Title Page
Copyright Page
Table of Contents
List of Abbrevations
The Medieval and Early Tudor Topography of Westminster
‘A Fine and Private Place’: The Sarcophagus of Valerius Amandinus and the Origins of Roman Westminster
The Archaeology of Westminster Abbey: An Historiographical Overview
Edward the Confessor’s Church at Westminster: An Alternative View
The Romanesque Monastic Buildings at Westminster Abbey
Numerical Archaeology: Gleanings from the 1253 Building Accounts of Westminster Abbey Revisited
The Iconography of Henry III’s Abbey: A Note Towards Elucidation of Themes
The Cosmati Pavements and their Topographical Setting: Addressing the Archaeological Issues
Seats, Relics and the Rationale of Images in Westminster Abbey, Henry III to Edward II
The Polychromy at Westminster Abbey, 1250–1350
The Virgin Mary and White Harts Great and Small: The 14th-Century Wall-Paintings in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Pew and the Muniment Room
History and Chronicles at Westminster Abbey, 1250–1450
The Abbey and Palace as Theatres for Coronation
The New Work: Aspects of the Later Medieval Fabric of Westminster Abbey
Sir George Gilbert Scott as Surveyor of Westminster Abbey, 1849–78
An Historical Sketch of the North Precinct of Westminster Abbey with Special Reference to its Prisons
Westminster School Buildings, 1630–1730
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WESTMINSTER The Art, Architecture and Archaeology of the Royal Abbey and Palace

General Editor

Helen Lunnon

Plan A.

Plan of Westminster Abbey, drawn in 1921. Adapted from RCHME, An Inventory of the

Historical Monuments in London, I: Westminster Abbey (London 1924)

WESTMINSTER I. The Art, Architecture and Archaeology of the Royal Abbey Edited by Warwick Rodwell and Tim Tatton-Brown

The British Archaeological Association

Conference Transactions XXXIX, Part I

The Association is very grateful to the Palace of Westminster for a generous grant towards the cost of publishing this volume. The Art, Architecture and Archaeology of the Royal Abbey

is dedicated to Barbara Harvey.

Cover illustration: Westminster Abbey: the south side of the nave viewed from the cloister # Christopher Wilson

ISBN Hardback 978-1-910887-25-7 ISBN Paperback 978-1-910887-24-0 Parts I and II ISBN Hardback 978-1-910887-29-5 ISBN Paperback 978-1-910887-28-8 # The British Archaeological Association 2015. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the written permission of the copyright holders. Photocopying For users in the UK, the Copyright Licensing Agency, [email protected], is mandated to give permission to make copies. For Australia, please see www.copyright.com.au or www.copyright.org.au for more information. For North America and the rest of the world, permission is granted by the copyright holder for libraries and others registered with the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC), www.copyright.com. Disclaimer Statements in the volume reflect the views of the authors, and not necessarily those of the Association, editors or publisher. Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe.

published for the british archaeological association

Published 2017 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017, USA Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business

Contents List of Abbrevations Preface The Medieval and Early Tudor Topography of Westminster tim tatton-brown

page vii viii 1

‘A Fine and Private Place’: The Sarcophagus of Valerius Amandinus and the Origins of Roman Westminster martin henig


The Archaeology of Westminster Abbey: An Historiographical Overview warwick rodwell


Edward the Confessor’s Church at Westminster: An Alternative View francis woodman


The Romanesque Monastic Buildings at Westminster Abbey stuart harrison and john mcneill


Numerical Archaeology: Gleanings from the 1253 Building Accounts of Westminster Abbey Revisited a. richard jones


The Iconography of Henry III’s Abbey: A Note Towards Elucidation of Themes pamela tudor-craig


The Cosmati Pavements and their Topographical Setting: Addressing the Archaeological Issues warwick rodwell


Seats, Relics and the Rationale of Images in Westminster Abbey, Henry III to Edward II paul binski and emily guerry


The Polychromy at Westminster Abbey, 1250–1350 helen howard and marie louise sauerberg


The Virgin Mary and White Harts Great and Small: The 14th-Century Wall-Paintings in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Pew and the Muniment Room jane spooner


History and Chronicles at Westminster Abbey, 1250–1450 richard mortimer


The Abbey and Palace as Theatres for Coronation nicola coldstream


The New Work: Aspects of the Later Medieval Fabric of Westminster Abbey tim tatton-brown


Sir George Gilbert Scott as Surveyor of Westminster Abbey, 1849–78 steven brindle


An Historical Sketch of the North Precinct of Westminster Abbey with Special Reference to its Prisons richard foster


Westminster School Buildings, 1630–1730 eddie smith


Plan B.

Enlargement of Plan A showing the presbytery and sanctuary area of

Westminster Abbey


Antiquaries Journal Archaeological Journal Art Bulletin All Souls College, Oxford British Archaeological Association Transactions British Library, London British Museum, London Calendar of the Close Rolls Calendar of the Liberate Rolls Calendar of the Patent Rolls Close Rolls Journal of the British Archaeological Association J. S. Brewer, J. Gairdner and R. H. Brodie ed., Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII, 21 vols (London 1862–1910 and 1920–32) London Metropolitan Archive Museum of London Archaeology Service Medieval Palace of Westminster (images forming part of the ‘Medieval Palace of Westminster Research Project’ funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board, currently held by John Crook) Patent Rolls Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England Society of Antiquaries of London Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society The National Archives, Kew Victoria County History Westminster Abbey Muniments Westminster City Archives Wren Society Westminster School Archives


Editors’ Preface The summer conference of 2013 took place between Saturday 20 and Wednesday 24 July in London, the theme being the Architecture and Archaeology of the Royal Abbey and Palace of Westminster. Although the Association based its 1984 conference on the City of London, it had not been to Westminster since 1902. The Lord Mayor of Westminster was President at that time, and in his inaugural address he mused on the fact that it had taken the Association fifty-nine years to bring its annual congress to Westminster, but expressed great satisfaction that it had finally done so in the year of the coronation of King Edward VII (JBAA, ns, 9 (1903), 2). After an interval of a further 111 years, holding the Association’s 2013 conference at Westminster was equally felicitous, falling as it did just six weeks after Her Majesty The Queen had celebrated the diamond jubilee of her coronation in the Abbey in 1953. The conference was jointly hosted by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, West­ minster School, and the Palace of Westminster. Unlike the 1902 congress, when dele­ gates went on excursions around London and the home counties, the 2013 conference was firmly focused on the Abbey and Palace, but also included Westminster School, which was established within the monastic precinct and adopted many of its buildings. The conference was over-subscribed, necessitating a ballot for places. In all, 192 delegates attended, the highest number recorded in the history of the Association. Twelve scholarships were awarded to students covering the full costs of the conference, and five scholarships that allowed students to attend lectures but not the site visits. In total, twenty-five papers were read in Westminster School Hall (formerly the monastic dormitory). In the late afternoon of Saturday the conference enjoyed its first visit to the Abbey, when the chapter-house, Undercroft Museum and Pyx Chamber were open. On Sunday and Monday delegates split into groups to visit parts of the Abbey not normally accessible to the public, including the triforium (where the Abbey’s new museum and gallery is to be established), the Shrine of Edward the Confessor, the Cosmati pavement in the sanctuary, the Coronation Chair, the chapter-house crypt, St Faith’s Chapel, the Islip Chapel, the Library, Jerusalem Chamber and College Hall. There were also exten­ sive tours of Westminster School and the surviving monastic precincts. Tuesday after­ noon took the conference to St Margaret’s Church and the Palace of Westminster, where on-site presentations were made. The President’s reception was held in the east walk of the great cloister, while the Association was also honoured with receptions and dinners in the Abbey cellarium, College Garden, College Hall and the Members’ Dining Room in the Palace of West­ minster, for which we offer grateful thanks to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, Westminster School, the House of Commons and English Heritage. The reception in College Garden, which followed a visit to the Jewel Tower, marked the launch of a new ‘red guide’ to the Tower, and we are grateful to English Heritage, and to Simon Thurley, Edward Impey and the guidebook’s author, Jeremy Ashbee, for honouring the conference with its launch. Holding the conference dinner in the 14th-century College Hall was an enormous privilege granted by the Dean, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, who attended in person and gave a very warm and entertaining speech of welcome. Lindy Grant, the President, was in attendance throughout the conference, introducing proceedings and offering eloquent thanks to our various hosts. viii


The Association wishes to record its deep gratitude to all those who assisted in the organization and smooth running of the conference, in the first place, for granting permission for privileged access to, and use of, buildings which are not normally available to visiting groups: the Dean and Chapter of Westminster; Dr Stephen Spurr, Headmaster of Westminster School; and Chris Silcock, School Bursar. Similarly, we would like to thank David Harrison and Mark Collins, who facilitated access to areas in the Palace of Westminster. Organizing an event such as this for a large number of delegates, in the heart of London, at the height of the tourist season, presented un­ precedented challenges for the Association, not least on account of the level of security in force in all three of the hosting institutions. Any number of things could have gone wrong, but two years of careful planning, patient negotiation and enormous goodwill from all concerned paid off, and everything ran like clockwork. The Association is most grateful to the lecturers for sharing the fruits of their researches, and would also like to thank most warmly the on-site speakers and guides, without whom the visits would have been much the poorer. Collectively, the volume of new information and fresh insights that they presented is truly impressive. We are additionally grateful to everyone for responding to a tight production schedule for these Transactions. Nearly all the speakers have contributed to the present volume, to which have been added a further three papers arising from on-site presentations by Steven Brindle (the New Palace), Martin Henig (the Roman sarcophagus) and Eddie Smith (the Westminster School buildings). A fourth paper kindly offered by Paul Binski and Emily Guerry has also been included. For help in setting up the complex visits to the Abbey, and for assisting more generally, the Association would like to record its deep gratitude to Ptolemy Dean, Surveyor of the Fabric; Tony Trowles, Librarian and Head of the Collection; Matthew Payne, Keeper of the Muniments; Diane Gibbs, Museum Coordinator; Vanessa Simeoni, Head Conservator; and Marie Louise Sauerberg, Painting Conservator. All made site presentations. Many other members of staff at Westminster Abbey also helped in various ways, both in planning the conference and in its day-to-day running. Particular mention must be made of Sir Stephen Lamport KCVO, Receiver General; Lorraine Rossdale, Head of Event Management; Alex Anderson, Head Marshal; and Martin Castledine, Dean’s Verger; and their respective teams. The volunteers responsible for keeping delegates refreshed with teas, coffees and lunches did sterling work, and the conference would have seized up without Jenny Freeman, Susan Rigg and Robert Tatton-Brown. Gareth Hughes also rendered valuable administrative assistance on site. Ultimately, there are many individuals without whose assistance the conference would not have run smoothly, but the Association wishes to offer particular thanks to Kate Davey, conference organizer, and Abigail Wheatley, conference secretary, for making this such a successful event. They had to weather an exceptionally challenging conference, both in terms of coping with the varying wishes and needs of the greatest number of delegates the Association has ever accommodated at a conference, and the logistics of orchestrating visits to so many places — some of them very restricted — in three complexes of buildings that lie at the heart of Britain’s royal and ecclesiastical life, and its seat of government. We are profoundly in their debt. Finally, the magnitude of the papers resulting from the conference rendered publi­ cation in a single volume impracticable, and it was decided that in this instance the Transactions should be divided into two parts. The papers relating to Westminster Abbey are contained in Part I, and those relating to the Palace of Westminster in Part II. ix


In order to make it possible for each part to stand alone, this preface and the two plans accompanying Tim Tatton-Brown’s introductory paper on the topography of West­ minster are included in both. The editors are enormously grateful for the help they have received in bringing this complex work to publication: Joseph Spooner painstakingly copy-edited the whole manuscript, John Osborn and Fred Uhde kindly defrayed the cost of preparing several line drawings, John McNeill made a wealth of valuable comments and suggestions, and Linda Fisher undertook the exacting task of laying out and setting up the volume for printing with great efficiency and patience. Warwick Rodwell and Tim Tatton-Brown Conference Convenors

Plan C.


1894–96 Ordnance Survey map of Westminster showing the two supposed courses of the river Tyburn from Buckingham Palace

The Medieval and Early Tudor Topography of Westminster TIM TATTON-BROWN

This paper looks at the topography of the whole of the greater Westminster area between the Westbourne and the Thames (Fig. 1). It will concentrate almost entirely on reconstructing the topography of the period before the mid-18th century, when the building of Westminster Bridge led to large-scale topographical changes. There are fortunately still many illustrations of Westminster, made between the mid­ 16th and early 18th centuries, which allow much of its topography to be reconstructed. Most useful are the early maps and plans, many of which are now published as modern digital images by the London Topographical Society.1 There is also quite a large number of less well-known, unpublished 17th- and early-18th-century maps and plans in the Westminster Abbey Muniments, as well as in other archives. For example, there are some beautifully drawn watercolour plans and elevations of the ‘sewers’ made for the Westminster Commission of Sewers in the early 19th century, particularly those covering the modern Pimlico area, that are now in the London Metropolitan Archives. The present author’s aim is to produce a detailed new map of Westminster in about 1530. This is just before the earliest surviving maps and illustrations,2 but more importantly it is just before Henry VIII took over Whitehall Palace, and acquired Westminster Abbey lands for St James’s Park and Green Park (in 1531–32), and the manor of Eye, including ‘La Hyde’ and the abbot’s country house at ‘La Neyte’ with its estates (in 1536). Westminster Abbey was dissolved in 1540, and within the next halfcentury the new City of Westminster (formally created in 1585) was growing rapidly, and ‘development’ was taking place on a large scale.3 the beginnings of westminster and the core estates of westminster abbey Virtually nothing is known about early Westminster, not only in the prehistoric period, but also in the Roman and early and middle Anglo-Saxon periods as well. As is well known, Westminster Abbey is not recorded in the pages of the Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, and virtually all the supposed ‘early’ charters are probably forgeries of the late 11th and 12th centuries.4 However, a charter in the Abbey Muni­ ments, dated ad 951 (but probably of ad 959), in which King Edgar (957–75) restores to St Peter’s, Westminster, an estate on the north side of the Thames between the Tyburn and the Fleet is apparently based on fact.5 This suggests that there was already a church here by this time, and one day the remains of this church may be found archae­ ologically. More importantly, however, the charter mentions St Dunstan, the great reforming Benedictine abbot of Glastonbury, who became bishop of London in 959, BAA Trans., vol. xxxix, part i (2015), 1–22 # British Archaeological Association 2015


tim tatton-brown

before quickly moving on to be archbishop of Canterbury. By about 990, Wulfsige, a Glastonbury monk, had become abbot of Westminster before moving on to be bishop of Sherborne in 993 or 994.6 We can be fairly certain, therefore, that it was in the 990s, at the latest, that Westminster Abbey became a Benedictine abbey, and within a century or so (that is, by the time of the Domesday Book), St Dunstan’s three great Benedictine houses at Glastonbury, Westminster and Canterbury Cathedral had become the three greatest and richest monasteries in England. Attached to the bottom of the Abbey’s 951 (959) charter, and written in AngloSaxon, are the bounds of the land that were given to the Abbey.7 These show that this was the whole of the area between the River Tyburn on the west and the Fleet on the east, just outside the Roman western walls of the City of London. On the south and south-east, the boundary was the Thames, while to the north it was the old Roman road (‘military way’), now Oxford Street.8 Only on the far east (beyond Temple Bar) was a small amount of this land taken away from the Abbey in the later Middle Ages, and, as we shall see, at the end of the 11th century the Abbey was also given a second great estate, the manor of Eye. This extended their land west from the Tyburn to the Westbourne, also between the Thames (south) and the Roman road (Bayswater Road and Oxford Street).9 These two great areas (manors) were, until the later 19th century, the City and Liberty of Westminster,10 and it is this area that is the main subject of this paper (Fig. 1).11 the river tyburn and its original course Key to our understanding of the early topography of Westminster is the River Tyburn, the main course of which is fairly well known (though it now runs almost entirely underground in a series of brick-built drains or ‘sewers’) from its source at Hampstead to Buckingham Palace. ‘From here onwards all is doubt’, to quote Nicholas Barton’s The Lost Rivers of London, the pioneering book on this subject.12 Barton continues by describing the three main theories for the original course of the lower Tyburn from Buckingham Palace. (i) It ran eastwards towards Westminster and there divided into two to form a small island (Thorney Island) on which the Abbey stands. (ii) One arm went from Buckingham Palace to Westminster, the other southwards to join the Thames near Vauxhall Bridge, thus forming a large island (Plan C, prelim p. x). (iii) The stream simply flowed south from Buckingham Palace as above; no part of the stream went to Westminster, and there was therefore no island. This sets out the problem very clearly, but Barton goes on to muddy the waters by mentioning the piped-water supply, both in the Middle Ages and for the Chelsea Waterworks (1723–1823). These are unrelated subjects, as we shall see, and will be dealt with later. For the last century or so, the course of the lower Tyburn has been much debated, but without apparent resolution. Even in the most recent books differing views are given; for example, Patricia Croot’s careful discussion of ‘Geology and watercourses’ in the latest Victoria County History volume (2009) refers to ‘an unsubstantiated water­ course from the abbey to the Tyburn near Eybridge’, while all the maps in the late Dr Alan Vince’s Saxon London (1990), show only this course, and no continuance of the other branch to the south in the Anglo-Saxon period.13 2

The Medieval and Early Tudor Topography of Westminster

Fig. 1. Reconstructed plan of the Westminster area in c. 1530

Jill Atherton

The situation is not really helped by the Geological Survey of England and Wales (now the British Geological Survey), whose more recent maps of the geology of West­ minster are not very clear when dealing with the boundaries between the flood-plain gravel terraces and the alluvium. Perhaps the pre-Second World War map is still the most useful,14 as it at least tries to show the watercourses, unlike the most recent geo­ logical maps. However, rather than going through all the earlier literature, I would like to cut the Gordian knot and start afresh by suggesting that the natural course of the Tyburn was always that which runs roughly south from Buckingham Palace in a sinuous line, following the route of what was called the ‘King’s Scholars’ Pond Sewer’ from the 18th century. This line must have been, from the late Anglo-Saxon period, the western boundary of the manor of Westminster, as discussed above. Later it was 3

4 Jill Atherton

Fig. 2. Reconstructed plan of the precincts of Westminster Abbey and Westminster Palace in c. 1530

tim tatton-brown

The Medieval and Early Tudor Topography of Westminster

the boundary of St Margaret’s parish, and even today the River Westbourne is still the boundary between the modern boroughs of Westminster and Chelsea (Fig. 3).15 By contrast, I believe that the much straighter course of the ‘Tyburn’ from Bucking­ ham Palace to the Abbey precinct, which ran down Buckingham Gate (earlier St James’s Street) to Caxton Street and on down Orchard Street, was man-made, as were all the watercourses around the Abbey on its west, north-west and south side, that is, around the so-called Thorney Island. This watercourse is certainly well documented, and from at least the 13th century until the mid-17th one of its most important functions was to power the Abbey’s water-mill, on the Thames, just outside the south-east corner of the precinct.16 If one looks at the plan of the watercourse from Buckingham Palace to the Abbey, it runs in two almost straight sections, with a slight curve at the west end of Caxton Street (Plan C). Moreover, when it reaches the Abbey boundary on the west (now Great Smith Street), it curves south-eastward to Great College Street, where it becomes the mill ditch behind the Abbey mill on the Thames. At the Abbey boundary on the west (now the south-west corner of Dean’s Yard), the watercourse also con­ tinued underground, straight across the Abbey precinct, through the gateway into Little Dean’s Yard, to the reredorter. This large building, with continuous rows of seats on either side for the monks, is an early Norman structure built probably in the 1070s or 1080s,17 and it seems very likely that the channel was originally constructed at this time to bring water from the Tyburn to flush out the kitchen and reredorter drains (Figs 1 and 2). An almost exactly contemporary example of this can be found at the great Benedictine monastery of Saint-Etienne in Caen (Normandy), where Abbot Lanfranc began the construction for Duke William in 1063, and a new channel was made from the River Odon to the Abbey precinct. Similarly, when the great Norman abbey at Bury St Edmunds was built, the River Linnet must have been diverted northwards, in a new channel, to flush out the reredorter and run the mill there.18 If one compares the sinuous course of the lower Tyburn to the River Thames on the south, with the very straight course to Westminster Abbey (Fig. 1), it surely suggests that the latter was artificial.19 Once this first artificial watercourse had been made, no doubt with a carefully controllable sluice on the Tyburn,20 it would have been easy to divert the water to other areas of the Abbey (kitchen, infirmary, etc.) as well as possibly to the royal Palace. By the mid-12th century, piped water was reaching the Palace, near the northern end of the Lesser Hall,21 and it is inconceivable that there was not already a flushing drain for the Privy Palace garderobes by this time (Jansen, Fig. 1, 90). With the huge rebuilding of the Abbey church in the 13th century, and the major rebuilding and enlargement of the convent buildings after the major fire of 1298,22 it is clear the Abbey precinct was being enlarged both on the north and south. By the later 14th century, fortified gatehouses on the west, north and south, as well as a high stone precinct boundary wall, had been built,23 and just beyond this water channels were constructed on the north-west, west and south sides, which were fed by the late-11th­ century channel on the west, just discussed. Remarkably, much of the 14th-century stone boundary wall still survives on the south-east side of the precinct, and its eastern side, which was originally on the Thames foreshore, was briefly examined in 1963, during the building of the Abingdon Street underground car park.24 At this time also, the eastern end of the Abbey’s reredorter drain was examined, where it was found to have been diverted around the south-west corner of the Jewel Tower moat in 1364–66, before running through a 16th-century brick drain extension to the Thames.25 In the late 14th century, the still surviving Kentish ragstone south-eastern boundary of the Abbey precinct (now around College Garden) seems to have abutted directly onto the 5

Fig. 3.

Part of an 1835 map of the City and Liberties of Westminster, showing the course of the River Tyburn (King’s

Scholars Pond Sewer)

tim tatton-brown


The Medieval and Early Tudor Topography of Westminster

Thames foreshore. However, by the later 15th century, at least part of this area, which was also south of the Jewel Tower moat, had been reclaimed for the King’s Garden. This was perhaps as a result of Edward IV’s enlargement of the queen’s chambers (for Elizabeth Woodville) in the Privy Palace from 1463.26 the abbey mill If the initial use of the man-made channel from the Tyburn at Buckingham Palace to the Abbey was for the cleansing of the kitchen and the monks’ reredorter, by the 13th century its major use must have been for powering the Abbey’s water-mill, which is documented from at least 1281–82.27 Rather surprisingly, the mill is not apparently very well documented in the Muniments, but it is quite often mentioned in the cellarer’s rolls,28 as for example in an account for John Burgess ‘Myller’ rendered to the cellarer in the early 16th century.29 This mentions various items of expenditure on the watermill. The mill clearly came under the jurisdiction of the cellarer, as did the neighbour­ ing St Peter’s Wharf on the Thames just to the south.30 It seems very likely that the mill was rebuilt on its original riverside site, just outside the south-east corner of the Abbey precinct at various dates in the later Middle Ages. It is also highly probable that the continually rising level of the Thames (see below) caused many problems in its use by the Abbey, and that there should still be a roughly vertical archaeological sequence of the waterlogged remains of several structures on the mill’s site just beyond the eastern end of what is now Great College Street.31 The last major rebuilding of the mill seems to have taken place in 1502–03, when it is recorded that the cellarer ‘had to build a great dam to exclude the water of the river, while repairs were undertaken to the mill’.32 This mill building probably continued in use until after the dissolution of the Abbey in 1540, when it became Crown property and was leased out, until it was finally destroyed in about 1683.33 The mill is actually shown (but not named) on Ogilby and Morgan’s 1682 map of London,34 and this and John Norden’s 1593 bird’s-eye view map of Westminster35 allow us to gain a rough idea of how the mill may have operated (Figs 4 and 5). It is of particular interest that both maps show the mill being fed with water from both the west (the mill ditch mentioned above) and from the south, where a channel of water flows behind the ‘Millbank’. This is confirmed by leases for the ‘Great Hostry Garden’ of 1497 and 1517, which say that the garden was bounded on both the north and the east by the mill ditch.36 Later plans also confirm this, with ‘the late Mill Ditch’ shown running beneath the new houses being built in Great College Street in about 1720.37 Norden’s bird’s-eye view of 1593 also shows water spilling out into the Thames, both at the mill itself (Fig. 5), and a little further south, presumably as an overflow, through Millbank. The channel running behind the Millbank is also shown on Ogilby and Morgan’s 1682 map (Fig. 4), and it seems likely that the sources of this water were both a channel running beside Strutton Ground and Horseferry Road, and the drainage channels in the ‘Marshy Grounds’,38 in the ‘Great Meadow of Westminster’.39 The whole of this area, east and south-east of Tothill Fields (Fig. 1), was perhaps first drained and protected from the Thames by an earth bank (river wall) in the 13th century, at a time when all great monasteries were reclaiming low-lying marshland.40 This area, which is now covered by modern Pimlico, was of great importance to the monastic economy, and at its heart was the moated country house and estate of the abbot, known as ‘La Neyte’. This had been purchased by Abbot Richard de Berkyng (1222–46) in 1235/6,41 and was to be used as a luxury 7

tim tatton-brown

Fig. 4. Detail of the Westminster area from Ogilby and Morgan’s 1682 map of London.

The millstream is here called ‘The Dead Wall’

house by all later abbots (and some members of the royal family) until it was acquired by Henry VIII in 1536.42 river levels As is now well known, the later 13th century was a time of great storms and bad weather.43 More importantly for Westminster, it was also a time when the level of the Thames was rising rapidly,44 and when constant work on repairing the river walls was necessary.45 This was to continue throughout the Middle Ages, and post-medieval period, until the building of the Thames barrier in 1982. Despite recent research, it has been assumed by Chris Thomas in several publications46 that in the later 11th century 8

The Medieval and Early Tudor Topography of Westminster

Fig. 5.

Detail of the south-west end of John Norden’s 1593 bird’s-eye view of

Westminster, with modern annotation

James Wilkinson


tim tatton-brown

Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster were built on a small isolated island (Thorney Island) that was entirely surrounded by water.47 This is based on a recon­ structed set of contours ‘taken from data from modern excavations, antiquarian obser­ vations and boreholes. The data was loaded onto a computer and a survey plot produced’.48 Unfortunately, this reconstructed contour plan cannot be relied upon, and all the data relating to the ‘natural’ geology and Ordnance Datum levels now need reassessing.49 One particular archaeological excavation, that beneath the floor in the Abbey’s Undercroft Museum in 1985–86,50 was said to have shown that the high tide level in the mid-11th century reached +2 m OD.51 This cannot be correct, though floods and a very high flood tide are certainly recorded in England in 1098–99 in the AngloSaxon Chronicle, at just the time when William Rufus’s great hall is being completed.52 From the evidence of the original external plinth on the west side of the hall, ground level in c. 1097 must have been at +1.6 m OD,53 and at this time the ordinary high tide level of the Thames must have been well below this. This paper is not the place to dis­ cuss all the evidence for a rapid rise in the level of the Thames between the 11th century and today, but it seems highly likely to me that there was no ‘Thorney Island’ with two mouths of the River Tyburn on either side when Sts Dunstan and Edward the Confessor had the earliest Abbey buildings constructed. Instead they probably chose some slightly higher ground on the flood-plain gravel terrace overlooking the wide and shallow Thames, opposite the low-lying Lambeth Marsh. At this time also the two main streets approaching the Abbey from the north (King’s Street) and west (Tothill Street) must have already been in existence, and without ‘fords’ on them to reach ‘the mainland’. the abbey’s piped-water supply Nearly forty years ago, while working on the buildings and topography of Canter­ bury Cathedral Priory,54 I was amazed to discover that the 12th-century monks there not only had a piped-water supply from a conduit on the spring line outside the city, but also a unique plan of the whole system (including the drains), which was made in the mid-12th century at the time of its creation, under Prior Wibert.55 At Canterbury we were able to clean out the conduit house,56 and then some years later to excavate fully the nearby conduit house of St Augustine’s Abbey, which also must have supplied that abbey with fresh water by a lead pipe, from at least the 12th century.57 It is there­ fore reasonable to suppose that all the other great Benedictine monasteries in England, including Westminster Abbey, must also have constructed their own piped-water sup­ plies by the 13th century at the latest.58 At Westminster, it is recorded that Henry II spent 10 shillings in 1175–76 on lead to make the conduit (aqueductus) to the king’s houses at Westminster. A few years later in 1183–84 we hear of this conduit as taking water to a ‘lavatory in the king’s hall’.59 A new water supply was made for Henry III in 1234 when a conductorius from Reading was employed to ‘bring water to the court at Westminster’.60 The king’s lavatory (wash-basin) appears to have been in, or just beside, the Lesser or White Hall, so it is very likely that the lead pipe had to pass through the Abbey precinct, perhaps just to the north of the Abbey church, where a drain may also have run (Jansen, Fig. 1, 90).61 It is, as a result, inconceivable that Westminster Abbey itself did not also have an aqueduct to bring water to a lavatory in the cloister by the later 12th century. Documentary evidence for this is, however, apparently lacking, and it is only in the 14th century that a new lavatorium (washing place) was built in the south-west corner 10

The Medieval and Early Tudor Topography of Westminster

Fig. 6. Detail of Westminster from the lower left-hand corner of Braun and Hogenberg’s 1572 map of London. The fenced-in Great Hostry Garden, south of the millstream, is clearly shown

of the cloister. A large niche in the west wall of the southern bay of the west cloister walk still shows where the basin was, but the area behind was walled up just after the Second World War,62 when the southern end of the burnt out shell of the Deanery was rebuilt.63 Before this, we know that above the Deanery kitchen here was a large postmedieval tank, or cistern,64 for storing the water brought to the Abbey from Hyde Park from at least the mid-16th century until the mid-19th century. More remarkably, how­ ever, a very narrow 14th-century staircase was rediscovered in the 19th century in the south wall of the parlour, just to the south-west of the lavatory. This leads up to a 11

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recess on the north, within which is a series of holes, which must once have contained lead pipes that lead out from the cistern to other secondary distribution points in the infirmary, kitchen and so on.65 As well as this there are sketch drawings in the archives, made in 1890, of ‘old water pipes from cistern in cloisters’ that were ‘done away with’ at this time.66 The famous charter given to Westminster Abbey by Queen Elizabeth I on 21 May 156067 also sets out in full the new Dean and Chapter’s water rights. It begins: All that Head and Original Fountain of one channel or Watercourse scituate and being within our Park called Hide Park to wit in a certain Field there of one called Crossleys Field [. . .] And also All and every the Fountains Sources and Heads of Waters flowing running or coming to the said Head of the said Watercourses and coming from thence And also all and every those channels Aqueducts and Watercourses under Ground and being or extending themselves from the aforesaid Head [. . .] unto the Scite of the aforesaid late Monastery of the blessed Peter formerly dissolved.

This shows that by the mid-16th century there was already a series of conduit heads and ‘fountains’ in Hyde Park that ran to a principal conduit head, and from there to Westminster Abbey. We are also lucky to have two drawn plans of the early 18th century that show exactly where these conduits were situated in Hyde Park, just to the east of the dam (made in 1727) at the lower end of the Serpentine. Not only this, but the plans, one made for the Dean and Chapter in 1715,68 and other for the king in 1718,69 also show both the College’s (that is, the Dean and Chapter’s) conduits and standards, and the ‘King’s conduit’. The King’s conduit, which was only a few hundred feet north­ west of the Abbey’s, was at this time supplying water to St James’s Palace and Whitehall Palace; perhaps originally it ran to Westminster Palace. This paper is not the place for a detailed description of these complicated water systems, but what is clear from them and the geological map70 is that the source of the water was neither the nearby Westbourne nor the Tyburn, but the spring-line on top of the London Clay, and just beneath the Taplow Terrace Gravels, which runs eastwards towards Hyde Park Corner from the north-east corner of the Serpentine (Fig. 1).71 Remarkably, the College’s aqueduct to the Abbey cloister, shown on the 1715 plan, survived until the mid-1860s, and its later history is fairly well documented in the Muniments.72 Dickinson’s 1715 measured plan (Fig. 7), which is a metre long, shows the precise course of the aqueduct pipes from Hyde Park via Constitution Hill and around Buckingham House to the west end of the ‘canal’ (or Longwater) in St James’s Park (Fig. 7). It then curves around this, and also skirts Rosamund’s Pond, before running to Tothill Street and the great west gate of the Abbey. Finally, it ran south through the inner gate and along the north side of Dean’s Yard to the south-west entry into the cloister. This course of the aqueduct from Hyde Park to the lavatorium must be similar to the original medieval course of the lead pipes, though Dickinson’s plan shows various minor changes. However, without archaeological work in the future, it is not possible to say much more about the monastic water supply.73 An important feature that should still be considered is Rosamund’s Pond. This rectangular pond, with its channel to the ‘canal’ (or Longwater), is carefully shown on Dickinson’s plan (Fig. 7) as well as on all the earlier maps (Fig. 5), before it was filled in, in the 1770s.74 Rosamund’s Pond was clearly made in this rectangular form for Charles II in the 1660s, at the same time as the canal. However, there was a more irregular pond of the same name long before this,75 and it is possible that it was first made as a settling pond for the Abbey’s aqueduct. It should also be noted that Rosamund’s Pond was close to the place on the Tyburn where the sluice for the original 12

The Medieval and Early Tudor Topography of Westminster

Fig. 7. William Dickinson’s 1715 plan entitled Maine in Hide Parke, showing the route of the aqueduct between Hyde Park and the lavatorium at Westminster Abbey (WAM, (P) 11) # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

channel to the Abbey must have been, and in the 18th century the canal and Rosamund’s Pond could be filled from the Tyburn.76 One other feature should also be mentioned, the ‘Watercourse of the Blessed St Edward’. This watercourse is referred to quite often in various 13th-century Abbey documents from the 1240s until the end of Edward I’s reign, as well as more briefly subsequently as ‘Seynte Edwardes Waterying’ (1374), and St Edward’s water (1531).77 In the 13th century, it appears to be in the vill of Eye near Cowford and near ‘Le Spitelstrete’. The (ho)spital here is clearly St James’s Leper Hospital, and the vill(age) of Eye was near where Buckingham Palace now stands.78 One grant that is particularly 13

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helpful topographically refers to a messuage in Eye, near another tenement and ‘St Edwards watercourse which runs by Marsflete up to the Thames’.79 All of this sug­ gests at first that St Edward’s water was part of the Tyburn. However, the use of St Edward’s name also suggests that it was a special watercourse for taking water to St Edward the Confessor’s new Abbey, so was it originally the name for the man-made channel of the late 11th century for the reredorter? Alternatively, it could have been a special channel to Rosamund’s Pond from the Tyburn.80 More work on this is now needed, though the 17th- and 18th-century developments around Buckingham House make this more complicated. As well as this, it should be noted that the Chelsea Water­ works were created in 1723 (with a 99-year lease from the Grosvenor Estate), and new channels and ponds were dug to bring water from the Thames into the ‘La Neyte’ area. On the south-west this became the Grosvenor Canal in the 1820s (Fig. 3), and most of the rest of this area was infilled in the mid-19th century and is now covered by the rail­ way lines coming into Victoria station.81 The 18th-century Chelsea Waterworks also put in new waterpipe systems (often with wooden pipes) to take their water to West­ minster. Later, the company made new ponds in Green Park with water from the Tyburn. New ‘reservoirs’ were made beside Piccadilly on the site of what is now Green Park underground station’s southern entry.82 westminster abbey precincts Returning to the core of Westminster, this last section will briefly review the known topography of both the later medieval walled precinct around the great church and the wider area that was commonly known as ‘Sanctuary’. A brief discussion of the build­ ings and topography of the main precinct can be found in G. G. Scott’s classic work Gleanings from Westminster Abbey.83 It is, however, in the work of J. T. Mickle­ thwaite that there is the first more detailed discussion of all the buildings in the pre­ cincts.84 This was brought together by the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments in a special volume on the Abbey, which contains an excellent phased coloured plan of the Abbey church and all the principal monastic buildings to the south.85 Unfor­ tunately, there is only a very brief description of the monastic buildings (several of which were badly damaged in the Second World War), and there is no plan of the whole Abbey precinct, except for W. R. Lethaby’s small sketch plan of 1906.86 The precinct plan published here (Fig. 2) is a first attempt at producing a plan of all the known buildings of the monastery, including those of the almonry (outside the walled precinct to the west). It has used various early maps and plans in the Abbey archives,87 as well as some of the early maps already mentioned. The new plan also attempts to show the relationship of the Abbey precinct to the precinct and buildings of the royal Palace.88 A few general comments can be made here, but a full discussion of all the buildings and topography is for the future. The Abbey’s stone boundary wall and its gatehouses were almost certainly all made in the 14th century, and it is clear that at this time also the precinct must have been greatly enlarged on the south, from the stable-yard area on the west to the infirmary garden to the east. The latter’s eastern boundary wall was originally on the waterfront, as we have seen, and this was cut into in 1364 to create the new Jewel Tower and its moat.89 On the north side of the Abbey, where St Margaret’s Church and the large lay cemetery were situated, the precinct was also probably enlarged to the north. This was perhaps first done in the mid-13th century, when the great free-standing campanile was erected, and when more space for fairs as well as for burials was needed.90 14

The Medieval and Early Tudor Topography of Westminster

With the assignment of income to the various monastic offices (the obedientiary system,91 which was developing rapidly in the 13th century), the precinct itself was divided into various distinct and often walled-off areas. North of the Abbey was the sacrist’s area, with his large house and office in the angle between the north transept and the nave. To the south-west of the nave, the abbot had built himself a fine new house by 1372, which famously survives with its kitchen (still in use as a kitchen), dining hall (now College Hall) and great chamber (now the Jerusalem Chamber). West of this was his large walled garden, later the Dean’s garden (Fig. 8),92 which had its north wall crenellated at the time of the Peasants’ Revolt.93 South of the abbot’s garden was the Outer Court, now the northern part of Dean’s Yard, which was known as ‘The Elms’ by the late Middle Ages. Beyond this to the south was the cellarer’s territory, which contained the brewhouse, bakehouse, granary and so on, with the many stables behind them (Tatton-Brown, Fig. 4, 318). All these buildings survived to be shown on the 1755 map (Fig. 8),94 and were demolished in 1785–90. South of the cloister and refectory were the great kitchen and prior’s and hosteller’s houses (Fig. 2). They faced south onto the Inner Court, which perhaps had the monk-bailiff’s house on its west side. In this large building, then called the ‘King’s Tombhouse’, Henry VIII’s vast tomb was being made by an Italian called Nicholas Bellin of Modena from the late 1530s until 1567, when it was finally taken to St George’s Chapel, Windsor.95 On the east side of the Inner Court was the large garden of the infirmarer (now College Garden). This still has its 14th-century southern and eastern Kentish ragstone boundary walls around it, and we know that by the 1460s it contained not only a fishpond and herbarium, but the archery butts.96 The infirmarer’s house was on the south side of the infirmary chapel (the fine later-12th­ century Chapel of St Catherine);97 the infirmary hall itself had been rebuilt as a series of chambers around a new infirmary cloister in the 14th century. North of the infirmary and east of the great octagonal chapter-house was, conveniently, the monks’ cemetery. Along its north side a path lead from the south transept (later Poets’ Corner) to the postern gate into Old Palace Yard and the Privy Palace. Beside this path the sacrist’s accounts for 1476–77 tell us that William Caxton had a ‘shopa’ let to him.98 Running south from the outer court to a new southern gatehouse was a new street flanked by buildings (granary, the King’s Tombhouse, etc.) that were all built in the later 14th century. Near its top end a new timber-framed schoolhouse was built in 1461, after the school was moved here from the almonry.99 This in turn was replaced by a new brick-and-timber schoolhouse to the east in 1541, just after the Dissolution (Tatton-Brown, Fig. 4, 318).100 Outside the southern gate (or Millgate) was a bridge over the millstream, and just beyond it a lane (called Bowling Alley) leading to a series of gardens, the prior’s and kitchener’s garden, and principally the ‘Great Hostry Garden’ (Figs 2 and 6).101 Though these gardens were outside the walled precincts to the south, they were all still within Sanctuary (see below). West of the walled precinct and the Black Ditch (Fig. 2), and on the south side of Tothill Street, a large new precinct was created for the almonry in 1293.102 This was also within Sanctuary, but was clearly a new venture for the Abbey following the death of Edward I’s queen, Eleanor of Castile, in 1290. His gift of a large estate to the Abbey, in her memory, was to fund, through the almonry, large distributions to the poor, annually on or near 28 November, the day of her death.103 As well as this, a large new precinct was created around the Chapel of St Anne with a hall and chambers for laybrothers, and to the west a new farmyard area with granaries, barns, stables and so on. To the south was a vineyard, with the almonry meadow on its west side, and the 15

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Fig. 8. Henry Keene’s 1755 coloured plan of the western part of the College precincts, including the Dean’s garden (N), with enlarged detail showing the almonry (WAM, 12435A) # Dean and Chapter of Westminster


The Medieval and Early Tudor Topography of Westminster

Tyburn channel and millstream along its southern boundary. Soon after the Black Death, the almoner started to develop the north side of the precinct along Tothill Street by constructing a whole series of shops with chambers.104 Within this new precinct the almonry school was also created, and here the singing-boys of the Lady Chapel choir lived and were educated, until the school was moved back into the main precinct in 1461, as we have seen. Finally, in about 1503, Henry VII and his mother Margaret Beaufort gave the Abbey another large estate, and a row of fine brick almshouses was built in the north-east corner of the almonry precinct, just north of its great gate. Each house had its own garderobe over the Black Ditch, which ran along the back of the range to the common latrine beside Tothill Street (Fig. 2). This latrine was situated right outside the great Westgate of the Abbey. Later the ditch would cause many prob­ lems, but in 1504 when the houses were new, and the Abbey mill and millstream had just been reconstructed, the water from the Tyburn was no doubt running through effi­ ciently.105 The early years of the 16th century, under the rule of Abbot Islip (1500–32), were the final high point of the Abbey’s existence. The rebuilding of the nave had finally been finished, and magnificent new upper western towers were starting to go up. At the east end of the church the superb new Lady Chapel was being built.106 sanctuary From at least the early 12th century, and perhaps even in the 10th and 11th centuries, Westminster Abbey claimed that a large area around the Abbey church was Sanctuary. Using early charters (some of them forged), they said the charters of St Dunstan (ad 959) and King Edgar (ad 969) and the ‘first’ charter of St Edward the Confessor (ad 1065) gave them the right to admit to their sanctuary fugitives from justice, who would be under the protection of St Edward.107 The exact boundary of Sanctuary is apparently not fully specified anywhere, but it is certain that by the later medieval period the area of sanctuary extended well beyond the walled area of the monastery.108 As MacMichael says, the best-known area of Sanctuary was the Broad Sanctuary on the north side of the Abbey, where the Sanctuary men lived. This extended out to the two principal gateways (north and west) and the stone boundary walls that ran between them. However, on the west Sanctuary extended not only to the almonry site, but con­ tinued to the bank and ditch at Strutton Ground (Fig. 1).109 From here it continued southwards in a curving line to the start of Horseferry Road (now Regent’s Place and Street). It then ran due east as another bank and ditch along the north side of Horseferry Road (earlier Market Street).110 The boundary ditch, as we have already seen, seems to have connected to the millstream, and was joined to various drainage ditches to the south and west. Beyond the sanctuary boundary on the south-west was the wild unenclosed area of Tothill Fields. The curving western boundary was obviously (and still is) a very distinct feature from an early date, and it shows up very clearly in all the early maps of Westminster, most clearly the 1682 map (Fig. 4).111 It seems therefore that it is just possible that this bank and ditch may have been the late Anglo-Saxon boundary, the vallum monasterium, of St Edward the Confessor’s new monastery of the mid-11th century. It is even possible that this larger area, with the Royal Vill and its vast new Abbey church in the north-east corner, was the original ‘Thorney Island’. 17

tim tatton-brown ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I am extremely grateful to Christine Reynolds for all her considerable work for me in the Abbey’s Muniments and Library, over many years. Without her help, this survey would never have been possible. Also my children, Robert (assisted by Miranda and Lucy), have word-processed my diffi­ cult manuscript very accurately. As well as this, I have received many helpful comments on the first draft from Richard Mortimer, Margaret Sparks, Pamela Taylor and Christopher Wilson.

NOTES 1. The most recent is P. Barber, London: A History in Maps (London 2012). The key images are also found in Gervase Rosser’s Medieval Westminster, 1200–1540 (Oxford 1989). 2. The most important of these are the Braun and Hogenberg map of London (1572), which was first drawn before 1561, and the Wyngaerde panorama of c. 1544. See also the so-called ‘Agas’ woodcut map of Eliza­ bethan London, where a cut-off portion of Westminster is shown in the bottom left-hand corner. 3. For the historical background, see Rosser, Medieval Westminster (as n. 1), and J. F. Merritt, The social world of early modern Westminster: abbey, court and community 1525–1640 (Manchester 2005). 4. Equally fictitious, of course, is the legend of the consecration of the Abbey by St Peter himself. See P. Chaplais, ‘The original charters of Herbert and Gervase, abbots of Westminster (1121–57)’, in A Medieval Miscellany for D. M. Stenton, ed. P. M. Barnes and C. F. Slade, Pipe Roll Society, n.s., XXXVI (for 1960) (London 1962), 89–110. For the best recent summary of the early history, see E. Mason, Westminster Abbey and its people, c. 1050–1216, Studies in the History of Medieval Religion 9 (Woodbridge 1996), 1–18. 5. P. H. Sawyer, Anglo-Saxons Charters: An Annotated List and Bibliography (London 1968), no. 670, and WAM, charter V. 6. See R. D. H. Gem in C. Wilson, P. Tudor-Craig, J. Physick and R. Gem, Westminster Abbey, The New Bell’s Cathedral Guides (London 1986), 6–12, and Mason, Westminster Abbey (as n. 4), 4. For Wulfsige, see S. Keynes, ‘Wulfsige, Monk of Glastonbury, Abbot of Westminster (c. 990–3) and Bishop of Sherborne (c. 993–1002)’, in St Wulfsige and Sherborne, ed. K. Barker, D. A. Hinton and A. Hunt (Oxford 2005), 53–94, esp. 56–59. 7. See M. Gelling, ‘The boundaries of the Westminster charters’, TLAMAS, second series, XI/III (1954), 101–04. The best general introduction to all the early estates and their topography is D. Sullivan, The West­ minster Corridor: Anglo-Saxon Story of Westminster Abbey and Its Lands in Middlesex (Whitstable 1994). 8. This large area is most clearly shown, as a plan, in N. Barton, The Lost Rivers of London: A Study of Their Effects Upon London and Londoners, and the Effects of London and Londoners on Them, 3rd edn (Whitstable 1992), 38. See also Rosser, Medieval Westminster (as n. 1), 11, fig. 2. 9. W. L. Rutton, ‘The Manor of Eia, or Eye next to Westminster’, Archaeologia, LXII (1910), 31–58. 10. G. Saunders, ‘Results of an inquiry concerning the situation and extent of Westminster at various periods’. Archaeologia, XXVI (1835), 3–21. 11. All the main documentary evidence has recently been very well summarized in VCH (Middlesex), XIII: The City of Westminster, Part 1 (Woodbridge 2009). I have not, however, dealt with the north-west area of the City and Liberty in this paper. This is in the later parish (separate from St Margaret’s) of Paddington, Knightsbridge and Westbourne. 12. See Barton, Lost Rivers (as n. 8), 36. Since the first edition of this work in 1962, various other books have been written on the subject. See also the discussion in Sullivan, Westminster Corridor (as n. 7), 41–44, and the earlier discussion in H. Ormsby, London on the Thames (London 1928), 80–89. 13. See VCH (Middlesex), XIII (as n. 11), 1–3, and Alan Vince, Saxon London: an archaeological investigation (London 1990), figs 1, 2, 4, 8, 14, 17 and 24. 14. Geological Survey: London sheet nV. S.W. (1920 edition) — surveyed in 1912, revised in 1932 and published in 1936. This map is used by Rosser, Medieval Westminster (as n. 1), 10. 15. On all 19th-century Ordnance Survey maps it is also marked as the parliamentary borough boundary. 16. Croot calls it a ‘tidal’ mill, but this cannot be correct: tidal mills need large intake ponds; VCH (Middlesex), XIII (as n. 11), 3. 17. R. D. H. Gem, ‘The Romanesque rebuilding of Westminster Abbey’, in Anglo-Norman Studies III: Proceedings of the Battle Conference 1980, ed. R. Allen Brown (Woodbridge 1981), 33–60. See also Stuart Harrison and John McNeill in this volume, 73.


The Medieval and Early Tudor Topography of Westminster 18. See A. Guillerme, The Age of Water: The Urban Environment in the North of France, a .d . 300–1800 (College Station TX 1988), 54–56; also A. B. Whittingham, ‘Bury St Edmunds: the plan, design and develop­ ment of the church and monastic buildings’, Archaeol. J., 108 (1951), 168–87 and pl. XXI. 19. E. Rhodes, ‘Identifying human modifications of river channels’, in Waterways and Canal-Building in Medieval England, ed. J. Blair (Oxford 2007), 133–52. 20. The site of this sluice must have been beside the Old Equerry’s Court on the south side of Buckingham Palace. Remarkably, I observed a burst water main near this site on 9 July 2013, and saw the water flowing down the surface of Buckingham Gate. 21. R. A. Brown, H. M. Colvin and A. J. Taylor, The History of the King’s Works: The Middle Ages, 2 vols (London 1963), I, 549–50. 22. R. B. Rackham, ‘Building at Westminster Abbey from the great fire (1298) to the great plague (1348)’, Archaeol. J., 67 (1910), 33–96. 23. J. T. Micklethwaite, ‘Notes on the Abbey buildings of Westminster’, Archaeol. J., 33 (1876), 15–48. 24. H. J. M. Green, ‘Excavations of the Palace Defences and Abbey Precinct Wall at Abingdon Street, Westminster, 1963’, JBAA, 129 (1976), 59–76. 25. Green, ‘Excavations of the palace defences’ (as n. 24), and A. J. Taylor, The Jewel Tower, Westminster, Blue Guide (London 1965, 2nd edn), and now J. Ashbee, The Jewel Tower, English Heritage Guide (London 2013), and in this volume, 190. For the reredorter and major repairs to the drain in 1531, see B. Harvey, Living and Dying in England 1100–1540: The Monastic Experience (Oxford/New York 1993), 78–79. 26. The ‘garden next to the Abbot’s mill’, as well as the Jewel Tower garden, is mentioned in 1463. See King’s Works (as n. 21), I, 536–37. 27. WAM, 18829. It is possible that an earlier mill had been beside the Tyburn, near ‘La Neyte’, the abbot’s house; see D. Sullivan, The Westminster Circle, the people who lived and worked in the early town of West­ minster, 1066–1307 (Whitstable 2006), 354. 28. See B. Harvey, The Obedientiaries of Westminster Abbey and their Financial Records c.1275–1540, Westminster Abbey Record Series III (Woodbridge 2002), 33–46. 29. WAM, 32238. 30. WAM, 18909–10. 31. The site is probably just within the north-west corner of the Victoria Tower Gardens. For two recently excavated Thames-side mills, see J. Galloway ed., Tides and floods: New research on London and the tidal Thames from the middle ages to the twentieth century (London 2010), 1–13. 32. H. F. Westlake, Westminster Abbey: The Church, Convent, Cathedral and College of St Peter West­ minster, 2 vols (London 1923), II, 371. See also WAM, 18911–12. 33. For the post-Dissolution history of the mill, see the Memorandum concerning the Mill Ditch, Mill Bank and Watermill at Westminster of c. 1691; WAM, 57243, with a sketch plan. 34. See sheet 13 of facsimile edition of 1976, produced by Harry Margary. 35. J. Norden, map of Westminster with a key in Speculum Britanniae, the First Parte: an Historicall, & Chorographicall Discription of Middlesex (London 1593); see the facsimile edition by the London Topo­ graphical Society (1899). The map is also reproduced in Rosser, Medieval Westminster (as n. 1), illus. 1. 36. Westminster Abbey, Lease Book I, 98b and 114. The Great Hostry Garden lay immediately outside the Abbey precinct to the south-east of the southern gatehouse, and was said to be ‘within the Sanctuary’, and adjoining the kitchener’s garden. There was also one garden plot within the Great Hostry Garden occupied by the prior. 37. WAM, (P) 527, plan of Mr Naylor’s ground (1718), and WAM, (P) 528. After the 19th-century reforms, the land was taken over by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who in 1903–06 built their headquarters (1 Millbank) above the place where the two millstreams met. For this building, see J. M. Freeman, W. D. Caro¨e: his architectural achievement (Manchester 1991), 90–93. Also at this time the western end of the mill ditch was uncovered and recorded during demolition work at the west end of Great College Street. It was lined with Kentish ragstone ashlar masonry, and its course was narrowed just before it went under the bridge outside the southern gatehouse; see E. P. Warren, ‘Discoveries at Westminster: the Abbey millstream and bridge, and discoveries made in recent excavations’, Architectural Review, 16 (1904), 185–92. 38. Written thus on Ogilby and Morgan’s 1682 map; see n. 34. 39. This ‘great meadow’, the Abbey’s demesne hay meadows of 36½ acres, is best discussed in Sullivan, The Westminster Circle (as n. 27), 356–57. The great meadow was later called Market Mead, which gave its name to Market Street, now Horseferry Road. 40. See, for example, J. Bond, Monastic Landscapes (Stroud 2004), 73–86. 41. B. Harvey, Westminster Abbey and its Estates in the Middle Ages (Oxford 1977), 87 and 414. 42. Rutton, ‘The Manor of Eia’ (as n. 9), 35.


tim tatton-brown 43. As most dramatically described by Matthew Paris in his Chronica Majora, for example in 1250, 1252 and 1287–88. 44. Galloway, Tides and floods (as n. 31), 15–27. 45. Rutton, ‘The Manor of Eia’ (as n. 9), 39. 46. C. Thomas, R. Lowie and J. Siddell, The royal palace, abbey and town of Westminster on Thorney Island (London 2006), following an earlier article B. Sloane, H. Swain and C. Thomas, ‘The Roman Road and the River Regime’, The London Archaeologist, 7/14 (Autumn 1995), 359–70. See also C. Thomas, The Archaeology of Medieval London (Stroud 2002), 37–40. 47. This is most dramatically shown in Thomas, Lowie and Siddell, Westminster on Thorney Island (as n. 46), 48 fig. 27, where William Rufus’s huge hall of 1097–99 is shown built on ‘reclaimed land on the Thames foreshore’. 48. Chris Thomas in Sloane, Swain and Thomas, ‘The Roman Road and the River Regime’ (as n. 46), 360. 49. I am most grateful to Prof. Desmond Donovan, who is currently attempting to do this for me. 50. P. Mills, ‘Excavations at the Dorter undercroft, Westminster Abbey’, TLAMAS, 46 (1995), 69–124. 51. Mills, ‘Dorter undercroft’ (as n. 50), 71. 52. G. N. Garmonsway trans. and ed., The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (London 1953), 234–35. 53. D. Whipp and E. Platts, ‘Westminster Hall excavation’, The London Archaeologist, 2/14 (Spring 1976), 351–55, and also Roland Harris and Daniel Miles in this volume, 25. 54. T. Tatton-Brown, ‘Three great Benedictine houses in Kent: their buildings and topography’, Archae­ ologia Cantiana, 102 (1985), 171–88. See also the precincts plan Margaret Sparks and I made for P. Collinson, N. Ramsay and M. Sparks ed., A History of Canterbury Cathedral (Oxford 1995), and M. Sparks, Canterbury Cathedral Precincts: a historical survey (Canterbury 2007). 55. The classic publication of this is R. Willis, ‘The architectural history of the conventual buildings of the monastery of Christ Church in Canterbury’, Archaeologia Cantiana, 7 (1868), 1–206. See also now P. Fergusson, Canterbury Cathedral Priory in the Age of Becket (London/New Haven 2011). 56. T. Tatton-Brown, ‘The Precincts’ water supply’, Canterbury Cathedral Chronicle, 77 (1983), 45–51. 57. P. Bennett, ‘St Augustine’s Conduit House’, Archaeologia Cantiana, 106 (1988), 137–41. 58. G. Coppack, English Heritage Book of abbeys and priories (London 1990), 81–99, and M. Aston, Monasteries (London 1993), 20–22. 59. See King’s Works (as n. 21), I, 549. 60. Ibid. This man may presumably have been working for Reading Abbey on its piped-water supply. 61. For later documentary evidence for pipes and drains, see Richard Foster in this volume, 359; see also Virginia Jansen in this volume, 91. 62. On the wall is now the large memorial to the Civil Services of the Crown in India (1858–1947). 63. No recording work was done at this time, but there are various photographs in the Abbey archives showing the burnt out shell both during the War and the rebuilding in 1945. 64. Various post-medieval records of the cistern can be found in the Muniments. For example, a chapter order for the ‘sisterne’ to be ‘new made’ was given on 29 May 1702; see J. A. Robinson, The Abbot’s House at Westminster (Cambridge 1911), p. 76. 65. See J. T. Micklethwaite, ‘On a filtering cistern of the fourteenth century at Westminster Abbey’, Archaeologia, LIII (1892), 161–70. A chapter act of 26 January 1544, agrees ‘that Mr. Grey plummer, shall make the conducte hed [sic] new, and shall bring home the water to as many places as it was wont to cum, and as plenteosly’. All the Dean’s and twelve new canons’ houses are listed, as well as the ‘churche’, the ‘saxtri’, and the ‘peticanons and vicars’ commons’; see C. S. Knighton ed., Acts of the Dean and Chapter of West­ minster, 1543–1609. Part I: The First Collegiate Church, 1543–1556 (Woodbridge 1997), 13. 66. WAM, (P) 470, 471 and 472. See also the notes by Thomas Wright (clerk of works 1871–1906) in WAM, 65047, p. 89. 67. WAM, LXXXVII. This is a confirmation of the grant to the first Dean and twelve prebendaries in 1542, calendared in L&P 22 July 34H8. 68. WAM, (P) 11. This plan, made by William Dickinson, is entitled ‘Maine in Hide Parke’. 69. BL, Maps K. Top. 21.1.3: ‘A Survey of the Conduits, etc., to Whitehall, St. James’ etc. 1718’. 70. See n. 14. 71. This spring-line continues further eastwards and beyond the Tyburn, along the south side of Jermyn Street, where it was also later tapped. A Tudor conduit house, near the later St James’s Church, Piccadilly, is shown in a drawing and on William Fairthorne’s map of 1658; see F. Barker and P. Jackson, The History of London in Maps (London 1990), 20–21. 72. An inscription on a pedestal of 1870 still marks the site of the Abbey’s conduit in Hyde Park; see The Westminster Abbey Chorister (Winter 2012–13), 30–43.


The Medieval and Early Tudor Topography of Westminster 73. All the pipes in Tothill Street between Broadway and the Abbey’s Westgate were destroyed in 1867–68 during the making of the ‘cut and cover’ Metropolitan District line. The remains of the conduits in Hyde Park should, however, be preserved below ground. 74. Rosamund’s Pond now lies beneath Birdcage Walk and the parade ground of Wellington Barracks. 75. Its earliest depiction, with a stream running north-east from it in St James’s Park, is in Norden’s 1593 map (see n. 35). The name, however, seems to go back to the 13th century. 76. In 1612, it is recorded that £400 was to be spent on making a ‘vault of brick arched over’ from Hyde Park to Rosamund’s Pond in St James’s Park; see the note by P. Norman in London Topographical Record, 14 (London 1928), 56. 77. The latter two references are in WAM, 27003 and 30761. 78. St James’s Palace is now on the hospital site. See the discussion in Sullivan, The Westminster Circle (as n. 26), 17–18, and WAM, 17415 and 17115, 17116, 17112 and 4835. 79. WAM, Westminster Domesday, fol. 327v; WAM, 17415. 80. In 1482–83, there is a record of ‘mending conduits by Rosamunds’; WAM, 18900. 81. For details, see VCH (Middlesex), XIII (as n. 11), 21–22. 82. Shown on J. Rocque’s great map of London of 1745. See P. Whitfield, London: A Life in Maps (London 2006), 78–79. 83. First published in 1861 (Oxford/London), with a revised and enlarged edition in 1863 (Oxford/London). 84. J. T. Micklethwaite, ‘Notes on the Abbey buildings of Westminster’, Archaeol. J., 33 (1875), 15–48, and ‘Further notes on the Abbey buildings at Westminster’, ibid., 51 (1894), 1–27. This was followed by more detailed work on the core buildings reported in Robinson, The Abbot’s House (as n. 64). 85. RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in London, I: Westminster Abbey (London 1924). The coloured fold-out plan at the back is dated June 1921. See also Plans A and B in this volume. 86. W. R. Lethaby, Westminster Abbey and the King’s Craftsmen: A Study of Mediaeval Building (London 1906), 2. See also Lethaby’s Westminster Abbey Re-Examined (London 1925), and the sketch plans in Harvey, Living and Dying in England (as n. 25), maps I and II. 87. Especially the many early-18th-century surveys by William Dickinson, and the beautiful maps made by Henry Keene in 1755: WAM, 24508E and 12435A. The first of these was redrawn for publication in H. F. Westlake, Westminster; an Historical Sketch (London/New York 1919), endpaper. See Fig. 8 here. 88. See John Crook in second part of this volume, 1–21. 89. See Jeremy Ashbee in this volume, 187–205. 90. See Richard Foster in this volume, 353–71. See also Rosser, Medieval Westminster (as n. 1), 97–115. 91. See Harvey, Obedientiaries of Westminster Abbey (as n. 28). 92. Still intact on the 1755 plan (see n. 87). 93. This house, and its later history, is fully discussed in Robinson, The Abbot’s House (as n. 66). 94. See n. 87; WAM, 12435A. They were all demolished from 1757 onwards to create a new enlarged square, now called Dean’s Yard. 95. T. Tatton-Brown, ‘Henry VIII’s burial vault and tomb’, Annual Review 2011/12, published by the Friends of St George’s, Windsor, 183–87. 96. All of these features and activities are splendidly discussed in Harvey, Living and Dying in England (as n. 25). For the butts, see p. 90, where she also tells us that in 1440–41 the infirmarer’s fish-pond was said to measure 90 ft from the entrance ‘towards the west’ to the stone wall of the king’s garden (on the east); WAM, 19419. 97. See Stuart Harrison and John McNeill in this volume, 69–103. 98. WAM, 19724. This was no doubt where printing first started in England when Caxton had returned from Bruges; see E. Childs, William Caxton: a portrait in a background (London 1976). 99. All the details of its construction and materials are documented in the almoner’s accounts; WAM, 19067, etc. 100. This was Henry VIII’s new school, the core building of the present Westminster School, which was also the headmaster’s house. 101. See n. 36. The mill was just outside the north-east corner of the Great Hostry Garden. 102. N. S. Rushton, ‘Spatial aspects of the Almonry and the changing priorities of poor relief at Westminster Abbey, c. 1290–1540’, Architectural History, 45 (2002), 66–91. 103. Rushton, ‘Spatial aspects’ (as n. 102), 73. See also Harvey, Living and Dying in England (as n. 25), 27. 104. Rushton, ‘Spatial aspects’ (as n. 102), 75. See also Rosser, Medieval Westminster (as n. 1), 69–74. 105. See the c. 1720 plan of these houses; WAM, 18410. 106. No doubt the old ‘shops’ around the 13th-century Lady Chapel were removed. 107. N. MacMichael, ‘Sanctuary at Westminster’, in Westminster Abbey Occasional Paper No. 27 (London 1971), 9–14. See also A. C. Wood, ‘The Sanctuary at Westminster’, unpublished typescript in Westminster


tim tatton-brown Abbey Library (August 1939), and D. Loades, ‘The Sanctuary’, in Westminster Abbey Reformed, 1540–1640, ed. C. S. Knighton and R. Mortimer (Aldershot 2003), 75–93. 108. In her paper ‘The Sanctuary Boundaries and Environs of Westminster Abbey and the College of St. Martin-le-Grand’ (JBAA, n.s., 38 (1932), 316–33, with plans), Marjorie Honeybourne must be wrong in saying that Sanctuary was only within the walled area. 109. The name apparently dates from the early 17th century. 110. The ‘bank from the Thames to Tothill’ with the ‘Vine Garden’ to the north is documented in 1486, as is the ditch between Market Mead to the south and the Vine Garden in 1499; see Abbey Register I, fols 11 and 107. 111. Ogilby and Morgan’s 1682 map (see n. 34).


‘A Fine and Private Place’: The Sarcophagus of Valerius Amandinus and the Origins of Westminster MARTIN HENIG

Roman remains from the area known as Thorney Island have been relatively sparse, though an impressive inscribed 4th-century sarcophagus (its lid later refashioned and carved down its length with a Latin cross in the 10th or 11th century) was excavated and published in the 19th century, while a Roman building with hypocaust was evidently observed under the nave of the Abbey church, the highest point on the islet. The sarcophagus and the funerary statue of a boy excavated at Westminster School in the 20th century are suggestive of a Roman burial complex, most probably a mauso­ leum, that was associated with a villa. It is possible that this structure was later identi­ fied as a martyrium and subsequently incorporated into an early Saxon church. The site as a whole may subsequently have acquired special sanctity, as was certainly the case with the Gallo-Roman cemetery outside Paris that contained the martyrium of St Denis and which, in time, like Westminster, became a royal abbey. The large sarcophagus (Fig. 1) excavated in the churchyard north of Westminster Abbey in November 1869 is a very notable antiquity in its own right, as one of only three or four Roman sculpted or inscribed stone coffins from London and its environs; it excited immediate attention, not least from the learned dean of Westminster, Dean Stanley, who provided the first account.1 The sarcophagus measures some 2 m in length and 0.5 m in height, and has a depth of 0.6 m. Both the coffin and its lid are carved from the same block of Taynton limestone quarried in Oxfordshire.2 Decoration (apart from the medieval cross carved in low relief upon the lid) is entirely confined to the front face, which carries an inscription in an oblong moulded panel between a pair of decorative peltae. The panel and peltae are slightly off centre, as the corner of the right side of the block has been planed away at an angle, perhaps consequent on damage sustained in cutting or transporting the block before carving. The inscription, carefully rendered in boldly cut capital letters, reads: MEMORIAE � VALER(I) � AMAN DINI � VALERI � SUPERVEN TOR � ET � MARCELLVS � PATRI


The sarcophagus was, therefore, inscribed to the memory of Valerius Amandinus by his two sons Valerius Superventor and Valerius Marcellus.3 Roger Tomlin comments on the epigraphy that ‘the lettering is very good and this suggests it is a high-class product’. Nevertheless the arrangement of letters is not quite perfect: the second line ends with a space, the ‘T’ of SUPERVENTOR having been carried over to the third line, while BAA Trans., vol. xxxix, part i (2015), 23–33 # British Archaeological Association 2015


martin henig

Fig. 1.

Sarcophagus of Valerius Amandinus, Taynton stone, 0.51962.10 m # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

the second ‘E’ of FECER(UNT) at the end is miniaturized and contained within the final ‘C’. It may be assumed from the expensive nature of the tomb that the Valerii were a well-to-do family resident in Britain. Most of the names are not especially diagnostic, though they certainly have a Late Roman feel to them. The name Superventor is inter­ esting and rare, however, and, as Tomlin has confirmed, this is the only case in Britain and perhaps the earliest attested use of it. A century later, a Gaulish bishop called Superventor subscribed to the Acta of the First Council of Orange (ad 441), while one of the letters of Pope Leo the Great (pope ad 440–461) was written in reply to a request from bishops in the province of Arles, one of whom is called Superventor, perhaps the same man.4 His name, as Tomlin again points out, must in any case be derived from that of one of the Late Roman, Diocletianic military units, the superventores, stationed in various parts of the empire. One regiment of superventores is mentioned by Ammianus Marcellinus as forming part of the garrison of Amida on the eastern frontier when the city was besieged and taken by the Persians in ad 359; there were also super­ ventores in the west, for example based at Nantes as recorded in the Notitia Dignitatum.5 Thus, as Tomlin has suggested to me, it is highly plausible that the father served as an army officer in the time of Diocletian (or later), and chose a name for one of his sons derived from his own military experience as a soldier. Remarkably few inscribed or sculpted sarcophagi have been found in the British provinces, and the only place where any number have been recorded is at York, where they were inscribed for legionary officers from the fortress or for town councillors from the colonia or their families.6 The boldly cut and remarkably fine lettering on the West­ minster sarcophagus suggests that it was designed to be permanently on view, as do the decorative carved peltate attachments on each side of the inscription. It must therefore have stood above ground, as was the case with the marble mythological sarcophagus (now very fragmentary) of probable 3rd-century date from the mausoleum at Welwyn Hall (Hertfordshire), or else (less probably) in an accessible burial crypt, like the marble Seasons sarcophagus from the hypogeum at Weiden bei Ko¨ln in the Rhineland.7 Unsurprisingly, the sarcophagus is of Roman form, that is, decorated on the front face with the back left rough, and so designed to stand against a wall. The peltae that 24

‘A Fine and Private Place’

comprise its only decoration can be compared with those on six sarcophagi from York, one of which enjoys the addition of two torch-bearing cupids holding them.8 Amandinus’s sarcophagus, as suggested above, is relatively late in date, to judge from its style and inscription — at least late 3rd but far more probably 4th century, belonging to the reign of Constantine or later, making it in all probability the latest inscription surviving from Londinium or its environs. By this time, Christianity was the favoured religion of the empire, and the formula employed to introduce the deceased is at least suggestive of sensitivity to that faith. The introductory word, MEMORIAE, although employed by pagans, is not at all inconsistent with Christianity, avoiding as it does the pagan expression ‘Dis Manibus’. It may be noted that the same formula is employed on one of the York coffins mentioned above, as well as on the tombstone of Flavia Victorina from Silchester (found before 1577 and subsequently acquired by Sir Robert Cotton from Lord Burghley), which likewise employs confident capital letter­ ing and is set within a similar moulded border.9 Although the tombstone of the 6th­ century king of Dyfed, Voteporix, from Castell Dwyran, reading ‘Memoria Voteporicis Protictoris’, employs the same introduction, it should be noted that the usual Christian Latin formulae employed elsewhere, for example at Trier, were ‘Hic iacet’ or ‘Hic (re)quiescit’.10 The sarcophagus, when opened, contained a complete human skeleton, evidently of an adult male. It ‘appeared to have been turned over on its face and the skull was placed at the lower end of the coffin’.11 Two items of interest were found with it: a piece of Niedermendig lava (plausibly from a Roman quern) and, rather more interesting, traces of lime, perhaps gypsum, which is a feature of some late Roman burials, as was remarked at the time both by Dean Stanley and Albert Way.12 Whose bones were they? It has been generally thought that the sarcophagus was reused for the burial of a prominent 11th-century ecclesiastic, and this may, of course, be right.13 However, the placement of the bones is surely most unusual for a high-status medieval interment, while both prone burials and ‘decapitated’ burials are fairly common features of late Roman burial rites, both being evidenced together occasionally.14 Admittedly, neither is a Christian practice, but we are dealing in all probability with long-lived folk tradition. The only other London sarcophagus, likewise fashioned from a British limestone (found at Haydon Square in the Minories, outside the City to the east), though it is not inscribed, bears on its front face a roundel carved with a male portrait in profile and in low relief, exhibiting the typical clean-shaven physiognomy of the age of Constantine; its sides are carved with baskets of fruit, thereby, perhaps deliberately, avoiding any hint of pagan imagery. It contained the bones of a boy, aged ten to twelve, here certainly encased in gypsum and set within a lead coffin ornamented with pectin shells. It was orientated east–west, which, taken together with its date and restrained imagery, strongly implies that its occupant was from a Christian family.15 It, too, is of ‘Roman’ type (that is, it has a plain back), and it too must have been intended for display against a wall within a mausoleum, although unfortunately the circumstances of recovery by workmen were such that no such structure could be verified. As stated above, the West­ minster sarcophagus was probably also that of a Christian, although that certainly cannot be verified from the sparse ornament flanking his inscription, and the burial rite (if it still contains the original bones) was deviant. Neither of the sarcophagi from London, nor for that matter any of those known from York, carries any obvious Christian imagery such is familiar from 4th-century burial monuments on the Con­ tinent, for example the Good Shepherd, doves, fish, or even a chi-rho.16 25

martin henig

Whether the burial in the Westminster sarcophagus was that of a 4th-century Roman or of an Anglo-Saxon monk, the sarcophagus was, most probably, no longer exactly on its original site when excavated in the 19th century, and its lid had been fairly roughly reshaped and carved with a Latin cross in the 10th or 11th century.17 This may have been, of course, to refit it as a coffin for a contemporary interment, but there is another intriguing possibility — that when it was opened, no doubt in order to reuse it, the skull was observed to be detached from the body, and it was then assumed that this was the resting place of an executed holy martyr. In either case, the sarcophagus was probably buried in late Saxon times, with only the lid now visible above ground level. It is not, of course, entirely out of the question that the sarcophagus had been brought to its present location in late Saxon times from elsewhere. We may note that there was a small late Roman cemetery at St Martin-in-the-Fields only a kilometre away, which has yielded burials in plain stone coffins; the one found in 2006 still con­ tained a male skeleton of late-4th- or early-5th-century date.18 Unlike sarcophagi, of course, such coffins, which in themselves are quite common finds in Britain, would generally have been buried in the earth. It is far more likely, for a number of reasons, that the Westminster sarcophagus, different both in quality and purpose, was intended from the first to be displayed above ground in the mausoleum of the Valerii situated on Thorney Island (Westminster). First, it is a very heavy object, and carrying it over any distance, although not in­ superable, would have demanded particular effort. Admittedly, we know that in the earlier Middle Ages a sarcophagus said to be ‘of the whitest Parian marble’ but pre­ sumably, in fact, merely a simple, pale-limestone coffin, was brought from Grant­ acaestir (Cambridge), to house the bones of St Æthelthryth (Etheldreda) at Ely.19 Such reuse of Roman monuments was not unusual: at York, for example, the front of one of the Roman sarcophagi was sliced off in the 11th century in order for it to serve as a grave marker of someone whose name began with the letters Costavnc (perhaps Constance). It should be noted that only the planed, finished surface was employed, and the rest of the sarcophagus was discarded in order to reduce the weight of the object, now simply serving as a grave stele.20 Secondly, and more important, the Valerii, father and sons, as we have seen, evidently comprised a wealthy family, doubtless connected with the elite of Roman London, and perhaps themselves concerned with military affairs and administration. Although not now susceptible to modern excavation, there is quite well-founded evidence for highquality buildings, including a hypocaust, on the highest ground of Thorney Island, beneath the nave of the Abbey, with other remains on the south, beneath the cloister and Abbey gardens, although unfortunately as Richard Gem writes: ‘it may be that they were later structures which reused Roman building materials’.21 It is, of course, pos­ sible that any Roman building material found at Westminster was brought from the ruins of Londinium or from a suburban building outside the City, although I am inclined to believe the Victorian observers were right about a substantial Roman build­ ing being situated here; the islet would have been a prime situation for a villa, although there would have been little room for a more extensive settlement, considering the ancient topography of the site, and the relatively sparse remains of Roman material on what would have been in Roman times the lower-lying parts of the island.22 It might be objected that such a villa on an islet near the north bank of the Thames would not have easily functioned as an estate centre for agricultural production, but it would have been an admirable site for a villa urbana, a hide-away for a civil servant, who could have accessed it quickly either by land or preferably by water, employing the Thames 26

‘A Fine and Private Place’

for travel to and from his daily work in the same way as the elite of later centuries. In this regard, it may be noted that a Roman tile probably of 2nd-century date was recovered from a Saxon post-hole during excavation in 1986 of the late-11th-century dorter undercroft, stamped like so many tiles from London with the stamp of the proc­ urators of the Province of Britain: [. . .] P(ROCURATORES)



This shows that it was the product of an official, procuratorial tile-works.23 Of course, it might be material reused from elsewhere, although it could well have been from an official stock, sanctioned for use in an official building scheme on the island. The sarcophagus would most probably originally have been placed inside a promi­ nent built tomb or mausoleum, comparable to the one excavated beside the villa at Keston in Kent, in the London Borough of Bromley, in which there was a limestone sarcophagus, carved with a recessed panel with ansate handles on its front; unfortu­ nately this only survives, after many vicissitudes, in much-damaged form.24 In that case the panel was not inscribed, but an inscription must surely have been intended to fill the blank space. As noted above, a mausoleum at Welwyn, surely associated with a villa, housed an imported marble sarcophagus.25 A similar building stood close beside the villa at Lullingstone, Kent, though here it containing buried coffins rather than sarcophagi.26 There is an important item of contributory evidence that goes a long way to con­ firming the existence of such a high-class Roman burial place at Westminster. This is a small statue carved from Caen limestone depicting a boy (Fig. 2), recovered in the summer of 1958 at Westminster School during the building of a new Science block, reportedly at a depth of about 3 m, though, unfortunately, without any record of archaeological context.27 Although now lacking his head, he sported the Horus lock, the end of which can be seen at the back between the shoulders, typical of a young child and not necessarily an indicator of devotion to the Egyptian gods. The boy, who stands on a low base, wears the long tunic, a garment typical of the dress assumed by male children from well-to-do families.28 The statue is 0.3 m in height (with the head originally some 0.4 m), 0.16 m in width and 0.1 m in depth. Boys are sometimes depicted in funerary art playing with a ball, symbolizing that stage of life before they had ‘put away childish things’. The mid-2nd-century fresco in a tomb in the via Portuense, Rome, depicts a group of boys dressed in long tunics playing with a ball, and there are a number of instances in sculpture. Moreover, a little amber perfume pot in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, which depicts cupids in a palaestra, engaged in wrestling and playing with a ball, probably likewise came from a burial, presumably in Italy.29 The Westminster figure is much too small and delicate to have stood by itself as a tomb-marker, although it assuredly had a funerary function and most probably stood on a pedestal, probably inscribed with the name of the deceased. On grounds of style, it is tempting to date the carving of the statuette to the later 2nd or 3rd century, making it somewhat earlier, perhaps by a century, than the sarcophagus. Its surface has sustained comparatively little wear, which is again suggestive of its having been displayed inside a building or vaulted chamber in Roman times, rather than being exposed to the weather in the open air. Fragments of what may be a free-standing sculpture, likewise carved from oolitic limestone, were excavated shortly before the Second World War from a circular mausoleum at Rothamsted, near Harpenden, Hertfordshire; this was evidently set in a niche in the building, in the same way that a figure of Sabinus Taurius was 27

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exhibited within an aedicule inside his built tomb at Isola Sacra near Ostia.30 More­ over, much closer at hand, the statue of an eagle devouring a snake recently excavated to the east of the City in the Minories, not only seems to have been designed to fit within a niche, but was evidently associated with the foundations of a mausoleum. Although it almost certainly dates to the later 1st century, at least a century earlier than the Westminster statue, it too is carved on a low base, which is suggestive of similar placement on a pedestal.31 One further find from Westminster whose owner would surely have been of fairly high status should be mentioned. This is an iron signet ring found at Tothill Street, set with a sardonyx intaglio of conical shape, with its engraved face figuring Jupiter’s thunderbolt (fulmen) (Fig. 3). It thus, manifestly, still reflects its owner’s pagan beliefs.

Fig. 2. Statue of a child, Caen stone, height 0.32 m, Museum of London, on loan from Westminster School # Museum of London

Fig. 3. Sardonyx ringstone with intaglio depicting a thunderbolt, 1068 mm, in remains of an iron ring, Museum of London # Museum of London


‘A Fine and Private Place’

Iron rings were especially widespread in the early empire, but the 1st- or early-2nd­ century date that I have previously proposed is probably too early. Its rather pinched shoulders are more characteristic of the 3rd century, as are the form of the gem and the style of its cutting.32 Comparison may be made with the intaglio likewise depicting a thunderbolt, mounted in a ring certainly of 3rd-century date and found at the Roman sanctuary of Nodens at Lydney Park, Gloucestershire.33 The Westminster ring was a fairly valuable item and could well have belonged to a member of the household of the putative villa owner. Our knowledge is far too nugatory for present certainty as to what existed in Roman times on Thorney Island, but it is, nevertheless, highly suggestive. It is possible that within the Abbey precincts excavation may one day yield more evidence for the period that has survived both early scouring by the river and the inevitable destruction and disturbance caused by medieval and modern building. But a small villa, perhaps begun in the Antonine period and continuing to be occupied well into the 4th century or later, is highly plausible and, as is so often the case with villas, there may well have been a discrete mausoleum and perhaps other graves for family members associated with it. As the device on the signet ring proclaims, the inhabitants in its earlier years will almost certainly have been pagans. However, the family of the Valerii celebrated on our sar­ cophagus were most probably at least nominally Christians in the age of Constantine and his sons as, doubtless, were the individuals buried in the plain coffins excavated at St Martin-in-the-Fields. If there were such a villa, we have the intriguing possibility that, as at the medieval royal abbey site at Saint-Denis outside Paris, there was a much earlier Roman predecessor at Westminster. At Saint-Denis a number of 4th-century coffined burials have been recovered below the later church. The sequence here plausibly begins with the grave, martyrium, of Denis himself, martyred c. ad 250; his would have been the resting place of one of ‘the very special dead’, as Peter Brown calls such Christian holy men and women.34 Could there have been something of a similar sort at Westminster? Was the mausoleum merely the private burial place of a family, or might it have come to be perceived rightly or (more probably) wrongly, as the locus of a local martyr as suggested above? The Hieronymian Martyrology, indeed, records one prominent London martyr, Bishop Argulius; there may well have been others, possibly including a certain St Sixtus, who seems to have been a British martyr once venerated in the Kent/ Essex region. Did those who saw the name of Valerius Amandinus on the sarcophagus and found his apparently decapitated corpse inside believe they had found the remains of someone who had died for the faith?35 Such sequences as we find at Saint-Denis, at Xanten (ad Sanctos) and elsewhere in Europe are not unprecedented, even in Britain; at Wells, for example, a Roman mauso­ leum, perhaps itself originally connected with a villa, was apparently the predecessor of the great church that was eventually built on the site.36 Moreover, at St Albans Abbey outside Verulamium, as at Saint-Denis, a Roman cemetery and a great abbey occupy the likely site of the saint’s martyrdom and grave.37 The evidence for late Roman burials at St Martin-in-the-Fields, and also at West­ minster with a probable mausoleum, might be viewed in the light of an urban develop­ ment that only comes to full fruition in post-Roman times with the establishment of Lundenwic along the Strand and beyond, west of Londinium, and the concomitant virtual abandonment for a time of the ancient walled area of the Roman city. Alter­ natively, we could see isolated places such as these beyond the city limits, like the mass 29

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of monuments within the walls, simply as abandoned Roman sites — that is, as ‘ruin fields’, serving as sources for stone, brick and other building materials, and also for reusable artefacts like coffins or sarcophagi that might, indeed, be invested with a new significance in a revival of Romanitas in the middle or later Saxon period.38 I am indebted to Tim Tatton-Brown for the suggestion that the area around the Chapel of St Dunstan on the south side of the Abbey was possibly the area where a church stood, founded at the time of Æthelberht in the period of the Augustinian mission or slightly later. This reminds us that Westminster was significant long before the construction of the Abbey and other related buildings in the mid-11th century.39 An alternative suggestion, for which there is admittedly at present no other evidence, is that an early church was situated north of the present Abbey, in line with where St Margaret’s is now, rather in the manner of Old Minster to the cathedral at Winchester. There, of course, the burial of the 9th-century St Swithun was in prominent position after his death, in front of the west door of Old Minster; it was subsequently incorporated into an enlarged church, in a central shrine in the nave. In the ancient church of St Alkmund, Derby, demolished in the 19th century, an early-9th-century felspathic micaceous sandstone sarcophagus was found when the site was excavated. It is richly carved with interlace on all its sides and on the lid, and was evidently commissioned by the Mercian king Coenwulf to serve as a shrine of the sainted martyr (actually the deposed Northumbrian King Ealhmund). Originally set before the altar, it was buried in the 12th century in the south-east corner of the nave, its lid level with the pavement; it continued, of course, to be regarded as the highly significant royal burial of the church’s patron saint.40 It is certainly strange to find so impressive a grave as ours in the open air on the north side of a church and, if we place the church, founded by King Æthelbert in the 7th century or more plausibly by King Æthelbald or King Offa in the 8th, some distance from it to the south of the present Abbey, it would certainly be rather a long way away. Thus a nagging question remains as to whether the sarcophagus was originally a martyrial focus to an earlier Saxon church that stood more or less on the site where it was found. Moreover, might there not have been a sequence of buildings, now lost, which, as at St Augustine’s, Canterbury, came to comprise a mid-Saxon complex of church buildings on Thorney Island, one of which actually incorporated much of the standing structure of our projected Roman mausoleum? Both the church of St Martin’s outside Canterbury and the ruined church of Stone-by-Faversham outside Syndale (Durolevum) certainly include in their later fabric Roman walling, in both instances probably belonging to mausolea.41 All this emphasizes how much remains to be dis­ covered, if opportunities will only allow, of Roman and Anglo-Saxon Westminster. Unlike most other major cities of Roman Britain, such as Corinium or Verulamium, Londinium is distinctive in that it is not ringed by the villa estates of city magnates. In part, this may be because its surroundings were assigned to the emperor’s own personal patrimony, and it will be recalled that the late Roman province based on London (or Augusta as it came to be known) was called Maxima Caesariensis. Our putative West­ minster villa, in such a case, might have been simply a perquisite in the gift of the vicarius of the British provinces, bestowed upon a favoured official or family of officials serving in the imperial service. One possible aspect of continuity that remained, and one that abides to this day, was the connection over many centuries of the place with the ruling power, whether this took or takes the form of a Roman emperor, a Saxon king or, from the Middle Ages and beyond, an English monarch. 30

‘A Fine and Private Place’ ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would especially like to thank my colleagues and co-authors of fascicule 10 of the Corpus Signorum Imperii Romani dealing with Roman London and South-East England for insight and inspiration: Penny Coombe, Francis Grew and Kevin Hayward. Dr Roger Tomlin was character­ istically generous in discussing the inscription on the sarcophagus, and Mark Hassall was a kind and careful reader of my draft manuscript.

NOTES 1. For references, see A. P. Stanley, ‘Observations on the Roman sarcophagus lately discovered at West­ minster’, Archaeol. J., 27 (1870), 103–18, and A. Way, ‘The Roman coffin at Westminster Abbey. Some sup­ plementary notes on its contents and its decoration’, ibid., 191–97; RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in London, III: Roman London (London 1928), 165, 167 and 173 no. 13, pl. 57; R. G. Collingwood and R. P. Wright, The Roman Inscriptions of Britain, I: Inscriptions on Stone (Oxford 1965), 8 no. 16; R. Gem, ‘The origins of the Abbey’, in C. Wilson, P. Tudor-Craig, J. Physick and R. Gem, Westminster Abbey, The New Bell’s Cathedral Guides (London 1986), 6–21, at 6–7 (illus.); D. Tweddle in D. Tweddle, M. Biddle and B. Kjølbye-Biddle, Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture, IV: South-East England (Oxford 1995), 230–31 no. 1, ill. 355–57; P. Coombe, F. Grew, K. Hayward and M. Henig, Corpus Signorum Imperii Romani. Great Britain, I.10: Roman Sculpture from London and South-East England (Oxford 2015), no. 85. See also Foster, this volume, fig. 8, below, p. 361, for findspot. 2. This information was provided by Dr Kevin Hayward, FSA, who thin-sectioned the stone. 3. Collingwood and Wright, Roman Inscriptions (as n. 1), 8 no. 16. 4. Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio, ed. G. D. Mansi, 31 vols (Florence/Venice 1758–98), VI, col. 441, ‘Ego Superventor pro patre meo et Episcopo Claudio subscripsi et recognovi’, cited by Stanley, ‘Observations on the Roman sarcophagus’ (as n. 1), 106; P. Schaff and H. Wallace, Nicene and PostNicene Fathers. Second Series, XII: Leo the Great, Gregory the Great (New York 2007), 61, letter LXV. 5. Stanley, ‘Observations on the Roman sarcophagus’ (as n. 1), 105–06; Ammianus Marcellinus, 18.9.3; cf. Notitia Dignitatum accedunt Notitia Urbis Constantinopolitanae et Laterculi Provinciarum, ed. O. Seeck (Berlin 1876), ‘Notitia Dignitatum in Partibus Occidentis XXXVII: Dux tractus Armoricani’, 205 no. 18: ‘Praefectus militum superuentorum, Mannatias’. 6. Ibid., nos 670, 674, 677, 678, 683, 687, 690; R. S. O. Tomlin, R. P. Wright and M. W. C. Hassall, The Roman Inscriptions of Britain, III: Inscriptions on stone found or notified between 1 January 1955 and 31 December 2006 (Oxford 2009), nos 3201, 3202, 3203; S. R. Tufi, Corpus Signorum Imperii Romani. Great Britain, I, 3: Yorkshire (Oxford 1983), 40–45 nos 60–65, and 67–69 pls 18–20. 7. T. Rook, S. Walker and C. B. Denston, ‘A Roman mausoleum and associated marble sarcophagus and burials from Welwyn, Hertfordshire’, Britannia, 15 (1984), 143–62; see also Coombe et al., Roman Sculpture from London and South-East England (as n. 1), no. 18; J. M. C. Toynbee, Death and Burial in the Roman World (London 1971), 212–16. 8. Tufi, Yorkshire (as n. 6), nos. 60 and 65 (= Collingwood and Wright, Roman Inscriptions (as n. 1), nos 687 and 678); and Tufi, ibid., no. 61 (= Tomlin et al., Roman Inscriptions (as n. 6), no. 3202, with the cupids). Also note three sarcophagi with peltae flanking a recessed panel without inscription; Tufi, ibid., nos 67–69. 9. Collingwood and Wright, Roman Inscriptions (as n. 1), nos 677 (York) and 87 (Silchester); see also J. K. Knight, ‘An inscription from Bavai and the Fifth-Century Christian Epigraphy of Britain’, Britannia, 41 (2010), 283–92, at 287–88. 10. C. Thomas, Christianity in Roman Britain to AD 500 (London 1981), 245–46, fig. 43.3 (Castell Dwyran); P. Gauthier, Recueil des Inscriptions Chre´tiennes de la Gaule, I: Premie`re Belgique (Paris 1975), 37. 11. Stanley, ‘Observations on the Roman sarcophagus’ (as n. 1), 104. H. Poole (‘Some account of the dis­ covery of the Roman coffin in the North Green of Westminster Abbey’, Archaeol. J., 27 (1870), 119–28, at 120) provides a fuller account: ‘It had evidently been subjected to violence by a previous excavation. The skull had been removed from its place, being found towards the feet, and the whole skeleton had been reversed, the back being upward. All the parts however, it is believed, were present; the whole was in tolerable preservation, especially the teeth, which were fixed in large and powerful jaws, and much worn. The opinion immediately formed was, that the remains were those of a skeleton of a man below middle age, of powerful make, and rather above middle size.’ 12. Stanley, ‘Observations on the Roman sarcophagus’ (as n. 1), 104, and Way, ‘The Roman coffin at Westminster Abbey’ (as n. 1), 192–94. 13. For example, Wilson et al., Westminster Abbey (as n. 1), 6.


martin henig 14. R. Philpott, Burial Practices in Roman Britain: A survey of grave treatment and furnishing a .d . 43–410, British Archaeological Reports, British Series 219 (Oxford 1991), 71–76 (prone burials), 77–89 (decapitated burials) and especially 87ff. for the rites practised together. 15. RCHME, Roman London (as n. 1), 157, pl. 57 (sarcophagus) and 58 (lead coffin); S. Walker, Corpus Signorum Imperii Romani. Great Britain, II, 2: Catalogue of Roman Sarcophagi in the British Museum (London 1990), 56–57 no. 71, pl. 30; Coombe et al., Roman Sculpture from London and South-East England (as n. 1), no. 86. 16. Gauthier, Inscriptions Chre´tiennes (as n. 10), 51–54, pl. vi. 17. Tweddle in Tweddle et al., South-East England (as n. 1), 230–31. The cross has a long stem and a bifurcated foot terminating on each side in tendrils that touch the foot of the stone. 18. A. Telfer, ‘New evidence for the transition from the Late Roman to the Saxon period at St. Martin-in­ the- Fields, London’, in Intersections: The Archaeology and History of Christianity in England, 400–1200. Papers in Honour of Martin Biddle and Birthe Kjølbye-Biddle, ed. M. Henig and N. Ramsay (Oxford 2010), 49–58, at 52, fig. 4. 19. Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, iv, 19, in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, ed. B. Colgrave and R. A. B. Mynors (Oxford 1969), 394–95; M. Greenhalgh, The Survival of Roman Antiquities in the Middle Ages (London 1989), 130; S. Keynes, ‘Ely Abbey 672–1109’, in A History of Ely Cathedral, ed. P. Meadows and N. Ramsay (Woodbridge 2003), 3–58, at 13. 20. Tomlin, Wright and Hassall, Roman Inscriptions (as n. 6), no. 3201. 21. RCHME, Roman London (as n. 1), 148; Gem, ‘The origins of the Abbey’ (as n. 1), 6; C. Thomas, R. Cowie and J. Sidell, The royal palace, abbey and town of Westminster on Thorney Island: Archaeological excavations (1991–8) for the London Underground Limited Jubilee Line Extension Project, MoLAS Mono­ graph 22 (London 2006), 34–39. 22. F. C. J. Spurrell, ‘Early sites and embankments on the margins of the Thames estuary’, Archaeol. J., 42 (1885), 269–302, at 274. Spurrell concludes that ‘the hard part of the little island where there was no peat was apparently covered with Roman buildings, removed later perhaps to prepare the site of the abbey’. For a recent discussion, see C. Thomas, ‘Roman Westminster: fact or fiction?’, in Londinium and Beyond: Essays on Roman London and its Hinterland for Harvey Sheldon, ed. J. Clark, J. Cotton, J. Hall, R. Sherris and H. Swain (York 2008), 102–06, at 105–06. 23. M. W. C. Hassall and R. S. O. Tomlin, ‘Roman Britain in 1986. II. Inscriptions’, Britannia, 18 (1987), 360–77, at 371 no. 20; S. S. Frere and R. S. O. Tomlin, The Roman Inscriptions of Britain, II: Instrumentum Domesticum, fascicule 5 (Stroud 1993), 39 no. 2485.10 (xxxiv). 24. B. Philp, K. Parfitt, J. Willson and W. Williams, The Roman Villa Site at Keston, Kent: Second Report (Excavations 1967 and 1979–90) (Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit 1999), 50–52 and 54, figs 23 and 26a. 25. Rook, Walker and Denston, ‘A Roman mausoleum’ (as n. 7), esp. 144, fig. 1; Coombe, Grew, Hayward and Henig, Roman Sculpture from London and South-East England (as n. 1), no. 18. 26. G. W. Meates, The Roman villa at Lullingstone, Kent, I: The Site (Maidstone 1979), 122–32, figs 31–33. 27. Museum of London, acc. no. 61.122. The stone was again sourced by Dr Kevin Hayward. It is published in P. Marsden, Roman London (London 1980), 75 (illus.); J. Mander, Portraits of Children on Roman Funerary Monuments (Cambridge 2013), 244 no. 393; Coombe et al., Roman Sculpture from London and South-East England (as n. 1), no. 100. 28. For example, Mander, Portraits of Children, 45 and fig. 30, stele of Lupius Eustachius from Metz. 29. R. B. Bandinelli, Rom: Das Zentrum der Macht (Munich 1970), 141 and 143, figs 149 and 151 (via Portuense painting); Mander, Portraits of Children, 45 (sculpture); D. Brown and M. Henig, ‘Figured amber in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford’, in Roman Life and Art in Britain. A celebration in honour of the eightieth birthday of Jocelyn Toynbee, ed. J. Munby and M. Henig, BAR, British Series 41 (Oxford 1977), 21–34, at 26–28, pl. 2.iiib (amber perfume pot). 30. Coombe et al., Roman Sculpture from London and South-East England (as n. 1), no. 91; cf. A. W. G. Lowther, ‘Report on the excavation of the Roman structure at Rothamsted Experimental Station, Harpen­ den’, Transactions of the St Albans and Hertfordshire Architectural and Archaeological Society (1937), 108–14. The fragments are now in Verulamium Museum, acc. no. 87.10283. For the Isola Sacra tomb with aedicule, see J. M. C. Toynbee, Death and Burial in the Roman World (London 1971), 103 and pl. 26. 31. For the eagle, see London Archaeologist, 13/11 (Winter 2013/14), 316 and front cover; Coombe et al., Roman Sculpture from London and South-East England (as n. 1), no. 229. 32. Museum of London, acc. no. A1620 [R. E. M. Wheeler], London in Roman Times (London 1930), 100–01, fig. 30 no. 18; M. Henig, A Corpus of Roman Engraved Gemstones from British Sites, BAR, British Series 8, 3rd edn (Oxford 2007), 144 and pl. xiii no. 415; idem, ‘Intaglios from Roman London’, in Clark et al., Londinium and Beyond (as n. 22), 226–38, at 231 and 236, fig. 4.7.2 no. 63. 33. Henig, Corpus of Roman Engraved Gemstones from British Sites (as n. 32), 144 and pl. xiii no. 416.


‘A Fine and Private Place’ 34. M. Wyss, ‘Un mausoleum du Bas-Empire?’, in Atlas historique de Saint-Denis, des origines au XVIIIe sie`cle, Documents d’Arche´ologie Franc¸aise 59 (Paris 1996), 28–29 and figs 10–12; P. Brown, The Cult of the Saints (London/Chicago 1981), 69–85. 35. R. Sharpe, ‘Martyrs and Local Saints in Late Antique Britain’, in Local Saints and Local Churches in the Early Medieval West, ed. A. T. Thacker and R. Sharpe (Oxford 2002), 75–154, at 122–24. 36. W. Rodwell, Wells Cathedral: Excavations and Structural Studies, 1978–93, English Heritage Archae­ ological Report 21 (London 2001), 40–54. 37. M. Biddle and B. Kjølbye-Biddle, ‘The origins of St Albans Abbey: Romano-British cemetery and Anglo-Saxon monastery’, in Alban and St Albans: Roman and Medieval Architecture, Art and Archaeology, ed. M. Henig and P. Lindley, BAA Trans., xxiv (Leeds 2001), 45–77, at 46–65. 38. C. R. Dodwell, Anglo-Saxon Art: A new perspective (Manchester 1982), 125–28. 39. T. Tatton-Brown, personal communication; Gem, ‘The origins of the Abbey’ (as n. 1), 7–10. 40. C. A. Ralegh Radford, ‘The church of Saint Alkmund, Derby’, Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, 96 (1976), 26–61, at 45 no. 2, pls 4 and 5; S. J. Plunkett, ‘The Mercian perspective’, in The St Andrews Sarcophagus. A Pictish Masterpiece and its International Connections, ed. S. M. Foster (Dublin 1998), 202–26, at 222 fig. 69. The sarcophagus is now in Derby Museum. 41. See T. Tatton-Brown, ‘St Martin’s Church in the 6th and 7th centuries’, in The Parish of St. Martin and St. Paul Canterbury: Historical Essays in Memory of James Hobbs, ed. M. Sparks (Canterbury 1980), 12–18; E. Fletcher and G. W. Meates, ‘The ruined church of Stone-by-Faversham’, Antiq. J., 49 (1969), 273–94.


The Archaeology of Westminster Abbey: An Historiographical Overview WARWICK RODWELL

Westminster Abbey has attracted antiquarian interest since the late 16th century and has been the subject of innumerable publications. In addition to general histories, there have been many detailed studies of individual parts and furnishings, such as Henry VII’s Lady Chapel, the Cosmati pavements, the chapter-house, Retable and Coronation Chair. Studies of an archaeological nature effectively began with G. G. Scott, and were con­ tinued by W. R. Lethaby. War damage and restoration in the mid-20th century caused serious losses, made worse by the lack of subsequent archaeological recording. The need for integrated research and recording was finally recognized in 1990, and major studies of the west front and Lady Chapel took place in conjunction with restoration. In 1998, the Westminster Abbey Fabric Commission was established, and archaeological input became a statutory requirement. Since 2004, a digital survey of the church and claustral buildings has been undertaken, along with archaeological studies of the Cosmati pave­ ments, lantern tower, tribune gallery, chapter-house, Pyx Chamber, abbot’s house and cellarium. introduction The Collegiate Church of St Peter in Westminster — popularly known as Westminster Abbey — is unique amongst the great churches of the British Isles for many reasons. A Benedictine monastery with Anglo-Saxon origins, for a millennium it has held a pivotal position in English royal life and death, and in the government of the country. Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster were inseparable institutionally and physically, and, until a modern road was driven between them, their precincts were conjoined. Edward the Confessor built the royal Palace and rebuilt the Abbey in the 1050s and early 1060s, and in so doing introduced Romanesque architecture into preNorman England. King William I was crowned in the new Abbey, setting a precedent that continues to this day. In the 1240s, Henry III embarked on another rebuilding of the Abbey and Palace, the most lavish and expensive construction project of its day in Europe. He also formally established the Abbey as England’s royal burial church, erect­ ing at its focus a magnificent new Cosmatesque shrine, holding the body of Edward the Confessor, king and saint. The King’s Council sometimes met in the chapter-house in the 13th century, and later in the monks’ refectory; the Commons first met in the chapter-house in 1352.1 By the reign of Edward I, there were also two royal treasuries housed within the Abbey’s walls. Although Westminster Abbey was dissolved in 1540, the royal connection was never broken: coronation and burial continued. In that year, the bishopric of Westminster was created by Henry VIII, and the Abbey became a cathedral church, governed by a 34

BAA Trans., vol. xxxix, part i (2015), 34–60 # British Archaeological Association 2015

The Archaeology of Westminster Abbey

Dean and Chapter. Ten years later, the bishopric was suppressed, and Westminster was reabsorbed into the diocese of London. The collegiate church and its secular chapter remained in existence until 1556, when it was dissolved by Mary I, paving the way for the return of a Benedictine community, headed by Abbot Feckenham. St Edward’s shrine, which had been dismantled some years earlier, was reconstructed in the form that we see today.2 However, the restored Abbey was short-lived and, following the death of Mary in 1558, it was once again dissolved. On 21 May 1560, Elizabeth I re­ founded the Abbey as the Collegiate Church of St Peter. Upon her orders, the surviv­ ing medieval altars were destroyed in the following year. Some of the claustral and ancillary buildings survived the Suppression and were converted to secular uses: a new school was founded and built in 1541 by Henry VIII. The major architectural losses of the 16th century were the monastic refectory, which occupied the south cloister range, the great kitchen and the upper part of the dorter. Famously, the 14th-century abbot’s house survived. During the Commonwealth, Westminster Abbey was once again stripped of its collegiate status, and the Coronation Chair was moved to Westminster Hall for the second installation of Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector in 1657. The status quo ante was, however, restored in 1660. Today, Westminster Abbey and St George’s Chapel, Windsor, remain the two principal Royal Peculiars in England, being exempt from diocesan and archiepiscopal jurisdiction. Westminster is also the ‘national church’, where many great events of both religious and secular significance take place, including coronations, royal weddings, state funerals and national memorial and thanksgiving services (Fig. 1). All the foregoing impacted in various ways on the fabric and furnishings of the Abbey. Consequently, the architectural history, art history and archaeology of this remarkable building are all richer and more complex than anywhere else in Britain. antiquarian background Descriptions of Westminster Abbey by medieval chroniclers contain archaeological detail of fundamental importance, such as Geoffrey le Baker’s account of chaining the Coronation Chair and Stone of Scone to the floor in c. 1328,3 and John Flete’s record in 1443 of the largely lost latten inscription in the sanctuary pavement.4 Some remarkably detailed drawings of architecture and ceremonial in the Abbey have also survived, most notably in the illustrations in Abbot Islip’s funerary roll of 1532 (Rodwell, Fig. 2, 161).5 In the 16th century, plans also began to be drawn with a degree of archaeological accuracy, such as that showing the layout of the presbytery and crossing for the coro­ nation of Elizabeth I in 1558/9.6 But it was with the rise of antiquarianism in the later 16th century that general descriptions of the church, its monuments and furnishings began to appear in print. William Camden, Second Master (and later Head Master) at Westminster School, was appointed as the Abbey’s first librarian in 1587, and serious study of the muniments began. He published the first guide book to Westminster Abbey in 1606.7 Moreover, by the end of the 16th century scholars and general visitors from Britain and abroad were compiling journals containing first-hand accounts, which often embodied incidental information that would otherwise have escaped record.8 In the 17th century, scholars with specialist interests began to study and publish the Abbey’s architecture and furnishings, for example, John Weever’s Ancient Funerall Monuments (1631)9 and Henry Keepe’s Monumenta Westmonasteriensia (1682).10 The 35

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Fig. 1. The marriage of HRH Prince William of Wales to Miss Catherine Middleton, 29 April 2011. This was the first major event to take place on the newly conserved Cosmati pavement in the sanctuary. Coronations, weddings, funerals and other major national events have taken place here since the 1270s # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

latter year also saw the publication of a general plan of the Abbey,11 and the first engraved illustration of the Coronation Chair and regalia appeared in 1687, along with other historically valuable material, in Sandford’s account of the coronation of James II.12 During his tenure as the first Surveyor of the Fabric (1698–1723), Sir Christopher Wren compiled reports on the condition of the building, and he and his assistant William Dickinson prepared drawings and specifications for areas that required 36

The Archaeology of Westminster Abbey

restoration.13 Wren’s successor, Nicholas Hawksmoor (1723–36), also left a legacy of architectural drawings, principally relating to the construction of the western towers and the projected crossing tower.14 The 18th century saw the publication of a suc­ cession of important monographs on the Abbey, beginning with Jodocus Crull’s Antiquities of St Peter’s (1711).15 The outstanding work of the century was, however, John Dart’s two large, illustrated volumes, Westmonasterium (1723).16 Although he wrote little about the building, John Carter was a frequent visitor to the Abbey from the 1760s, for the next forty years, during which time he drew and painted many features. His carefully annotated sketches of the Coronation Chair in 1767 provide the first archaeological record of this remarkable furnishing (Fig. 2).17 The trend for more comprehensive recording continued into the 19th century, with pairs of heavily illustrated volumes on the history and antiquities of the Abbey by Ackermann (1812)18 and Brayley and Neale (1818, 1823).19 The latter contained numerous measured elevation drawings and sections, marking a significant advance in

Fig. 2. One of three sheets of dimensioned and annotated sketches of the Coronation Chair by John Carter, 1767 # Dean and Chapter of Westminster


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the accurate recording of architectural evidence. This was taken much further in publi­ cations such as Lewis Cottingham’s two sumptuous volumes on the architecture of Henry VII’s Lady Chapel (1822, 1829).20 By now, moulding profiles and decorative details were being accurately drawn and published at a large scale. It was during the surveyorship of Sir George Gilbert Scott (1849–78) that careful archaeological analysis began to be applied, not only to the fabric but also to the fittings. Scott’s Gleanings from Westminster Abbey (second edition 1863) is possibly the most frequently cited 19th-century architectural publication on the Abbey,21 and contains seminal contributions by William Burges, J. H. Parker, Robert Willis, et al. We see here the disciplines of architecture, art history and archaeology incipiently coming together as a coherent whole. Scott’s restoration of the chapter-house, in particular, not only revealed the true magnificence of the structure, but also paved the way for detailed studies of its wall-paintings, sculpture and decorated tile floor.22 His reordering and restoration of the sanctuary led to the discovery, beneath the Cosmati pavement, of three pier bases of Edward the Confessor’s church.23 At last, light was beginning to be shed on the architectural form of the pre-Norman Abbey, a subject that has inspired a stream of subsequent papers and speculations. Another outstanding discovery by Scott was the inscribed Roman sarcophagus that had been reused for a late Saxon burial on North Green.24 A substantial part of Scott’s sur­ veyorship coincided with the decanate of Arthur Stanley, whose antiquarian curiosity drove him to instigate archaeological explorations in many parts of the Abbey. These included the opening of several royal tombs (Fig. 3). Stanley is principally remembered for his Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey (1868).25 J. T. Micklethwaite began to study the Abbey in an archaeological manner in the early 1870s, compiling the first detailed ground plan and publishing several funda­ mental articles in Archaeologia, the Archaeological Journal and elsewhere.26 Some years later, he was appointed Surveyor of the Fabric (1897–1906). He and another anti­ quarian Dean, Joseph Armitage Robinson (1902–11) established the Abbey Museum in the Norman dorter undercroft, which was opened in 1908. Robinson’s interest in the Anglo-Saxon period was manifested in a paper in which he discussed the plan and design of the Confessor’s church, sparking a lively discussion that still continues.27 Robinson also published a scholarly volume on the abbot’s house,28 and encouraged R. B. Rackham to research documentary evidence for the later medieval rebuilding of parts of the Abbey.29 Micklethwaite’s successor as Surveyor was W. R. Lethaby (1906–28), whose two seminal volumes contributed enormously to the archaeological study of the Abbey: Westminster Abbey and the King’s Craftsmen (1906) and Westminster Abbey ReExamined (1925).30 Lethaby also published many articles on archaeologically related works, and was responsible for revealing part of the apse of the Confessor’s church and for locating the Norman west cloister walk. The discovery in 1930 of foundations of the western part of the south nave arcade added significantly to the early Norman ground plan.31 The Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (England) (RCHME) devoted the first of its five London volumes to Westminster Abbey (1924).32 As well as providing fairly comprehensive, but basic, descriptions of the pre-1714 fabric and fittings, and photographically illustrating many of them, the volume contained the first large-scale ground plan of the Abbey church and precinct buildings (surveyed 1921) (see Plan A, p. ii of this volume). Virtually every subsequent commentator on Westminster Abbey owes a considerable debt to the RCHME. 38

The Archaeology of Westminster Abbey

Fig. 3. Opening the vault of Henry VII, 1869; engraving from a drawing by George Scharf, recording one of Dean Stanley’s archaeological forays Stanley, Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey (as n. 25)

restoration, research and scholarship, 1939 – 89 The Second World War marked a watershed in approaches to the physical care and study of Westminster Abbey. Although the Abbey did not receive a direct hit with a high-explosive bomb, it suffered collateral damage from one that destroyed the House of Commons in May 1941: the chapter-house and structures in St Catherine’s Garden took the brunt of the blast. However, many incendiary devices landed on the church and precinct buildings, and the resultant fires destroyed the east and south ranges of the Deanery (the medieval abbot’s house), the roof of the lantern over the crossing, the monastic dormitory (used as Westminster School Hall) and parts of Little Cloister (Fig. 4). Sir Charles Peers was Surveyor of the Fabric at the time (1935–51) and, although he was as much an antiquary as he was an architect, circumstances were not conducive to carrying out archaeological investigations during and immediately after the war.33 His principal task was organizing temporary patching of the damage that had been inflicted on the Abbey church. 39

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Fig. 4. St Dunstan’s Chapel, adjoining the east cloister range, after it was burnt out in 1941, view to the north-east. No archaeological recording attended its reconstruction # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

After the War, the surveyorship fell into the hands of Stephen Dykes Bower (1951– 73), who inaugurated a restoration programme of such severity that more of the historic fabric of Westminster Abbey was damaged or destroyed in two decades than in the rest of the 20th century. Huge opportunities for architectural recording and archae­ ological research, both above and below ground, were created by the war damage, but scholars were kept at bay and virtually nothing was investigated or recorded. Architects Seeley and Paget were brought in to reconstruct the Deanery,34 and to rebuild large parts of Little Cloister and the domestic structures enclosing St Catherine’s Garden. Meanwhile, Dykes Bower forged ahead with restoration and alteration in other areas. The project for which he is principally remembered — and which led to a national outcry — was the total replacement of the medieval high roofs of the Abbey. Little architectural recording took place, and only after the greater part of the 13th- and 14th-century roofs had already been destroyed.35 Some trusses from Henry III’s period were incorporated in the new roof of the presbytery apse. Another tragic loss of this era was the 16th-century timber feretory that crowned the shrine of Edward the Confessor. Decorated with paint, gilding and glass inlays, this was a unique survival from the Marian reconstruction of the shrine in the 1550s. Although somewhat battered, it was eighty per cent complete and could have been conserved or even sensitively restored; instead, it was discarded and the present replica substituted. No archaeological record of the original was made. The medieval floor of the shrine chapel also suffered damage in 1953, when six holes were broken through the Cosmati pavement, to install stone bases for the stanchions of a new iron-railed enclosure for the Coronation Chair.36 40

The Archaeology of Westminster Abbey

After the war, the Abbey’s walls and monuments were very dirty and drab: an exten­ sive cleaning programme was needed, both internally and externally, and Dykes Bower put this in hand. Wholesale repainting and gilding of the monuments followed, no attempt being made to conserve or record historic polychromy. The grand finale of this restoration was to be a complete new stone floor in the nave and transepts, which would have involved the destruction of the rich palimpsest of monuments and paving that had progressively accumulated since the Middle Ages. A scheme for a very unEnglish multi-coloured marble pavement was drawn up: fortunately, it was vetoed. The same good fortune did not attend the 14th-century floor of the abbot’s great dining hall (known today as College Hall). The west range of the abbot’s lodging was constructed by Henry Yevele, 1370–76, and the floor was a massive oak structure sup­ ported on corbels and Samson posts above an undercroft. In 1956, the floor was destroyed and replaced with concrete beams and a cast slab, upon which coloured marble pavers were laid. Elsewhere around the precinct, historic flat timber-and-lead roofs were replaced with steel, concrete, copper and asphalt (for example, the Deanery drawing room and Little Cloister). The long-term effect of these roofs on the under­ lying historic fabric has proved calamitous. With a new Surveyor of the Fabric, the situation gradually improved in the 1970s and 1980s, largely in response to public pressure to halt the tide of destruction that was sweeping through the Abbey.37 An Architectural Advisory Panel was set up in 1974 to monitor restoration and change, and the membership of this committee was drawn from the leading art and architectural historians of the day. After several decades of being relatively inaccessible to external scholars, Westminster Abbey once again became the focus of fresh academic research, leading to the publication of papers cover­ ing many aspects of its fabric and furnishings. Internally, scholarly research proceeded quietly, principally at the hands of Lawrence Tanner, who was variously librarian and Keeper of the Muniments, 1926–72. Although his interest lay in archives rather than architecture, his published papers and autobiography contain much incidental infor­ mation about the fabric and fittings of the Abbey.38 What were regarded as routine repairs were not referred to the Panel, and conse­ quently structural works continued without any archaeological input or recording. Thus, most of the 11th-century refectory wall forming the internal face of the south cloister walk was hacked back and clad with new stone. No. 20 Dean’s Yard, a former canon’s house incorporating a large part of the 14th-century cellarium, was redeveloped in 1975–77. Structures dating from the 17th to the 19th centuries were demolished with­ out record, but were followed by the first professional archaeological excavation to take place within the Abbey precinct.39 Only a fraction of the available site was investi­ gated, revealing the plan of the late 12th-century misericorde undercroft, which occu­ pied the space between the monastic great kitchen and the refectory. Parts of the outer walls of the misericorde survived on three sides (which included the later 11th-century walls of the frater and kitchen, on the north and south), as did the moulded pier bases that supported its twelve bays of vaulting (Fig. 5). The sequence of archaeological deposits in the ground extended back to the Anglo-Saxon period. In 1986, the Undercroft Museum in the east cloister was refurbished, and an exca­ vation was carried out in the southernmost bay before reflooring took place.40 Strati­ fied Anglo-Saxon and later remains were encountered, providing another glimpse into the early archaeology of Thorney Island.41 While the principal museum displays focused on the remarkable and unique series of medieval and later funeral effigies,42 41

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Fig. 5. The misericorde undercroft during excavation in 1975, view to the north-east, showing the pier bases for the vaulting. Although preservation was intended, the bases were destroyed during the subsequent redevelopment of the site # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

other significant artefacts in the possession of the Abbey were exhibited, too. However, the quantity of architectural and archaeological material available for display was modest. One would have expected that such a large and complex monastic site as West­ minster should have yielded an impressive assemblage of archaeological finds during restoration and building works over the last two centuries. Doubtless many finds were made, and lost, owing to the non-involvement of antiquaries in most of the works. from 1989 to the present Another watershed was reached in the late 1980s, which coincided with the appoint­ ment of Donald Buttress as Surveyor of the Fabric (1988–99). He oversaw major restoration programmes on the west front of the Abbey (1990–95) and on Henry VII’s 42

The Archaeology of Westminster Abbey

Chapel (1991–96), and was the first Surveyor to recognize the need for systematic recording and the involvement of a professional archaeologist. In 1990, Tim TattonBrown was appointed to fulfil that role.43 His record and analysis of the west front were exemplary (Fig. 6),44 and his work on Henry VII’s Chapel led to the publication of a multi-author volume that studied the structure holistically, both externally and internally.45 The completion of the programme was celebrated in 1995 with a major exhibition in St Margaret’s Church, detailing the history of restorations at the Abbey over a period of nine centuries. The exhibition catalogue, compiled by the late Thomas Cocke, illustrated and described many artefacts and documents that had not hitherto received adequate (or any) publication.46

Fig. 6. Detailed archaeological record and analysis of the lower part of the west front of the

Abbey, compiled during restoration, 1990–95

T. Tatton-Brown


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The 1970s–90s saw the publication of a succession of scholarly works on aspects of the art and architecture of the Abbey. The evidence relating to Edward the Confessor’s building was reviewed by Eric Fernie47 and Richard Gem,48 and a major study of the Abbey during the Plantagenet era was published by Paul Binski.49 Much recent scholar­ ship was distilled into a new but brief architectural handbook on Westminster Abbey in 1986, the first such work to appear for many decades.50 In the 1970s, Peter Foster became aware of the need to establish a permanent storage facility for the miscellaneous historic artefacts that lay in the tribune and around the Abbey precincts. Losses were frequently incurred, and some important items of carved masonry that were known to Scott or Lethaby were nowhere to be found. In 1988, Tony Platt was appointed Honorary Keeper of the Lapidarium, which he proceeded to establish in the tribune gallery, and into which he gathered objects not only of stone, but also of timber, ceramic, glass and metal. In effect, this became Westminster Abbey’s reserve museum collection, and was accessible to scholars by appointment.51 Following the completion of the major restoration projects in the mid-1990s, there was a lull in archaeologically sensitive activity, although some minor works still needed to be monitored and recorded. The statutory requirement for cathedrals to retain a professional archaeologist was enshrined in the Care of Cathedrals Measure 1990, but that did not apply to the Royal Peculiars; nor did the Care of Churches and Ecclesi­ astical Jurisdiction Measure 1991. Eventually, in 1998, the Westminster Abbey Fabric Commission was established as a statutory body, in succession to the non-statutory Architectural Advisory Panel. The requirement that the Abbey should retain a con­ sultant archaeologist was embraced by the royal warrant. Tim Tatton-Brown filled that position until 2004, when he was succeeded by the present writer. The way had thus been paved for an archaeologically integrated approach to repair and conservation at the Abbey. The condition of Westminster Abbey’s two 13th-century Cosmati pavements — in the sanctuary (Sacrarium) and the shrine chapel of St Edward, respectively — had long been a subject of concern. In the 1860s, Scott carried out sensitive repairs to the sanctuary pavement, but did not touch the other one. Both were in a parlous condition, un­ surveyed, covered with carpets and rarely viewable by scholars or the general public. The magnificence and importance of the sanctuary pavement became more widely appreciated following the publication in 1991 of Richard Foster’s careful study and analysis of it.52 The proceedings of a conference on the pavements, hosted by the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, in 1998, were published in a multi-author volume.53 This led to archaeological recording of the sanctuary pavement, scientific investigations and the establishment of a methodology for the full-scale conservation of the floor. The Abbey appointed its first conservator, Vanessa Simeoni, in 1997. Work on the pavement was completed in 2010 (Fig. 1). The disciplines of art history, archaeology and conservation came together, shedding a remarkable amount of new light on the construction and history of the sanctuary floor.54 In the Chapel of St Edward, the Cosmati pavement, which flanks the shrine on three sides, is of mark­ edly different design and construction.55 It has been recorded, and is the subject of con­ tinuing investigations, which, it is hoped, will lead eventually to a major conservation programme.56 In 2004, the only available plan of the Abbey and claustral buildings was that drawn by the RCHME in 1921:57 it was confined to ground level, was small in scale, ignored structures later than 1714 and was out of date in some areas as a result of post-war 44

The Archaeology of Westminster Abbey

changes. No plans of the extensive upper levels, including the tribune gallery, had ever been drawn, and there were no accurate and detailed elevation drawings of any aspect of the complex.58 For the most part, there was simply no drawn record of the fabric of Westminster Abbey, a state of affairs that could not be allowed to stand. In 2005, a long-term programme of digitally recording the fabric was instigated, and still con­ tinues. A ground plan of the entire complex, including St Margaret’s Church, now exists, with every ledger, paver and floor tile individually drawn. The tribune gallery in the Abbey, the upper levels in St Margaret’s Church and most of the claustral ranges have similarly been planned. The preparation of elevation drawings continues inter­ mittently and is linked to programmes of work. In collaboration with English Heritage, the chapter-house and Pyx Chamber have been fully surveyed.59 Some of the Abbey’s most precious fixtures and fittings have been individually scanned and drawn in minute detail: both Cosmati pavements, decorated tile floors in the chapter-house and Pyx Chamber, the shrine of St Edward, the sedilia, the Retable and the Coronation Chair (see further below). A programme of recording sub-floor features within the church, through the medium of ground-penetrating radar, has been in hand since 2005. This has revealed tantalizing evidence of structures beneath the Cosmati pavements, and has enabled the distribution of post-medieval burial-shafts in the nave, transepts and aisles to be plotted.60 Finally, it should be recorded that, in addition to the research and recording projects instigated by the Abbey, other fields of study have been tackled by independent scholars, some of which have given rise to publications. These include Christopher Wilson’s assessment of Henry III’s involvement in rebuilding the Abbey,61 Sally Badham’s research into the royal tombs,62 and Ian Betts’s survey of ‘Westminster’ tiles.63 archaeological research, 2004 – 14: a summary A series of archaeological projects has been put in hand since 2004, all of which were related to repair, development or conservation works. The principal investigations will be listed and briefly described. Tribune gallery Although generally known as the ‘triforium’, the tribune gallery which runs con­ tinuously around the aisles of the nave, transepts and presbytery, embracing also the rectangular and semi-octagonal chapels of the chevet, was clearly intended to function as liturgical space (Fig. 7). It seems likely that a suite of upper-level chapels was planned here in the late 1240s, but their fitting-out was never completed. There is no evidence for the installation of altars, piscinae or aumbries. The gallery is lit by a series of large octofoil windows and is internally finished to a high degree, with shafting of Purbeck marble, superb sculptured heads in Caen stone and numerous mouldings and other embellishments in Reigate stone (Fig. 8). Since 2000, a programme of repairs to the aisle roofs of the nave, transepts and presbytery has been archaeologically monitored. The present near-flat roofs, supported by massive oak portal frames, were constructed by Sir Christopher Wren between 1701 and 1718. Many of the rafters were recycled from previous low-pitched roofs, dating from the 15th century; others were newly made by quartering large medieval beams. Nothing remains of the 13th-century roofs except the various masonry offsets and corbels that once supported them. Almost certainly, the roofs were double-pitched over 45

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Fig. 7.

Plan of the tribune. The eastern gallery, coloured yellow, is designated for the new

Abbey Museum

The Downland Partnership # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

the aisles and ambulatory and of high-pointed octagonal form over the chapels of the chevet: the eastern arm of Westminster must have borne a close resemblance to that of Amiens Cathedral today. The floor of the gallery is of brick in the western part of the church, and this was most likely laid in the 17th century, over infilled vault pockets. By contrast, the eastern arm has a suspended timber floor above empty vault pockets. The floor here comprises a composite construction of 18th- to 20th-century date. A series of original stone corbels, concealed beneath the present floor, was designed to support a heavy timber frame. Hence, the 13th-century gallery floor was intended to be of timber, but whether this was ever constructed is a moot point, since no medieval carpentry is present today, or seemingly has been since the 18th century. We may suspect that, like the intended lantern tower, this was one of the non-essential high-level works that was deferred by Henry III, in order to make more rapid progress on rebuilding the body of the church. We may further suspect that the intended floor finish would not have been oak boards, but a glazed tile pavement, laid on a timber substructure. Such a floor still survives at Salisbury Cathedral in the octagonal muniment room above the sacristy.64 The timber substructure and boarding to support a 14th-century tile or stone pavement in the Jerusalem Chamber was revealed during floor repairs in 2004. Further investigations are currently in hand, since the tribune is due to be converted into a new museum and display space for the Abbey: The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries. The proposed construction of a new tower containing a lift and staircase, alongside the south transept, will necessitate archaeological excavation in Poets’ Corner Yard. Preliminary investigations here have revealed a masons’ working floor, almost certainly of the period of Henry III and, below that, 11th-century burials in chalk-lined cists.65 46

The Archaeology of Westminster Abbey

Fig. 8.

Sketch of part of the tribune gallery in the south transept by Orlando Jewitt, 1860 G. G. Scott, Gleanings from Westminster Abbey (as n. 21)

Lantern tower In 2010, the Dean and Chapter commissioned a detailed study of the crossing and the low lantern surmounting it.66 This revealed that the masonry at roof level dates from Henry III’s period, and that work on a tower with newel stairs in the angle-turrets had been commenced. Although Islip’s funerary roll depicts an octagonal lantern, most likely of timber and lead, above the crossing in 1532, this has generally been dismissed as an artistic invention (Fig. 9).67 However, support for the argument that this was a Tudor addition to the roofline is provided by the extant plan showing the setting for Elizabeth I’s coronation in 1558/9. This included a high octagonal podium upon which the Coronation Chair was mounted at the centre of the crossing, directly beneath the lantern (Fig. 10).68 The lantern later disappeared, and Wren set his mind to designing a lofty tower and spire, for which a fine oak model was made in 1710.69 Many options for completing the crossing were drawn by Wren, Dickinson and Hawksmoor: eventually, a design was selected and work began in 1727, but only the first stage had been completed when King George I died and the impending coronation necessitated the removal of scaffolding 47

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Fig. 9. Extract from Abbot Islip’s funerary roll, 1532, showing an octagonal cupola on the roof above the crossing # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

from the crossing. After the coronation of George II, a decision was taken to complete the western towers first, and resumption of work on the lantern was again deferred. Funds ran out, and Hawksmoor’s intended tower and spire were never erected. Chapter-house A major restoration of the decaying external masonry of the chapter-house was carried out by English Heritage in 2008–10, providing an opportunity for close inspection and recording. At the same time, the first detailed record and analysis of the 13th-century tile pavement was undertaken, and the vaulted crypt beneath the chapter-house was surveyed. Archaeological analysis of the fabric revealed that, although the crypt served as a royal treasury in the 14th century — and was the scene of the famous robbery in 1303 — it had not been constructed with that function in mind. It did not initially have secure doors, but was a chapel and was arguably intended to be the mausoleum of the Norman abbots whose tombs had to be displaced when Henry III built the new chapter-house.70 The subject of the Westminster chapter-house was adopted by the Society of Anti­ quaries of London for its Tercentenary Research Symposium in 2008. All aspects of the history, art and architecture of the building were embraced by a group of specialists and the proceedings of the symposium were published as a monograph by the Society.71 48

The Archaeology of Westminster Abbey

Fig. 10. Contemporary plan showing the layout of the crossing for the coronation of Elizabeth I, 1558/9. The Coronation Chair was raised on an octagonal structure (pulpitum), directly beneath the octagonal roof lantern (BL, Egerton MS 3320, fol. 21r) # The British Library Board

Dorter undercroft and Pyx Chamber The 11th-century dorter occupied the east cloister range. It was an impressively long structure: at least ten bays, of which nine-and-a-half survive intact at undercroft level. The north end of the range was truncated in c. 1250 by the construction of the present chapter-house vestibule.72 Very little primary fabric of the dormitory itself survives. The reredorter lay transversely across the southern end, the plan of the whole forming an inverted ‘T’. Again, it is the substructure of the reredorter that remains largely intact today, but the north-east corner, with decorative chequerwork in stone and tile (as on the refectory), is preserved. Surveying and analysis of the range are in progress. The two southernmost bays of the undercroft are barrel-vaulted: the first comprises a single cellar, while the second is open-ended and forms a tunnel that provides access between the eastern and western parts of the south-east precinct. The remaining eight bays formed a single space with quadripartite vaulting supported by a central row of 49

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circular piers. In the mid-12th century, and later, cross-walls were inserted, converting the undercroft into eight separate compartments. Only two of those subdivisions now remain in place, defining a square room (bays 8 and 9) known as the Pyx Chamber (Fig. 11). In 2005, the chamber was refurbished, so that visitors can now view the interior from a small balcony, without descending to the level of the decorated tile pavement. The medieval tiles occupy most of the floor area and are unsuitable for regular foot traffic. The opportunity was taken to compile a complete record of the walls, vault and floor, and to clean, conserve and study the tiles. This led to several new discoveries. First, there is a clear structural break between bay 8 and the remainder of the undercroft to the south: the earlier phase on the north is almost certainly no later than the 1060s. Secondly, the walls and vault preserve the earliest suite of masons’ marks in England. Thirdly, there is an original round-headed doorway in the east wall, which was blocked when the chamber was adopted as a chapel and a 13th-century stone altar was

Fig. 11. Pyx Chamber, view east from the entrance. The mid-11th-century vaulted undercroft is the earliest standing fabric at Westminster. The stone altar and pillar-piscina were installed in the 13th century; the ‘Westminster’ tile pavement dates from the late 13th or early 14th century, but was later patched using salvaged tiles with hand-incised decoration (the larger tiles seen on the right); the boards forming the shelf upon which muniments were once stored were cut from 12th-century painted panelling Warwick Rodwell


The Archaeology of Westminster Abbey

constructed in front of it. Fourthly, the chamber was modified in the early 14th century, which may be the time when the floor was dug out to increase head-room, and the ‘Westminster’ tile pavement laid. In part, the pavement has been worn and patched, and the secondary material includes some large, brown-glazed tiles with hand-incised designs (Fig. 12). These tiles were already well worn before they were relaid in the chamber. They form a unique series and are provisionally dated to the 11th century: hence, they are some of the earliest decorated floor tiles in England.73 Additionally, the walls of the 11th-century claustral ranges incorporate plain brown-glazed tiles, arranged in a chequered for­ mation with squares of pale coloured stone (opus reticulatum). These decorate the external faces of the refectory and reredorter, where they probably date from the 1070s.74 However, similar tiles were also employed randomly as packing material and gap-fillers in the mid-11th-century masonry of the undercroft, and are therefore likely to have been in production by the 1060s.

Fig. 12. Pyx Chamber: reused brown-glazed floor tiles with hand-incised designs of the mid- to late 11th century Warwick Rodwell


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The abbot’s house and College Hall Since 2004, a series of works carried out in different parts of the complex has enabled much new information to be recorded and the structural development of the house to be better understood. Lethaby described the building as the most completely surviving medieval courtyard house in London.75 Constructed in the late 1360s and early 1370s alongside the west cloister, it comprised three principal ranges. On the west is the great dining hall (College Hall) with the kitchen adjoining on the south, and on the north is the solar (Jerusalem Chamber). Both hall and solar are first-floor structures, with undercrofts. The heavy timber floor of the latter remains intact, its joists supported from below by a spine-beam and two Samson posts. Dendrochronology demonstrated that the timber was felled in 1369–70.76 In part, the original Baltic pine boards survive beneath two later floors (one dated to 1617 by dendrochronology).77 These boards sup­ ported a lime mortar bed for a tile pavement. The hall floor was of similar construction, and almost certainly tile-paved, but the tiles were replaced with stone pavers in 1749. On the east side of the courtyard were the abbot’s private chambers on two floors (now the Deanery), and the south range is occupied by the gatehouse, kitchen and service rooms. Above the vaulted gatehouse and an adjoining service room was a fine chamber (now the Deanery drawing room) with a glazed tile floor.78 Complete re­ furbishment of the abbot’s kitchen and service rooms (now used by Westminster School) in 2007–08 provided an opportunity to record the medieval and later fabric.79 Initially, there was no north range per se, since this side of the courtyard abutted the south-west tower of the Abbey church. There was, however, a two-storeyed gallery running across the face of the tower, which provided a covered link between the east and west ranges. During John Islip’s abbacy (1500–32), the gallery was replaced by a parlour (Jericho Parlour) with an integral garderobe and cellarage below; a new chapel for the abbot was also constructed. Considerable further adaptations occurred under Bishop Thomas Thirlby (1540–50), and in the 17th and 18th centuries. Archaeological recording of this range was carried out during alterations in 2012. Cellarium and misericorde The west cloister is entirely abutted by the medieval abbot’s house and thus the cellarer’s range, which would normally have occupied this location in a Benedictine Abbey, was displaced southwards. The cellarium was a long, narrow building, erected by Abbot Litlyngton in the years around 1370, forming the eastern abutment to Dean’s Yard. The cellarer’s rooms (now the Chapter Office) were on the first floor above an undercroft comprising one unvaulted and five vaulted bays. The cellarium had been remodelled in 1975, and new buildings constructed on its east side. The whole site was again reconfigured in 2010–12, to create a restaurant and kitchens for the Abbey.80 Extensive archaeological excavation and fabric recording was necessitated, and was carried out by Pre-Construct Archaeology Ltd. The site of the misericorde undercroft was again fully exposed, when it was unexpectedly revealed that all the late-12th-century moulded stone pier bases that were intact in 1975, together with the foundations upon which they stood, had been hacked out and replaced with mass-concrete (Fig. 5).81 Excavation confirmed that there had been occupation on the site from the middle Saxon period onwards. Chalk rubble foundations defining three sides of a rectangular building, probably datable to the later 10th century, were encountered (Fig. 13). These 52

The Archaeology of Westminster Abbey

Fig. 13. Interpreted plan (provisional) of the standing and excavated medieval structures comprising the cellarium and misericorde, based on the investigations of 1975–76 and 2010–12 Warwick Rodwell

are the earliest structural remains so far discovered on the Abbey site. Later masonry was also examined, including the south wall of the refectory of c. 1070–80, and the north face of the great kitchen with its infilled doorway and hatch. Finally, a hitherto unknown 11th-century north–south foundation was seen beneath the west wall of the cellarium, flanking Dean’s Yard. Dendrochronology: doors and furnishings In 2005, Westminster Abbey celebrated the probable millennium of the birth of Edward the Confessor, and a programme of dendrochronological dating of doors and 53

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chests was put in hand. The impetus for this was provided by the long-held suspicion that a battered oak door hanging in the chapter-house vestibule could possibly be of pre-Norman date.82 The opportunity was taken to record the door in minute detail, recovering the layout of its lost ironwork. Small-diameter cores were also taken from the planks for tree-ring dating. Analysis indicated that the door was constructed in the 1050s, and was thus a survival from the Confessor’s Abbey.83 A small door at the base of the north-east vice in the transept was dated to the period of Henry III, and a cut-down section from one of the main north transept doors of the same era was reused at the entrance to the chapter-house crypt by Scott. The door to the south-east transept vice was dated to the mid-14th century, while the two security doors fitted to the Pyx Chamber were somewhat earlier (c. 1300).84 These belong to the period when the chamber was refitted as a royal treasury, following the 1303 robbery of the chapter-house crypt. Westminster Abbey possesses an outstanding assemblage of historic muniment and other chests, which were all examined and eight were found to be suitable for dendro­ chronological analysis. They returned dates ranging from the later 12th to the 15th centuries.85 Other important medieval furnishings have also been examined by dendro­ chronologists, including the Retable, the sedilia, the Coronation Chair, an armoire and the shelf (‘tester’) in the Pyx Chamber. Coronation Chair and other furnishings Westminster Abbey possesses some exceptional medieval furnishings, none of which had, until recently, been archaeologically studied or recorded in detail. The first to be tackled was the Retable, Henry III’s high altarpiece constructed in c. 1270. It was studied and conserved by a multi-disciplinary team at the Hamilton Kerr Institute, Cambridge, 1998–2005.86 In addition to elucidating the complex construction and decorative techniques involved, it was revealed that the design had been modified at a very early stage, to make the panel considerably longer than was initially envisaged. It was also demon­ strated that the altarpiece was fitted with three legs, which enabled it to be freestanding or attached to the back of the altar, and that its reverse face was meant to be seen, having been painted to simulate purple porphyry. It was only in 1441 that the panel was recessed into a stone altar screen.87 Close examination of the multiple areas of damage to the Retable revealed its complex post-Reformation history, which culminated in the panel forming the lid of a mid-18th-century effigy press in the upper Islip Chapel (off the north ambulatory), from whence it was rescued by Edward Blore (Surveyor of the Fabric) in 1827. But there was much more to the post-Reformation archaeology of the Retable: it had first been incor­ porated in a wainscot press constructed to house royal effigies in 1606, ahead of a state visit by King Christian IV of Denmark. That press, which stood on the Abbey floor, had long since been broken up and was presumed lost, but when some sections of un­ provenanced oak panelling stored in the triforium were examined, it was possible to correlate fixing holes in them with those in the Retable. That in turn facilitated a drawn reconstruction of the 1606 effigy press, one of the earliest artefact-display cases recorded in England.88 In 2009, the remarkable oak sedilia of four seats, on the south side of the sanctuary, were cleaned and conserved.89 Installed in c. 1307, they do not appear ever to have been 54

The Archaeology of Westminster Abbey

Fig. 14. Reconstruction of the original form and decoration of the Coronation

Chair, following detailed archaeological study and conservation in 2010–12

Artwork Stephen Conlin. All Rights Reserved. Commissioned by Country Life Magazine in 2012


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moved, but their construction contains many anomalies and would benefit from further investigation. Meanwhile, a physical record has been compiled.90 The Coronation Chair, constructed in 1297–1300 for Edward I, ranks amongst the most remarkable treasures to have survived from the Middle Ages. Its history is intimately bound up with that of the Stone of Scone, one of the items surrendered to Edward following his defeat of the Scots in 1296. Although the Stone has attracted a considerable literature,91 little attention had been paid to the structural and decorative history of the Chair, or to the physical relationship between Chair and Stone.92 A meticulous conservation programme carried out in 2010–12 on the Chair (to mark the diamond jubilee of the coronation of Her Majesty The Queen) was accompanied by a holistic study of both artefacts. This revealed an unexpectedly large volume of fresh information that demanded a thoroughgoing revision of previously cherished dogmas. The evidence has been fully published, and a reconstruction of the original form and appearance of the Chair attempted (Fig. 14).93 Simultaneously, the little-known second Coronation Chair, made for Mary II in 1689, was recorded, conserved and published for the first time. North Green excavation Until c. 1740, the whole of the north side of the Abbey was abutted by a jumble of buildings that had grown up over the course of several centuries; they comprised houses and workshops. St Margaret’s Church was similarly encumbered. The structures were progressively demolished and the present open spaces created, but ground level was too high in relation to the plinths around the Abbey, and in 1869 G. G. Scott ordered it to be lowered. In so doing, the foundations of Henry III’s sacristy of 1259 were revealed in the angle between the nave and north transept. This was a substantial building, with

Fig. 15. North view of Westminster Abbey by Wenceslaus Hollar, c. 1670, showing medieval and later buildings abutting the nave. The two-storeyed medieval sacristy (enhanced) survived until 1739, having been converted into a prebendal house and refenestrated in the 17th century. The garden wall in front of the house probably dated from the 15th century


The Archaeology of Westminster Abbey

the sacrist’s lodgings on the upper floor. A drawing by Hollar, c. 1670, shows it com­ plete with a late medieval crenellated parapet (Fig. 15). In the mid-16th century, it had been converted into a prebendal house, which survived, with an early Georgian fac¸ade, until 1739. Excavations by the Abbey mason in 1869 revealed, but did not fully elucidate, foun­ dations relating to several phases of construction. The investigation also led to the dis­ covery of the Roman stone sarcophagus and several undated cist-graves.94 The graves were on a skewed alignment, relative to the Abbey church. Finally, Scott constructed a subterranean vaulted boiler-house on part of the site, but it was never used. In an attempt to evaluate the survival of archaeological deposits here, a brief exploratory excavation was carried out by Channel Four’s Time Team in 2009. It was demonstrated that the foundations of the sacristy were still mainly extant, and that there had been several subsequent phases of building activity on the site. It was also established that the skewed cist-graves were of Saxo-Norman date.95 This is an archaeological site with considerable promise for future exploration.


I owe a great debt of gratitude to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster and to many colleagues at Westminster Abbey who have supported archaeological research over the years. I am especially grateful to the present and former deans, the Very Revd Dr John Hall and the Very Revd Dr Wesley Carr, respectively. Particular mention must also be made of John Burton, Ptolemy Dean, Diane Gibbs, Sir Stephen Lamport, Richard Mortimer, Matthew Payne, Tony Platt, Christine Reynolds, Marie Louise Sauerberg, Vanessa Simeoni, Tony Trowles, Jim Vincent and Chris Vyse. Tim Tatton-Brown, my predecessor as Consultant Archaeologist, has been most generous in sharing his considerable knowledge of the Abbey, and David Neal has been enormously helpful in studying the Cosmati pavements. I am grateful also to Erica Utsi for her work with ground-penetrating radar, the Downland Partnership for their meticulous surveys, and Pre-Construct Archaeology Ltd (especially Chris Mayo and Paw Jorgensen) for efficiently conducting excavations. Finally, for the benefit of advice and scholarly debate, I am indebted to Jeremy Ashbee, Paul Binski, Steven Brindle, Eric Fernie, Richard Gem and Christopher Wilson. Additionally, Richard Gem and Tim Tatton-Brown kindly read and commented on earlier drafts of this paper.

NOTES 1. A. Hawkyard, ‘From Painted Chamber to St Stephen’s Chapel: The Meeting Places of the House of Commons at Westminster until 1603’, Parliamentary History, 21 (2002), 62–84, at 65–66; B. Harvey, ‘The Monks of Westminster and their Chapter House’, in Westminster Abbey Chapter House, ed. W. Rodwell and R. Mortimer (London 2010), 102–11, at 110. 2. J. G. O’Neilly and L. E. Tanner, ‘The Shrine of Edward the Confessor’, Archaeologia, C (1966), 129–54. 3. D. Preest trans. and R. Barber ed., The Chronicle of Geoffrey le Baker (Woodbridge 2012), 37. 4. De Fundatione Ecclesiae Westmonasteriensis, WAM, 29, fol. 41v. 5. W. H. St J. Hope, ‘The Obituary Roll of John Islip, Abbot of Westminster, 1500–32, with Notes on other English Obituary Rolls’, SAL, Vetusta Monumenta, VII/4 (London 1906), 11–13. 6. BL, Egerton MS 3320; reproduced in R. Strong, Coronation from the 8th to the 21st Century (London 2005), 207–11; W. Rodwell, The Coronation Chair and Stone of Scone: History, Archaeology and Conser­ vation (Oxford/Oakville CT 2013), fig. 159. 7. W. Camden, Reges, Reginae, Nobiles, et alii in Ecclesia Collegiata B. Petri Westmonasterii Sepulti (London 1606). For a complete bibliography of Westminster Abbey, down to 2000, see T. Trowles, A Bibli­ ography of Westminster Abbey, Westminster Abbey Record Series IV (Woodbridge 2005).


warwick rodwell 8. German scholars were particularly assiduous in describing the Abbey, for example, Lupold von Wedel, 1584–85; Frederick, Duke of Wu¨rttemberg, 1592; and Paul Hentzner, 1598. For detailed references, see Rodwell, Coronation Chair and Stone of Scone (as n. 6), 4. 9. J. Weever, Ancient Funerall Monuments of Great Britain, Ireland and the Islands Adjacent (London 1631). 10. H. Keepe, Monumenta Westmonasteriensia (London 1682). 11. J. Caley, H. Ellis and B. Bandinel ed., W. Dugdale: Monasticon Anglicanum, 6 vols (London 1846, new edn), I, after 265. 12. F. Sandford, The History of the Coronation of . . . James II . . . 1685 (London 1687), after 36. 13. A. Bolton and D. Hendry ed., The Wren Society, XI (Oxford 1934), 9–20 and 27–34. 14. WAM. For illustrations and discussion, see W. Rodwell, The Lantern Tower of Westminster Abbey, 1060–2010 (Oxford 2010), 39–70. 15. J. Crull, The Antiquities of St Peter’s, or the Abbey Church of Westminster (London 1711; later edns 1715 and 1722). 16. J. Dart, Westmonasterium. Or the History and Antiquities of the Abbey Church of St Peter’s West­ minster, 2 vols (London 1723, 2nd edn 1742). 17. Rodwell, Coronation Chair and Stone of Scone (as n. 6), figs 8–10. 18. R. Ackermann, The History of the Abbey Church of St Peter’s, Westminster, its Antiquities and Monu­ ments, 2 vols (London 1812). 19. E. W. Brayley and J. P. Neale, The History and Antiquities of the Abbey Church of St Peter, West­ minster, 2 vols (London 1818, 1823). 20. L. N. Cottingham, Plans, Elevations, Sections, Details and Views of the Magnificent Chapel of Henry VII at Westminster Abbey Church, 2 vols (London 1822, 1829). 21. G. G. Scott, Gleanings from Westminster Abbey (Oxford/London 1861, greatly enlarged 2nd edn 1863). 22. Westminster Abbey Chapter House (as n. 1), passim. 23. Scott inserted removable covers in the floor, in gun-metal frames, so that the bases can be viewed. For a new survey of the foundations, see K. Blockley, ‘Westminster Abbey: Anglo-Saxon Masonry below the Cosmati Pavement’, Archaeol. J., 161 (2004), 223–33. 24. H. Poole, ‘Some Account of the Discovery of the Roman Coffin in the North Green of Westminster Abbey’, Archaeol. J., 27 (1870), 119–28; A. P. Stanley, ‘Observations on the Roman Sarcophagus lately Discovered at Westminster’, ibid., 103–18; see also Martin Henig in this volume, 23–33. 25. A. P. Stanley, Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey (London 1868, and numerous subsequent editions down to 1924). 26. J. T. Micklethwaite, ‘Notes on the Abbey Buildings of Westminster’, Archaeol. J., 33 (1876), 15–48; ‘Further Notes on the Abbey Buildings at Westminster’, Archaeol. J., 51 (1894), 1–27; ‘On the Abbey Buildings at Westminster’, in E. T. Bradley, Annals of Westminster Abbey (London 1895), 380–93 (includes large-scale ground plan). 27. J. A. Robinson, ‘The Church of Edward the Confessor at Westminster’, Archaeologia, LXII (1910), 81–100. See also Francis Woodman in this volume, 61–68. 28. J. A. Robinson, The Abbot’s House at Westminster (Cambridge 1911). 29. R. B. Rackham, ‘The Nave at Westminster Abbey’, Proceedings of the British Academy, 4 (1909–10), 33–96; ‘Building at Westminster Abbey from the Great Fire (1298) to the Great Plague (1348)’, Archaeol. J., 67 (1910), 259–78. 30. W. R. Lethaby, Westminster Abbey and the King’s Craftsmen: A Study of Mediaeval Building (London 1906); idem, Westminster Abbey Re-Examined (London 1925). 31. L. E. Tanner and A. W. Clapham, ‘Recent Discoveries in the Nave of Westminster Abbey’, Archaeologia, LXXXIII (1933), 227–36. 32. RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in London, I: Westminster Abbey (London 1924). 33. He co-authored one brief paper on recent discoveries: C. Peers and L. E. Tanner, ‘On some Recent Discoveries in Westminster Abbey’, Archaeologia, XCIII (1949), 155–63. 34. Following reconstruction in 1951–52, an essentially historical paper about the Deanery was compiled by Lawrence Tanner, the Abbey’s librarian, with a modest input from Henry Seeley (Baron Mottistone): L. Tanner and Lord Mottistone, ‘The Abbot’s House and Deanery of Westminster Abbey’, Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society, n.s., 2 (1954), 71–86. An assemblage of late medieval pottery found during the work, but without a recorded archaeological context, came to the attention of the Ministry of Works: J. Hurst, ‘A Late Medieval Pit at Westminster Abbey’, Antiq. J., 40 (1960), 188–94. See also Robinson, The Abbot’s House (as n. 28). 35. R. W. McDowall, J. T. Smith and C. F. Stell, ‘The Timber Roofs of the Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster’, Archaeologia, C (1966), 155–74.


The Archaeology of Westminster Abbey 36. Rodwell, Coronation Chair and Stone of Scone (as n. 6), 200. 37. The Surveyor of the Fabric was then Peter Foster (1973–88). He published a pamphlet, Ten Years of Restoration of Westminster Abbey (Ecclesiological Society 1985). 38. L. E. Tanner, Recollections of a Westminster Antiquary (London 1969). 39. G. Black, ‘Excavations in the Sub-Vault of the Misericorde of Westminster Abbey’, TLAMAS, 27 (1976), 135–78; ibid., 28 (1977), 190–210. 40. The excavation was opposed by Canon Beeson, who inveighed against archaeology: T. Beeson, Window on Westminster: A Canon’s Diary, 1976–1987 (London 1998), 313. 41. P. Mills, ‘Excavations at the Dorter Undercroft, Westminster Abbey’, TLAMAS, 46 (1995), 69–124. 42. A. Harvey and R. Mortimer ed., The Funeral Effigies of Westminster Abbey (Woodbridge 1994, rev. edn 2003). 43. At this stage, he was not retained directly by the Dean and Chapter, but was appointed as an archae­ ological sub-contractor to the main building contractors, Rattee and Kett Ltd. 44. T. Tatton-Brown, ‘Westminster Abbey: Archaeological Recording at the West End of the Church’, Antiq. J., 75 (1995), 171–88. 45. T. Tatton-Brown and R. Mortimer ed., Westminster Abbey: The Lady Chapel of Henry VII (Wood­ bridge 2003). 46. T. Cocke, 900 Years: The Restorations of Westminster Abbey (London 1995). 47. E. Fernie, ‘Enclosed Apses and Edward’s Church at Westminster’, Archaeologia, CIV (1973), 235–60; idem, ‘Reconstructing Edward’s Abbey at Westminster’, in Romanesque and Gothic: Essays for George Zarnecki, ed. N. Stratford (Woodbridge 1987), 63–67. 48. R. D. H. Gem, ‘The Romanesque Rebuilding of Westminster Abbey’, in Anglo-Norman Studies III: Proceedings of the Battle Conference 1980, ed. R. Allen Brown (Woodbridge 1981), 33–60. 49. P. Binski, Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets: Kingship and the Representation of Power, 1200–1400 (New Haven CT/London 1995). 50. C. Wilson, P. Tudor-Craig, J. Physick and R. Gem, Westminster Abbey, The New Bell’s Cathedral Guides (London 1986). 51. Mr Platt held the position for over twenty years, during which time he prepared a meticulously documented catalogue of the artefacts. 52. R. Foster, Patterns of Thought: The Hidden Meaning of the Great Pavement of Westminster Abbey (London 1991). See also P. Binski, ‘The Cosmati at Westminster and the English Court Style’, Art Bull., 72 (1990), 6–34. 53. L. Grant and R. Mortimer ed., Westminster Abbey: The Cosmati Pavements, Courtauld Research Papers No. 3 (Aldershot 2002). 54. A monograph is in preparation. Meanwhile, see further my other article in this volume, 151–79. 55. T. Tatton-Brown, ‘The Pavement in the Chapel of St Edward The Confessor, Westminster Abbey’, JBAA, 153 (2000), 71–84. 56. For some recent observations on the floor, see Rodwell, Coronation Chair and Stone of Scone (as n. 6), 39–42. 57. Published in RCHME, Westminster Abbey (as n. 32) and Plan A, p. ii of this volume. 58. Excepting the west front: see Tatton-Brown, ‘West End of the Church’ (as n. 44). 59. Although within the confines of the Abbey, these two structures are owned by the Crown, not the Dean and Chapter. They were formerly Ancient Monuments in State ‘guardianship’. Subsequent to a management agreement, signed in 2003, they are now, however, managed by the latter body on a day-to-day basis, in consultation with English Heritage. 60. GPR surveys undertaken by Utsi Electronics. The reports are held in the Abbey Library. 61. C. Wilson, ‘Calling the Tune? The Involvement of King Henry III in the Design of the Abbey Church at Westminster’, JBAA, 161 (2008), 59–93. 62. S. Badham, ‘Edward the Confessor’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey: The Origins of the Royal Mausoleum and its Cosmatesque Pavement’, Antiq. J., 87 (2007), 197–219; idem, ‘Whose Body? Monuments Displaced from St Edward the Confessor’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey’, JBAA, 160 (2007), 129–46; S. Badham and S. Oosterwijk, ‘The Tomb Monument of Katherine, Daughter of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence (1253–7)’, Antiq. J., 92 (2012), 169–96. 63. I. M. Betts, Medieval ‘Westminster’ Floor Tiles, MoLAS Monograph 11 (2002). 64. C. Norton, ‘The Decorative Pavements of Salisbury Cathedral and Old Sarum’, Medieval Art and Architecture at Salisbury Cathedral, ed. L. Keen and T. Cocke, BAA Trans., xvii (1996), 90 – 105. 65. Pre-Construct Archaeology, ‘Poets’ Corner Yard, Westminster Abbey: An Archaeological Evaluation’, PCA Report No. R11323 (November 2012). 66. Rodwell, Lantern Tower (as n. 14).


warwick rodwell 67. Hope, ‘Islip Roll’ (as n. 5). 68. Rodwell, Coronation Chair and Stone of Scone (as n. 6), 128–29. 69. Rodwell, Lantern Tower (as n. 14), 29 and fig. 34. Wren’s spire was to stand 114 m (372 ft) high, somewhat shorter than the Salisbury Cathedral spire (123 m). 70. W. Rodwell, ‘The Chapter House Complex: Morphology and Construction’, in Westminster Abbey Chapter House (as n. 1), 1–31. 71. Westminster Abbey Chapter House (as n. 1). 72. If the dorter range was of ten bays its overall length would have been c. 52 m, which is the same as the 11th-century refectory range alongside the south cloister. 73. W. Rodwell, ‘New Glimpses of Edward the Confessor’s Abbey at Westminster’, in Edward the Confessor: The Man and the Legend, ed. R. Mortimer (Woodbridge 2009), 151–67. 74. Gem, ‘Romanesque Rebuilding’ (as n. 48), 55–59 and pl. 10. Antiquarian illustrations indicate similar work on the exterior of the Great Hall of the Palace of Westminster, before the fire of 1834. See also the articles in this volume by John Crook (1–21), and Roland B. Harris and Daniel Miles (22–71). 75. Lethaby, Westminster Re-Examined (as n. 30), 147. See also J. A. Robinson, The Abbot’s House at Westminster (Cambridge 1911). For a recent appraisal of the house, see J. Goodall, ‘Monastic Splendour: Cheyneygates, Westminster Abbey’, Country Life, 204/1 (2010), 38–44. 76. Vernacular Architecture, 36 (2005), 91. 77. Ibid. 78. Where not directly over the gatehouse vault, the floor was again of timber, supported by a spine-beam and Sampson post below. This floor survived, at least in part, until the 1950s, when it was replaced with concrete. Some of the medieval decorated tiles from the floor were set in cement on the window sills of the drawing room. 79. A full account of the documented history and archaeology of the west and south ranges of the abbot’s house has been prepared for publication. 80. Report in preparation, for publication in TLAMAS. 81. For the 1975 work under Peter Foster, see n. 37. 82. This was a hypothesis advanced by Cecil Hewitt and the author in the mid-1970s, when we were studying timberwork at Hadstock Church (Essex), and in particular attempting to date its famous north door by dendrochronology. Typologically, the Westminster door appeared to be earlier than Hadstock, for which a date around the third quarter of the 11th century seems most likely: N. W. Alcock ed., ‘Tree-Ring Date List 2004’, Vernacular Architecture, 35 (2004), 73–113, at 98. 83. Ibid., 91. W. Rodwell, D. Miles, D. Hamilton and M. Bridge, ‘The Dating of the Pyx Door’, English Heritage Historical Review, 1 (2006), 24–27. 84. N. W. Alcock ed., ‘Tree-Ring Date List 2005’, Vernacular Architecture, 36 (2005), 73–102, at 91. 85. D. W. H. Miles and M. C. Bridge, Westminster Abbey, London: Tree-Ring Dating of the Chests and Fittings (English Heritage, London 2008). 86. P. Binski and A. Massing with M. L. Sauerberg ed., The Westminster Retable: History, Technique, Conservation (Cambridge/London/Turnhout 2009). 87. W. Rodwell, ‘Later Medieval Interventions’, in The Westminster Retable (as n. 86), 151–55. 88. W. Rodwell and J. Rose, ‘Post-Reformation Documentation and Use’, The Westminster Retable (as n. 86), 156–71. 89. M. L. Sauerberg et al., ‘The Westminster Abbey Sedilia: Examination and Treatment Report, October 2009’, unpublished report in Westminster Abbey Library. This followed the publication of an initial assess­ ment: L. Wrapson, ‘The Materials and Techniques of the c. 1307 Westminster Abbey Sedilia’, in Techniques, Analysis, Art History: Studies in Commemoration of the 70th Birthday of Unn Plhater, ed. J. Nadolny, K. Kollandsrud, M. L. Sauerberg and T. Frøysaker (London 2006), 114–36. 90. See also Paul Binski and Emily Guerry in this volume, 186–201. 91. R. Welander, D. J. Breeze and T. O. Clancy ed., The Stone of Destiny: Artefact and Icon, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Monograph Series 22 (Edinburgh 2003); N. Aitchison, Scotland’s Stone of Destiny (Stroud 2003, 2nd edn). 92. The only previous account was a typescript report that had limited circulation: W. Percival-Prescott, ‘The Coronation Chair: An Investigation into the History and Present Condition of the Chair’ (Ministry of Works, London 1957). 93. Rodwell, Coronation Chair and Stone of Scone (as n. 6). For the reconstruction, see W. Rodwell, ‘The Coronation Chair’, Country Life, 207/22 (2013), 106–08. 94. For the sarcophagus, see Martin Henig in this volume, 23–33. 95. Unpublished report by Wessex Archaeology in Westminster Abbey Library (2010).


Edward the Confessor’s Church at Westminster: An Alternative View FRANCIS WOODMAN

There is a long-standing debate about the form of the east end of Edward’s church at Westminster. This paper presents a case for its having had an ambulatory, and further proposes a reconstruction based on the cathedral at Rouen, which it is hoped will make more sense of the known facts. Edward the Confessor began his rebuilding of the church at Westminster sometime in the decade from 1042. It was consecrated on 28 December 1065. One week later, in January 1066, Edward died and was buried in the new church according to his wish.1 The church was sufficiently ready to host the coronation of William the Conqueror on Christmas Day of the same year. An eastern Lady Chapel was added to the fabric from c. 1220. From 1245, Edward’s church was progressively demolished to make way for the present structure, with nothing of the old church now visible above ground.2 Various archaeological examinations have revealed important details of the lost church. Three respond bases of clearly early Romanesque date survive beneath the presbytery floor, two on the north, one on the south. The north-eastern base appears to be on the apse chord and is slightly larger and projects further into the interior space than its fellow to the west. Only the base block of a further respond, this time on the south, was discovered. They are best seen in the RCHME inventory of 1924, where they are drawn in detail.3 Personal observation of some of these bases confirms that the form, profile and measurements are reasonably correct. Though only one block high, a spur appears to extend from the back of each base in an east–west alignment. The easternmost bases have attached shafts and mark the chord of an apsidal feature. A rubble foundation raft of an apse has been observed immediately east of the south­ eastern respond. According to Eric Fernie, this indicates ‘that the east arm had two bays ending in an apse’, which the presbytery certainly did, and in his accompanying plan Fernie takes care to leave the lateral aisles as dotted lines running out in a straight line, thus leaving a definitive plan unresolved.4 Further excavations were carried out in the south presbytery aisle in the expectation of finding a subsidiary apse, but nothing was discovered.5 The crossing of Edward’s Abbey may be surmised from the dimensions of the sur­ viving dorter block and the over-sailing of the present western aisle of the southern transept arm, suggesting strongly that the transept was as long north–south as at present and had no aisles. The nave is better understood archaeologically. Examina­ tions undertaken on several occasions have revealed that it extended almost as far west as at present, with an alternating pier pattern and twin western towers. It was also clear that the alignment drifted somewhat to the south of the present nave as it approached the west end.6 BAA Trans., vol. xxxix, part i (2015), 61–68 # British Archaeological Association 2015


francis woodman

Other sources of information help fill in some of the facts about the Confessor’s church. Most significant is the Vita Edwardi Regis qui apud Westmonasterium requi­ escit (BL, Harley MS 526) a near-contemporary account of the saint’s life and achieve­ ments. The text includes a description of the Abbey church, though one clearly not written by an architectural specialist. The following translation is provided by Richard Gem: And so, at the king’s command the work, nobly begun, is being prepared successfully; and neither the outlay nor what is to be expended are weighed, so long as it proves worthy and acceptable to God and the blessed Peter. The house of the principal altar, raised up with very high arches [or vaults], is surrounded with squared work and even jointing; moreover, the periphery of the build­ ing itself is enclosed on either side by a double arch of stones, strongly consolidated with a joining together of work from different directions. Further on is the crossing of the temple; which might surround the central quire of those singing to God, and with its twin abutment from different directions might support the lofty apex of the central tower; it rises simply, at first, with a low and strong vault [or arch]; grows, multiple in art, with very many ascending spiral stairs; then, indeed, reaches with a plain wall right up to the wooden roof, carefully roofed with lead: indeed, disposed below and above, lead out chapels, fit to be consecrated by means of their altars to the memories of the apostles, martyrs, confessors and virgins. Moreover, this multiplicity of so vast a work is set out so great a space from the East [end] of the old temple that, of course, in the meantime the brethren staying therein might not cease from the service of Christ; and furthermore so that some part of the nave to be placed between might advance.7

Several things are clear from this description, most obviously that while some parts of the church are easy to describe — the central tower, for example — the first section concerning the east end is almost indecipherable. What are the ‘very high arches [or vaults]’ that raised up the ‘house of the principal altar’? This might almost suggest an underlying crypt, though Westminster clearly did not have one. Then we have the ‘periphery’ of the east end, enclosed ‘on either side by a double arch of stones, strongly consolidated with a joining together of work from different directions’. Only after this does the writer move westwards to describe the central tower, raised over the mon­ astic choir, with north and south arms forming the ‘twin abutment from different direc­ tions’ and ‘many ascending spiral stairs’, needed to access the chapels ‘disposed below and above’ with altars dedicated to ‘apostles, martyrs, confessors and virgins’. The latter strongly suggests chapels projecting eastwards from the transept at both groundfloor and gallery level, common enough in contemporary Romanesque churches in Normandy, though the plural of each type might suggest a total of at least eight chapels. The text concludes with the fact that part of the nave was also built before joining the remaining sections of the older church that, as the writer makes clear, stood beneath the western end of the present nave. The archaeological remains and what is apparently an eyewitness description of the Confessor’s church count as the only evidence that may be accepted without question. Yet both are open to a variety of interpretations, especially regarding the plan of the east end. A depiction of Westminster Abbey on the Bayeux Tapestry is also commonly offered as evidence for the plan of the Confessor’s church.8 It appears to show a longi­ tudinal section of the Abbey, viewed from the north, with the east end to the left. It also suggests, if taken literally, that the east end was so close to the adjoining Palace that a man could traverse from a turret on the Palace to the apex of the high roof of the presbytery by means of a ladder (Fig. 1); this would place the Abbey church and the old Westminster Palace much closer together than is generally accepted. The east end as shown on the Tapestry depicts a short structure with two high windows and an apse. 62

Edward the Confessor’s Church at Westminster

Fig. 1.

Bayeux Tapestry: scene depicting the funeral of Edward the Confessor, showing a longitudinal section through Westminster Abbey, with its east end to the left Wikimedia Commons

The presbytery certainly had two bays and an apsidal feature, though the number and disposition of any upper windows is, of course, unknown. The western end of the presbytery features a strange series of vertical cigar-shaped panels of differing colours, surmounting a steep slope that leads to a round-headed door straddling the base of a secondary turret to the central tower. The meaning of this ascending feature is unclear. The central tower is indeed shown encased with turrets, presumably intended to depict rising spiral stairs. The nave is given five bays of extremely tall arches surmounted by a clerestory of eight windows arranged somewhat erratically. While it might be argued that the nave was incomplete at the time of the making of the Tapestry, the relationship of windows and arcade arches was surely not random. This depiction of the Abbey church must be seen within the general context of the architectural illustrations on the Tapestry. Throughout its length there are several castles, towns, palaces, houses and at least two churches — one small, that at Bosham (Sussex), and one large, Westminster. Any argument that the Tapestry’s depiction of Westminster may be used to prove anything concerning its actual appearance should be judged by the authenticity of other clearly labelled buildings. The most obvious group of these are the castles, shown as motte and baileys with apparent wooden super­ structures. One is labelled Bagias, apparently intended as Bayeux, others are sup­ posedly Dol and Dinant. That none of these places in reality ever looked remotely like their depiction on the Tapestry is hardly in need of comment. There are numerous other structures, none clearly labelled, many drawn from classical sources. One such, dividing the scene of William’s messengers demanding Harold’s release from Count Guy, is a three-arched pavilion-like building with a curving roof. It matches closely a triple-arched structure backing the scribe on folio 1v of the Utrecht Psalter, one of many stylistic links between the collections of the Canterbury monastic libraries and the Tapestry.9 A similar structure appears amid the scenes illustrating the loading of William’s ships in Normandy, again apparently to act as a scene divider. Edward the Confessor’s Palace of Westminster is shown on several occasions, sometimes with an entrance tower to the left, other times not, while in his deathbed scene the Palace has 63

francis woodman

become two-storeyed. William’s palace at Rouen is depicted as single-storeyed, while Harold’s hall next to Bosham has a raised first floor. Should we accept either of these as true representations? The church marked ‘Bosham’ has always attracted attention, with its dominant ‘chancel arch’, or is it a door? The ‘arch’ with its block-like capitals is the same as the doors on the exterior depiction of the city of Rouen and in the scene of Edward with his advisors at Westminster.10 The Bosham ‘arch’ is surely a door. So what of the building labelled the ‘church of St Peter’ (that is, Westminster)? If we ask questions of the depiction where we already know the answer, it should be possible to judge the accuracy of the image or otherwise. The east end of the actual church had a short presbytery and an apsidal feature, as on the Tapestry. No aisles have been found beneath the present Abbey floor, and none are shown. A crossing tower is known, if only from the Vita, but the nave, shown on the Tapestry as five bays in length, conflicts with the actual archaeological remains that indicate a far longer nave and, eventually, twin western towers.11 Does the image identified as Westminster Abbey match the known remains or is it simply a shorthand depiction of a large church? If taken literally, the Bayeux depiction of Westminster shows a single apsidal eastern termination with no lateral aisles, a dominant central tower with multiple turrets, and a short two-storeyed nave terminating in a gable end. A single apse with no appar­ ently aisles would seem unlikely, given that contemporaries saw Westminster as the fountainhead of English post-Conquest architecture, and surely, as in the representa­ tion of most of the domestic buildings in the Tapestry, the space shown is internal. It might be easier to argue that the depiction of the church fits the contemporary state of Lanfranc’s cathedral at Canterbury, as seen from the northern, monastic side. Canter­ bury had an eastern apse raised upon a crypt and this might explain the curious door in the Tapestry; the central tower had stair turrets; and by the consecration of 1077 the nave at Canterbury had at least five bays, but as yet no western towers. This is not to argue that the designer of the Bayeux Tapestry actually looked out of the scriptorium window at Canterbury and drew what he saw, but that the depiction of Westminster is generic and might apply to almost any 1070s large church in England or Normandy. Yet, despite its overall inconsistencies, the depiction of the church labelled Westminster Abbey in the Bayeux Tapestry has been generally awarded the status of evidence, while nearly all the other architectural depictions are regarded as fanciful. The discovery of the Romanesque remains beneath the presbytery at Westminster in 1866 began an intensive debate regarding the plan of the eastern termination. In 1909, Lethaby described the finding of the apse foundation raft 5 ft 6 in. down, and to a depth of 7 ft 8 in.; from this he derived his plan of the eastern termination with a two-bay central vessel, squared-ended side apses and a round main apse, basing this reconstruc­ tion on his parallel with Jumie`ges, then still unexcavated.12 He goes on to make other comparisons with Jumie`ges, claiming that ‘like Jumie`ges, its prototype, Westminster probably had an effective triforium story’. In one sentence, Jumie`ges went from a pos­ sible parallel for Westminster to a prototype, despite the fact that neither Lethaby, nor anyone else, had the slightest idea of the actual plan of that abbey. He then claims that the apse and ambulatory plan did not reach England until 1070–80. Lethaby does, however, admit The least certain parts of the plan (at Westminster) are the eastern terminations of the aisles. At Jumie`ges the form here is not certain, and foundations in a similar position were sought for at Westminster in vain. Possibly there were rounded apses not so far to the east. [present author’s italics]13


Edward the Confessor’s Church at Westminster

The failure to find the predicted apsidal terminations of the lateral aisles was a blow to those who supported a three-apse en echelon plan for Westminster, though to Lethaby it was simply a matter of having looked in the wrong place. In 1910, Lethaby’s plan was also accepted by J. Armitage Robinson, but it is clear that not everyone agreed.14 Lethaby records that in 1909 Francis Bond had argued that the Vita descrip­ tion must be interpreted as an ambulatory before sweeping this aside with the state­ ment, ‘It had now been discovered that, at Westminster, there had been no ambulatory around the apse, such as Mr. Bond assumed’. Was that really the case? In 1914, H. Marshall Pratt continued to disagree, writing that ‘the presbytery had two bays with a rounded apse and an ambulatory’.15 However, the 1924 RCHME inventory of Westminster Abbey gave an official imprimatur for Lethaby’s apse en echelon plan, and in the following year he was able to restate his views once more in Westminster Abbey Re-Examined.16 Within a decade, however, alarms bells should have sounded, as the east end of Jumie`ges was shown to have had an apse and ambulatory, but apparently no radiating chapels.17 While this was acknowledged by A. W. Clapham in 1934, he went on to list examples of three-apse en echelon plans, including Bayeux, though in a footnote he points out that this, too, is not certain.18 Clapham also includes Mont Saint-Michel in this group, unaware that the 11th-century church had a chapel-free apse and ambu­ latory plan like Jumie`ges.19 He does mention, however, that G. Lanfry had found an ambulatory beneath Rouen Cathedral in 1931, the year Lethaby died.20 Despite grow­ ing evidence that the three-apse en echelon plan was not as common in major churches in Normandy as formerly believed, Clapham still included Westminster Abbey as the first entry in his section on ‘The Three-Apse Type’, adding that ‘little is certainly known except concerning the eastern arm [. . .]’ (present author’s italics). More recent authorities have been more cautious. Gem acknowledged that the base fragments at Westminster did not rule out the possibility of an open arcade into the aisles, although it could not have had a deep east respond (such as is found in some, though not all, buildings of comparable type). The presbytery aisles could have terminated ‘in enclosed or fully rounded apses flanking the main apse, or it is possible that they continued into an ambulatory’.21 Gem goes on to state the obvious — that more excavation is needed. In 2002, Fernie concluded: ‘It is not known whether there were aisles ending in an ambulatory or in two separate chapels en echelon in the east arm, or even if there were any aisles at all’.22 Lanfry’s discovery of the vast apse and ambulatory beneath Rouen Cathedral should have given all cause for thought, for it was clear that Rouen had other links with the Confessor’s church. The project was under the direction of Edward’s uncle, the bishop, during Edward’s enforced exile in the city, and, like Westminster, Rouen Cathedral had an uncommonly long nave for its time. Further doubt over the plan and extent of the Confessor’s east end should have arisen upon the discovery of the remains of Henry III’s Lady Chapel, added to the old church from c. 1220. The remains, as pub­ lished by H. F. Westlake in 1918, suggested to him an elongated un-aisled chapel with a polygonal termination, the westernmost spurs of the lateral walls being now trapped within the entry piers of the Henry VII Chapel (Fig. 2).23 T. Tatton-Brown has argued that later alterations made to the c. 1220 chapel in order to accommodate the dimen­ sions of the present church suggest that the westernmost section of the chapel was two-storeyed.24 Could this have connected with a tribune level of the older church? This leads to the inevitable question: how did the Lady Chapel relate to the eastern termination of the earlier church, unless it stood out in the open field as indicated 65

francis woodman

Fig. 2. Suggested plan of the Confessor’s east end and its potential relationship to the Lady

Chapel of Henry III; composite drawing based on plans of Westminster by H. F. Westlake and

H. M. Colvin, and G. Lanfry’s plan of the excavated mid-11th-century crypt of Rouen Cathedral Francis Woodman

by Westlake (surely not seriously), or it joined the earlier church exactly where the Henry VII Chapel currently begins? Perhaps the Confessor’s church was longer to the east than Lethaby and some others proposed, or there was a second, larger eastern termination of Westminster Abbey, built between the Confessor’s church and the present one. Those who suggest this point to the canonization of Edward in 1161 and his translation in 1163, seeing this as an ideal time to extend the east end and provide a suitable space for the saint’s shrine.25 That space could then be more or less where the existing shrine stands. This is an alluring suggestion, but needs careful scrutiny. A new east end for the royal Abbey around 1160 would have been of major signifi­ cance, both architecturally and ecclesiastically. If it was built, it attracted no comment. Edward’s canonization was politically motivated. Pope Alexander III, having fled from Rome when replaced by an imperial anti-pope, wanted to keep the vast domains of Henry II on side at any cost. His recognition as the pope by Henry only came about in 1161, the year in which Alexander sanctioned Edward’s canonization and fled to the protection of the king of France. Apart from anything else, canonizing Edward demon­ strated Alexander’s power to do just that. Edward was translated into a new shrine in October 1163. Any thought that Westminster, with or without the king, could have planned, constructed and readied a new east end and shrine by this date is utterly unrealistic. The scale of the work, presumably extending from the old crossing to the later c. 1220 Lady Chapel, would have taken a decade at the very least, well into the 66

Edward the Confessor’s Church at Westminster

period of Henry’s penance for the murder of Becket. The list of Henry’s pious building works undertaken as acts of expiation make no mention of Westminster, and, given the dubious nature of some that are included, he surely would not have omitted any con­ tribution, no matter how small, to such a potentially significant work. There is the further question: where is the phantom 1160s choir? Like any major churchman, Henry would have been aware of the architectural developments in northern France c. 1160. A ‘new’ east end for Westminster would have had to be Gothic — Canterbury before Canterbury. A work of this nature would have left some trace, yet the only archaeological remains at Westminster prior to c. 1220 are from Edward’s church. It would be unlikely that these remains would have to have survived a re­ building in order to be accommodated within any late-12th-century choir. With no evidence for any 12th-century extension of the Confessor’s church, some sense has to be made of the evidence we do have: the writer of the Vita could not find the words for the complexity of the Confessor’s east end; the only surviving archae­ ological evidence from before 1220 dates from the Confessor’s church; no evidence for apsidal terminations for the lateral aisles has ever been found; and by 1220 the church must have reached as far as the western end of the Lady Chapel extension. One obvious parallel for the Confessor’s Westminster is Rouen Cathedral: both had unusually long naves for their day, both appear to have had quite narrow un-aisled transepts and both had common patronage — uncle and nephew. If the apse, ambu­ latory and radiating chapels of Rouen were to be scaled down and added to the transept of Westminster, the large eastern radial chapel would provide the perfect junction between the ambulatory and the Lady Chapel, the Confessor’s church would not need to be rebuilt in the 1160s and the shrine could be placed where it now is, and where the original burial of the saint could easily have been accessed from the ambulatory. The presbytery may well have had a two-bay arcade into the aisles, with the openings standing upon low walls, as suggested by the model of Rouen based on Lanfry’s exca­ vation displayed in that church. This possibility is indeed alluded to by Gem, who also relates the ‘wall shafts composed of half-columns against dosserets may be compared with Jumie`ges’, which of course had an ambulatory, while the nave arcade at West­ minster had a similar feature.26 With an apse and ambulatory plan, Westminster Abbey would truly have been the fountainhead of Anglo-Norman architecture in the postConquest period. It could thus have provided the model for Battle, St Augustine’s Canterbury, St Paul’s and Norwich. NOTES 1. The most recent general history is C. Wilson, P. Tudor-Craig, J. Physick and R. Gem, Westminster Abbey, The New Bell’s Cathedral Guides (London 1986). Older publications include W. R. Lethaby, West­ minster Abbey Re-Examined (London 1925), and RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of London, I: Westminster Abbey (London 1924). 2. For the subsequent history of the fabric, see Wilson et al., Westminster Abbey (as n. 1), and R. A. Brown, H. M. Colvin and A. J. Taylor, The History of the King’s Works: The Middle Ages, 2 vols (London 1963), I, 130–56. 3. RCHME, Westminster Abbey (as n. 1), 21–22. See also K. Blockley, ‘Westminster Abbey: Anglo-Saxon Masonry below the Cosmati Pavement’, Archaeol. J., 161 (2004), 223–33. 4. E. Fernie, The Architecture of Norman England (Oxford 2002), 98. In his most recent work (Roman­ esque Architecture (Yale CT 2014), 147) Fernie simply says of the east end, ‘termination unknown’. 5. Lethaby, Westminster Abbey Re-Examined (as n. 1), 7, referring back to events of 1909. 6. The best and most recent analysis of the archaeological remains is R. Gem, ‘The Romanesque Rebuilding of Westminster Abbey’, in Anglo-Norman Studies III: Proceedings of the Battle Conference 1980, ed. R. Allen


francis woodman Brown (Woodbridge 1981), 39–44. See also Blockley, ‘Westminster Abbey’ (as n. 3), 223–33; E. Fernie, ‘Edward the Confessor’s Westminster Abbey’, in Edward the Confessor: The Man and the Legend, ed. R. Mortimer (Woodbridge 2009), 139–50; and W. Rodwell, ‘New Glimpses of Edward the Confessor’s Abbey at Westminster’, ibid., 151–67. 7. Gem, ‘The Romanesque Rebuilding’ (as n. 6), 36. Frank Barlow (in The Life of King Edward who Rests at Westminster (London 1992, 2nd edn), 45) translates the second sentence as ‘The princely house of the altar, noble with its most lofty vaulting, is surrounded by dressed stone evenly jointed. Also the passage round that temple is enclosed on both sides by a double arching of stone with the joints of the structure strongly consolidated on this side and that’. His use of the words ‘that temple’ for the altar area strongly suggests arcading surrounding the presbytery. 8. Standard works on the Tapestry include F. M. Stenton ed., The Bayeux Tapestry: A Comprehensive Survey (London 1957, rev. edn 1965); D. M. Wilson, The Bayeux Tapestry (London 1985); and C. Hicks, The Bayeux Tapestry: The Life Story of a Masterpiece (London 2006). 9. Utrecht, University Library, MS Script. eccl. 484. 10. It has recently been argued that the chancel arch at Bosham is post-1072, even as late as the 1090s; see T. Tatton-Brown, ‘A New Survey of the Fabric of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Bosham, West Sussex’, Sussex Archaeological Collections, 144 (2006), 129–54. 11. It is impossible to date the Bayeux Tapestry with any precision; indeed, even its patronage remains unclear. A date in the 1070s is commonly accepted, and Odo of Bayeux perhaps the most likely patron. Allowing for the missing sections at the end, did the feasting scene of Odo occupy the middle and was it intended to hang in his great hall in Trenley Park outside Canterbury? 12. Just prior to these discoveries made by G. G. Scott during his restoration of the sanctuary in 1866, he had argued that the Confessor’s church was as long to the east as the present building, minus the Henry VII Chapel and its 1220 predecessor; Scott, Gleanings from Westminster Abbey (Oxford/London 1863, 2nd edn), 4–5, and Lethaby, Westminster Abbey Re-Examined (as n. 1), 3–5. Scott also notes the Norman-French ‘verse’ tempore Henry III, describing the Confessor’s church with the comment that ‘the front towards the east he makes round’; Scott, Gleanings, 3. 13. Lethaby, Westminster Abbey Re-Examined (as n. 1), 7. 14. J. A. Robinson, ‘The Church of Edward the Confessor at Westminster’, Archaeologia, LXII (1910), 81–100. 15. H. Marshall Pratt, Westminster Abbey: Its Architecture, History and Monuments, 2 vols (New York 1914), I, 42. 16. Lethaby, Westminster Abbey Re-Examined (as n. 1). 17. Fernie, Architecture of Norman England (as n. 4), 93–96. 18. A. W. Clapham, English Romanesque Architecture (Oxford 1934), 2–3. 19. Fernie, Architecture of Norman England (as n. 4), 93. 20. For Rouen, see M. Bayle´, L’architecture normande, 2 vols (Caen 2001), II, 35; and Fernie, Architecture of Norman England (as n. 4), 93. 21. A. Clapham, English Romanesque Architecture after the Conquest (Oxford 1934), 20, and Gem, ‘The Romanesque Rebuilding’ (as n. 6), 40. 22. Fernie, Architecture of Norman England (as n. 4), 98. 23. H. F. Westlake, ‘Westminster Abbey: the old Lady Chapel and its relationship to the Romanesque and Gothic churches’, Archaeologia, LXIX (1917/18), 31–46. More recently it has been suggested that the new Lady Chapel was intended as the first phase of a complete Gothic rebuilding of the east end; see S. Lewis, ‘Henry III and the Gothic rebuilding of Westminster Abbey: the problematics of context’, Traditio, 50 (1995), 129–72. The evidence suggests to this author, however, that the appeal for funds launched by the abbot in 1220 was specifically for the Virgin of Westminster, and that the chapel was finished and even perhaps furnished by 1246. Certainly, it required considerable reconstruction work within a decade to tally with the new work of Henry III. The altar of St Adrian consecrated in 1244 ‘super voltam in nova cappella’ may have been over a connecting vestibule between the Lady Chapel and the Confessor’s church, a feature also suggested by the spur walls (now hidden) that launch north and south from the western termination of the 1220 chapel walls. Such a vestibule could have clasped or replaced an 11th-century axial chapel, with an upper altar connecting with the old gallery level. A 13th-century elongated un-aisled chapel extending from a curved Romanesque ambulatory was also a feature of St Bartholomew, Smithfield. 24. T. Tatton-Brown, ‘The Building History of the Lady Chapels’, in The Lady Chapel of Henry VII, ed. T. Tatton-Brown and R. Mortimer (Woodbridge 2003), 189–204. 25. For Edward’s canonization, see E. Bozoky, ‘The Sanctity and Canonisation of Edward the Confessor’, in Edward the Confessor: The Man and the Legend, ed. R. Mortimer (Woodbridge 2009), 173–86. 26. Gem, ‘The Romanesque Rebuilding’ (as n. 6), 46 and 44.


The Romanesque Monastic Buildings at Westminster Abbey STUART HARRISON and JOHN McNEILL

At the end of his survey of the early monastic buildings at Westminster, William Richard Lethaby wistfully remarked, ‘a full and clearly illustrated account of 11th- and 12th-century Westminster would be a romantic contribution to English history’.1 What follows is neither full nor well illustrated, nor is it possible to write a comprehensive account of the monastic precinct as it appeared c. 1200. However, in the spirit of Lethaby’s romantic enterprise the authors have assembled what is known or reasonably can be deduced of the monastery at Westminster between the creation of the existing precinct, during the reign of Edward the Confessor, and the late 12th century. introduction Knowledge and appreciation of Romanesque Westminster has fluctuated over the two centuries since a capital depicting Abbot Gilbert Crispin and William Rufus was first found and then lost between 1807 and c. 1834.2 Indeed, in so far as significant remains of the Romanesque monastic precinct have surfaced in the 19th and 20th centuries, appearances are frequently mirrored by disappearances. Thus, of the four figurative capitals Lethaby felt able to discuss in 1925, just one survives.3 Moreover, as Lethaby’s discussion was but a small part of a study he never intended to be compre­ hensive, one might add further examples to his quartet — such as the damaged capital depicting three figures visible in a photograph of the chapter-house vestibule taken around 1900, which on the face of it looks Romanesque, but of which no description or detailed record seems to have been made (Fig. 1).4 Who or what lies behind these losses is uncertain. Stonework that was considered unfit for display may have been discarded during the move from store to the new Undercroft Museum between 1908 and 1910. Some may have been removed from the chapter-house, or even vestibule, by the then Ministry of Works and Buildings during the Second World War.5 Anything that was stored north of the infirmary chapel, or south of the infirmary cloister, could have been destroyed in 1941. The post-medieval history of Westminster Abbey is littered with glimpses of the 12th-century precincts such as these — glimpses that have proved all too brief. Even Scott had cause to lament the discovery of one of the infirmary chapel chancel-arch piers in the year preceding his RIBA lecture, ‘unfortunately destroyed before I could see it’.6 Herein lies one of the impediments to an attempt to recreate the pre-1200 monastic precincts at Westminster. Compounding it are two further problems: the lack of detailed information as to the find-spots of the loose stonework that does survive, and an apparent mismatch between the stylistic date of most of this stonework and that of the Romanesque precincts that remain standing. Only the infirmary chapel comes close BAA Trans., vol. xxxix, part i (2015), 69–103 # British Archaeological Association 2015


stuart harrison and john m c neill

Fig. 1.

Photograph of c. 1900 showing loose sculpture in the chapter-house vestibule # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

in date to the mass of loose stonework, while of the loose stonework only the Judge­ ment of Solomon capital approaches the date of the surviving cloister ranges, and this last is stretching a point across a generation.7 standing remains and chronology The most important in situ remains are nine bays of the former dormitory undercroft, together with the passage that leads to the reredorter (dark passage) and portions of the first-storey dormitory; the north wall of the refectory plus a section of its western return; a fragment of the east wall of the reredorter along with two bays of a barrelvaulted lower storey that lies between two parallel enclosed drains; and the passage leading to the infirmary, together with substantial remains of a now roofless infirmary chapel and fragments of the north and east walls of the kitchen (Fig. 2). There is broad agreement that the east and south ranges were first built in the 11th century, as were the surviving portions of the reredorter and kitchen. In De construc­ cione Westmonasterii Sulcard associated the building of the monastery with Abbot Vitalis (1076–?1085), ‘de huius beati Petri quod regitis et construitis monasterio’, and, though Sulcard’s dedication of his account to Vitalis perhaps explains why the abbot was singled out, there is no reason to doubt that work was ongoing between 1076 and c. 1085.8 Unfortunately, this is as far as Sulcard goes. He offers no further details, and his remark tells us neither when the monastic precincts were begun nor when they were 70

The Romanesque Monastic Buildings at Westminster Abbey

Fig. 2.

Conjectural plan of the principal monastic precinct c. 1200

Drawn by Stuart Harrison

completed. The main 19th-century commentators assumed the east and south ranges were built during the reign of Edward the Confessor, a view that was rejected in favour of a post-Conquest date by John Bilson, whose arguments for a later dating were then tacitly followed by W. R. Lethaby and embraced by the Royal Commission.9 More recent scholarship has suggested work on the two ranges straddled the Conquest. Richard Gem pointed out that the monastic offices ‘must have become necessary when the monks moved into the new church in 1065’, and suggested that they were probably begun around this date and constructed over a period of twenty or thirty years, while Eric Fernie ingeniously suggested that, whatever the date of its construction, the size of the cloister relates to the dimensions of the church in such a way that it will have been planned at the outset.10 71

stuart harrison and john m c neill

The most detailed appraisal of the 11th-century phases of the monastic precinct is Warwick Rodwell’s 2009 summary of the archaeology.11 Rodwell pointed out that the evidence that had accumulated over the last decade or so argued overwhelmingly in favour of a start having been made on the claustral precinct before the consecration of the monastic church in 1065. This was clear in the outer walls of parts of the east range, and was implied by the reuse of pre-Conquest material within the east range — namely the door that was rehung in the chapter-house vestibule and has a felling date of 1032–64, and the appearance of glazed tiles in repairs comparable to those that are securely anchored in the earliest phase of work on the east range.12 In summary, Rodwell contended that the east range undercroft was built from north to south in two phases, the earlier of which was likely to be pre-Conquest.13 This earlier phase survives in the Pyx Chamber, but, since the original east range extended north of the 13th­ century chapter-house vestibule and will certainly have accommodated the dormitory day-stairs and chapter-house, and quite possibly a parlour or so-called ‘slype’, the first phase of work on the east range could have been extensive.14 The post-1245 south transept effectively swallowed the site of the Romanesque chapter-house, while the Chapel of St Faith and new chapter-house vestibule further encroached on the Roman­ esque east range. Remains of vaulting under the later day-stair (now the library stair) certainly demonstrate that there was a groin-vaulted bay here before the later stair, and there is room for at least one more undercroft bay to the north of that. While this aspect of the 11th-century east range is necessarily speculative, the plan suggested here incor­ porates a through passage adjoining the Romanesque transept, followed by a chapterhouse with an eastern apse, a parlour, and then the original day-stair (Fig. 2).15 Running south from this point, the original east range survives. As the masonry partitions dividing the undercroft are secondary, and appear to date from the mid­ 12th century,16 the existence of a break between 11th-century building phases at a point that has no obvious significance for the range per se, but does more or less mark the southern end of the east walk, suggests that a decision on the size of cloister square had already been taken, and tends to support Fernie’s contention that the larger shapes and dimensions were settled at the outset. The evidence for adjustments, and a probable pause in building, is clearest in the southern part of the undercroft, which was built with narrower central pilasters, better suited to carry transverse arches to the inter­ mediate columnar piers, and an appreciably thicker western wall.17 The external but­ tressing is also remarkably erratic. The east wall of the undercroft is unbuttressed, while the buttressing on the west face is unevenly spaced, with just the bay immediately north of the infirmary passage retaining the lower courses of a blind arch sprung between two pilaster buttresses. The archaeology suggests that the vault was then built over the whole of the surviv­ ing Romanesque undercroft as part of a single operation that included the construction of the first-storey dormitory. It is possible that the intermediate columnar piers are an afterthought, retrospectively inserted into the Pyx Chamber bays after the abandon­ ment of an earlier plan to vault the undercroft with a single-span barrel vault and broad pilasters, as survives in the infirmary passage, though the potential problem with this is that a single-span barrel vault would lift the height of the dormitory floor.18 As there is so little evidence of dormitory undercrofts as early as Westminster, however, it would be foolish to rule anything out.19 The date at which this second phase was done is impossible to determine exactly. On existing knowledge, the use of tau-capitals above the window shafts of the outer elevation of the dormitory would suggest it is post-Conquest.20 Moreover, of the 72

The Romanesque Monastic Buildings at Westminster Abbey

abbatial burials recorded by John Flete, one, Abbot Edwin (d. 1068), was translated to a marble tomb by the entrance to the 13th-century chapter-house, a tomb he shared with the reputedly 7th-century Queen Ethelgota, Hugh (chamberlain to Edward the Confessor), and Sulcard.21 Later abbots who died and were buried at Westminster, from Vitalis (d. 1085?) to William Humez (d. 1222) are recorded by Flete in the south cloister walk, a position to which they must have been translated from the former chapter-house when work commenced on its replacement.22 It may be that Edwin was afforded burial by the new chapter-house because he was Edward the Confessor’s chosen abbot, but it may also be that he was not moved into the south cloister walk with the other abbots from the old chapter-house because he was never buried there in the first place. Thus, it is possible that this second phase of work included the com­ pletion of the chapter-house, and that this was unfinished in 1068. The likely burial of Vitalis in the chapter-house around 1085 implies the chapter-house was in use by then, and we would suggest that the east range was completed at some point between these dates, c. 1068–c. 1085, with a preference for the earlier part of this period.23 Abutting the southern end of the dormitory was a two-storey reredorter, the eastern part of the lower storey of which survives and consists of a central barrel-vaulted chamber flanked by two parallel drains. Its east wall acted as the base-line for the con­ struction of the infirmary cloister in the 14th century, for which reason a small section of the exterior east wall remains standing, celebrated for a horizontal register of opus reticulatum which alternates limestone with glazed tiles. A similar combination of glazed ceramic and stone tiles was used to face the exterior north-west angle of the south cloister range.24 Other than this, the south range has been reduced to little more than its north wall, and even here the side facing the cloister has been crudely refaced. The south range housed the refectory and was apparently single storey. A simple dado arcade extends across the inner face of the north wall, consisting of an unmoulded arcade, badly eroded cushion capitals and detached colonettes. The capitals are so weathered that there is little that can be said about them, other than that they seem to be consistent and are set in a continuous masonry course. Above are similarly unvary­ ing abaci carved with a single chamfer. Adjoining the refectory to the south-west is the early-13th-century building known as the misericorde, where the monks were allowed to eat meat. What appears to be the misericorde south wall is in fact the late-11th­ century north wall of the originally detached monastic kitchen.25 The early kitchen was freestanding, with a doorway in the north wall directly opposite a door giving access to the southern part of the refectory. The south and east ranges are separated by a vaulted passage that extends the east walk of the cloister but which is not integral to the east range. The reredorter, south range and passage will have followed on from the com­ pletion of the east range, though there is nothing to suggest a sustained pause, and they are consistent with a date in the 1070s or early 1080s. Finally, nothing survives of the 11th- or 12th-century west range, although the stylo­ bate of the west cloister arcade was discovered in 1910, and re-examined in 2006, when it was shown to have been rubble-built and capped in Taynton stone.26 Most happily, the indents where the square bases of the arcade supports were set survive (Fig. 3). The stylobate underlies the present garth and sits at a slight angle to the line of the 14th­ century west walk, while the back of the original walk must have lain within the present west walk.27 As yet, there is no archaeological evidence for the north walk. Collectively, the structures outlined above constitute the principal Romanesque elements that remain in situ around the great cloister. 73

stuart harrison and john m c neill

Fig. 3. Section of stylobate originally supporting the west arcades of the mid-12th-century great cloister Warwick Rodwell

infirmary The one other building to survive from before 1200 is the mid-12th-century infirmary chapel, though even here the north arcade has largely disappeared, along with the roof, the east wall, two bays of the south arcade and most of the outer aisle walls (Fig. 4).28 Despite this, it is clear that the chapel originally consisted of an aisled five-bay ‘nave’ and aisleless two-bay ‘chancel’. The better part of three south arcade arches survives, along with the lower courses of the north aisle arcade and outer wall, and the westernmost two bays of the south aisle, in which a single 12th-century aisle window enables one to reconstruct the original aisle fenestration (Fig. 5). The four free-standing nave piers are alternately cylindrical and octagonal, the octagonal piers having been con­ structed so that the cardinal axes are centred on a point rather than a side. What little architectural ornament the chapel originally deployed is distributed in narrow registers or bands — mouldings in continuous orders around the aisle windows, shallow scallop capitals (employing a simple variation in the two surviving in situ examples), and single-order arches. The geometric ornament found on the three remaining arches, respectively angled chevron, embattled ornament, and frontal chevron, suggests the arches may have been varied throughout, though none of the surviving patterns aspires to any complexity. 74

The Romanesque Monastic Buildings at Westminster Abbey

Fig. 4.

South elevation of the infirmary chapel from the north-east John McNeill

Fig. 5.

South-west aisle bays of the infirmary chapel John McNeill


stuart harrison and john m c neill

Overall lighting is more difficult to judge. The two tall windows visible in the ‘chancel’ are substantially 12th century. That to the east has been extensively altered, but although the arch heads of both were replaced, the positioning of the sill so that it sits directly on the moulded string-course, and the continuous angle moulding, are original and exactly mimic the surviving aisle window. This would have brought a lot of light into the ‘chancel’, and significantly affected the overall lighting of the chapel if the ‘nave’ were without a clerestory. Lethaby was evidently convinced the chapel had a single-storey elevation, and, however modest an infirmary chapel without a clerestory might seem, the evidence does point that way.29 Where windows survive in the chapel, the lower sills sit directly above an unmoulded string-course. If Westminster had been constructed with a clerestory, its windows would have been similarly treated, as they were in the related infirmary chapel at Ely (Fig. 6), yet there is no sign of blocking or interference where one would expect to find it in the two or three courses of appar­ ently 12th-century stone above the south arcade string-course. The one reason for caution is that the infirmary was badly affected in the conflagration started by a chimney fire at Westminster Palace in March 1298.30 If, as seems likely, the infirmary roofs were destroyed in the fire, it is possible that in the subsequent repairs to the chapel the clerestory was removed and the chapel was simply reroofed on the cheap, without a replacement clerestory.31

Fig. 6.

North elevation of the infirmary hall at Ely Cathedral John McNeill


The Romanesque Monastic Buildings at Westminster Abbey

This chapel is separated from the late medieval infirmary cloister by a rubble wall, which also seems to be original, as not only are the outer faces of the half-columnar responds perfectly aligned with the rubble masonry, but the steps leading down from the 14th-century portal in the east walk of the infirmary cloister have been inserted into the surrounding wall but are integral with the portal. The type of dividing wall employed at Westminster is exactly what one would anticipate in a mid-12th-century infirmary, and a good parallel is again provided by the infirmary at Ely. Otherwise, relatively few alterations seem to have been made to the chapel prior to its partial demolition between 1571 and 1578.32 When the area inside the chapel was dug down to 12th-century pavement level following the Second World War, the stubs of the north aisle walls and arcade were uncovered. This revealed evidence for an altar at the east end of the north aisle, but also showed that slots for wooden screens had been cut into the north arcade piers. By contrast, the three eastern bays of the south aisle were sepa­ rated from the chapel ‘nave’ by full-height masonry walls. The date at which the north arcade screens were inserted is impossible to determine archaeologically, though the screens were secondary. The south arcade partition walls were raised in 1358–59.33 Otherwise, the most obvious alterations were the insertions of two doorways in the third quarter of the 14th century. These were the consequence of a large-scale re­ arrangement of the infirmary begun under Abbot Nicholas Litlyngton (1362–86), which saw the construction of a cloister with lateral chambers to the west of the chapel, and a new infirmarer’s hall and kitchen to its south.34 The west entrance to the chapel was thus replaced, and a doorway was inserted into the south aisle in the bay to the east of the one surviving 12th-century window. Dedication, date and function The principal dedication of the infirmary chapel was to St Katherine, while its con­ struction is closely associated with Abbot Lawrence (c. 1158–73). The two are brought together in the St Albans house chronicle, the Gesta Abbatum, where we are told that Abbot Lawrence presided at a meeting called to settle a dispute between the abbot of St Albans and Robert de Chesney, bishop of Lincoln in 1162.35 This was held in St Katherine’s Chapel and was attended Henry II, the archbishops of Canterbury and York (Thomas Becket and Roger Pont-l’Eveque) and others.36 The dispute was even­ tually resolved in favour of St Albans in March 1163. The 1162 meeting obviously establishes a terminus ante quem for the chapel, and, though a starting date prior to Lawrence’s appointment as abbot in 1158 cannot be ruled out, this seems unlikely. Lawrence’s personal interest in its construction went further than simply pressing it into service for important meetings. It intersects with the achievement for which his abbacy is best known — the canonization of Edward the Confessor. The Anglo-Saxon king’s canonization was almost entirely due to Lawrence, who canvassed for letters of support from the English bishops in 1160; approached his kinsman, Ailred of Rievaulx, to expand the earlier Life of Edward the Confessor; travelled to Normandy to elicit the approval of Henry II; and then rode on to Paris to lobby Alexander III’s legates.37 When a delegation was at last assembled to cross the Alps, Lawrence was careful to include Walter the Sacrist and Roger the Infirmarer. The delegation presumably arrived at the papal curia at the beginning of February 1161, for the bull authorizing the canonization of Edward the Confessor was issued at Anagni on 7 February.38 Two further papal bulls were obtained, one of which assigned the church at Sawbridgeworth to provide lights for the sacristy altar, while the other 77

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confirmed the appropriation of the churches of Wandsworth and Battersea to West­ minster’s infirmary at the request of Abbot Lawrence and Roger the Infirmarer.39 John Flete then adds a telling refinement, and states that, following Lawrence’s death on 11 April 1176, six marks were reserved from Wandsworth and Battersea for his anni­ versary, which was celebrated in the infirmary chapel, because Lawrence ‘was con­ cerned for the cure of the sick, as it is prescribed in the Rule of St Benedict’.40 Finally, Richard Ware’s customary reveals that one of the subsidiary altars in the infirmary chapel was dedicated to St Laurence.41 This last piece of evidence brings us into the realm of personal devotion, and ties Lawrence to the infirmary in a way the 12th-century monastic community would have considered indissoluble. Anniversary masses for abbots were usually attended by the entire congregation of monks in the 12th century.42 In the case of Abbot Lawrence this will have involved a procession to the infirmary chapel, following which prayers would have been offered for the commendation of his soul during the mass, presumably before the altar dedicated to St Laurence. This is likely to have been in the north aisle, as the order to block in the ‘little chapel of St Edward’ of 1358–59 must refer to the surviving blocking wall in the easternmost three bays of the south arcade.43 The north altar was thus dedicated to St Laurence and the south altar to St Edward. As the suffix confessor is not used of this last altar, it may be that it refers to Edward the Martyr (d. 979), son of King Edgar, though Lawrence’s involvement would counsel that Edward the Confessor was intended. The use of an infirmary chapel for the illustrious gathering of 1162 raises a broader question about the function of St Katherine’s, suggesting either that Lawrence had designed Westminster’s infirmary chapel with its potential for hosting great assemblies in mind, or that the venue one would have expected to be chosen — the chapter-house — was unusable in 1162. The two are not mutually exclusive, but in favour of the proposition that the infirmary chapel was always intended to double as a venue for great assemblies is its position, by a postern gate that led directly into the Palace of Westminster, and its subsequent history. The first of the church councils to follow the 1162 meeting in St Katherine’s was that of March 1176, called by Henry II so that the claims of the archbishops of York to authority over the suffragan bishops of Lincoln, Lichfield and Worcester might be settled before Cardinal Uguccione, a papal legate.44 The famous 1189 appeal by twelve monks of Christ Church Canterbury against Archbishop Baldwin was also heard by the king in St Katherine’s, as were important councils in 1236, 1237 and 1253.45 Moreover, a total of fifteen episcopal consecrations were celebrated there, beginning with Archbishop Baldwin’s consecration of Bishop Hugh of Lincoln and Bishop William of Worcester on 21 September 1186 apud West­ monasterium in capella infirmerum.46 Though the period in which St Katherine’s was used for important ceremonial was relatively short — 1162 to 1253 — its role as a stage for meetings that potentially enhanced Westminster’s standing among Benedictine mon­ asteries while not directly involving the community is remarkably similar to the role assigned to the new chapter-house in the 1250s, and suggests it could have been a con­ sideration from the outset. Architectural context Given the replacement of whatever stood west of the chapel between c. 1364 and c. 1390, the immediate architectural context of Westminster’s infirmary chapel is un­ known. In other instances where 12th- or 13th-century arrangements for monastic 78

The Romanesque Monastic Buildings at Westminster Abbey

infirmaries survive, the building west of the chapel is an infirmary hall. At Christ Church Canterbury, Ely and Peterborough hall and chapel were axially aligned, with the infirmary hall-and-chapel axis running approximately parallel to the west–east axes of their respective great churches.47 This is also likely to have been the case at Norwich and Gloucester.48 The arrangement is sufficiently distinctive for it to be considered a plan type, though exactly when this came into being is uncertain.49 The alternatives are for the most part Cistercian, as at Rievaulx, Fountains and Kirkstall, where the respec­ tive halls are arranged on an approximately north–south axis at right-angles to their chapels.50 St Augustine’s at Canterbury also belongs to this group, with an infirmary hall that was probably constructed under Abbot Hugh of Trottescliffe (1126–51) run­ ning parallel to the east cloister range, and at right-angles to the infirmary chapel there.51 Both Abbot Ware’s customary and the list of repairs drawn up after the 1298 fire make it clear that Westminster had an infirmary hall, so the practical question is whether it was built at right-angles to the chapel or ran west–east.52 In so far as Westminster relates to any of the infirmary chapels above, it belongs in the larger Benedictine group, for which reason we have tentatively drawn out a west–east aisled hall on the plan at Figure 2.53 Beyond this, the documentary evidence is ambiguous, and the archaeological evidence non-existent. A papal visitation of 1234 exhorts the monks not to run in the cloister or infirmary towards the prior’s chamber, while the prior’s chamber is again mentioned in the order issued by Cardinal Ottobuono de’ Fieschi in 1266, where he instructs the prior not to occupy the chamber ‘before the door of the infirmary next to the cloister’, except for reasons of sickness.54 This has been interpreted as suggesting there was an infirmary cloister, but the camera prioris is almost certainly the same chamber as was mentioned in 1234, and its most likely position is west of the passage that brings one underneath the dormitory into what we have suggested was the infirmary hall.55 Nor is there any mention of an infirmary cloister in the complaints and accounts of damage that follow the 1298 fire, so in the absence of positive evidence, we have decided to omit an infirmary cloister from the suggested plan.56 On the other hand, there clearly were buildings ancillary to the infirmary hall — such as an infirmary kitchen and latrine — that are likely to have been part of the primary build and that will not have been con­ structed within the aisles of the infirmary hall. Their locations are speculative, though the existence of the great drain and reredorter to the south make it likely the latrine will also have been on the south side.57 It is also probable that individual chambers had been constructed within the aisles of the hall by the second half of the 13th century. The larger context is even less intelligible, though what immediately stands out is that the period at which Westminster’s infirmary was built, c. 1158–62, coincided with an apparent boom in English monastic infirmary construction. Rievaulx’s can be dated to 1155–57, and was swiftly followed by Fountains and Kirkstall,58 while the infirmary chapel at Christ Church Canterbury was built under Prior Wibert (1152x54–1167) and Ely’s infirmary was under construction at some point between 1158 and 1169.59 What position Westminster occupied among the Benedictine group of infirmaries is therefore a question worth posing, even if we know little about the relationship between its chapel and hall, nor of the precise date at which Wibert began work on the infirmary at Canterbury.60 Canterbury is notable for the distinction between the hall and chapel, Ely for the rhythmic sophistication of its piers and architectural ornament. Ely clearly follows Westminster, but takes the principle of alternation between octagonal and cylindrical piers a stage further, introducing a secondary alternation between the octagons, whose cardinal axes are now variously flat or angled.61 Ely’s arcade is also 79

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appreciably more complex than Westminster’s, with arches in two orders, each of which carries a variation on different types of moulding or geometric ornament. Ely’s enriched architectural aesthetic is no more than one would expect in a major monastic building of the 1160s, and its demonstration of the rhythmic possibilities of orna­ ment as applied to lightweight hall-like structures struck a chord with parish church designers in the Fens.62 But this wider dissemination also suggests that Ely may have been breaking with an earlier, and architecturally more austere, tradition of monastic infirmary design of the sort perhaps represented in Wibert’s infirmary hall at Canter­ bury. Westminster is enigmatic on this point. The chapel has something of Ely’s archi­ tectural virtuosity, but it is simpler and seemingly lacked a clerestory. loose stonework Most of the worked Romanesque stone now in Westminster’s lapidary collection was found in and around the great cloister or within the east range, though records of the find-sites are rarely precise and are often second-hand. Lethaby maintained that Scott discovered many capitals, particularly those carved from 12 in. (305 mm) cubes of stone, together with bases and fragments of shafts, when he ‘practically rebuilt the outer walls of the west and south cloister walks’.63 That these came from the cloister is made clear by the stones having been recut to a profile that matches the plinth course of the 14th-century work that Scott was replacing.64 Lethaby himself reports finding large numbers of chevron voussoirs in the dormitory undercroft when it was cleared to house the Abbey Museum, along with another cloister column in the south cloister walk, and a complete quatrefoil shaft, though the find site of this last is unspecified.65 We also hear that half a richly carved foliage capital for a column with a diameter of 2 ft 4 in. (711 mm) was found during Scott’s restoration of the chapter-house in 1868. Although an inventory was never made of this stonework, the discoveries made by Scott in the 1860s and 1870s and Lethaby between 1908 and 1912 probably account for the over­ whelming majority of the pieces that survive, along with most of what has been lost. The notable exceptions among the find-sites for the loose stonework are a small body of material that Lethaby felt had probably originated in the infirmary chapel,66 and some heavily beaded geometric ornament, found when parts of the nave pavement were lifted for the installation of new stalls in 1848. Scott published two examples of the latter, to which Lethaby added a third, making it clear that the type of fastidious and densely repetitive geometric sculpture associated with Wibert’s work at Canterbury, which became popular across Kent and south-east England in the 1150s and 1160s, was also represented at Westminster (Figs 7 and 8).67 There is nothing else quite like it around the monastic precinct, and if find-spot is any guide to original location it ought to have come from an installation in the nave, presumably the nave pulpitum. the great cloister Lethaby was the first to work out the basic arrangement of the 12th-century cloister arcade, along with the types of shafts it employed. Crucial to this was his discovery of an in situ section of the Romanesque cloister arcade wall (stylobate) within the later garth. Lethaby carefully preserved this, though it lay more or less forgotten until Warwick Rodwell lifted the protective covering in 2006 and recorded both the remain­ ing masonry, and, crucially, the mortar impressions left on the wall where the arcade 80

The Romanesque Monastic Buildings at Westminster Abbey

Fig. 7. Drawing by W. R. Lethaby of carved stones related to sculpture discovered beneath the nave pavement in 1848

Fig. 8. Detail of the lower storey of the Treasury at Christ Church Cathedral, Canterbury John McNeill

bases had been removed (Fig. 3).68 These impressions provide the basic spacing for the cloister arcade. It should also be noted that the orientation of this short section of wall differs from that of the later west cloister alley. On this basis Lethaby brought together much of the loose stonework that Scott had collected from the later cloister and reassembled a section of Romanesque cloister arcading against the outer west face of the dormitory undercroft. Contemporary photo­ graphs suggest this was a two-stage operation. First the bases, shafts, capitals and springer blocks were erected. Only later were voussoirs, supported on timber centring, added to form the arches (Figs 9 and 10). The gradual development may have been because Lethaby began his arcade reconstruction before the dormitory undercroft floor was excavated, and thus before he discovered that vital cache of Romanesque voussoirs that had been used as bedding beneath the undercroft paving. Most of Lethaby’s cloister arcade then quietly disappeared, apparently without notice. The most likely occasion was 1941, when the former monastic dormitory was fire-bombed. The northern section, forming the Abbey library and archives, escaped with relatively little damage, but the southern part, forming Westminster School Hall, was badly damaged, and a section of groin vaulting over the dormitory undercroft collapsed in the area where the arcade had stood. Thus it is possible that Lethaby’s cloister arcade suf­ fered knock-on damage and that some of its stonework was thrown out in the clear-up. 81

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Fig. 9.

Lethaby’s reconstruction of a section of the great cloister arcade; phase I

# Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Fig. 10.

Lethaby’s reconstruction of a section of the great cloister arcade; phase II

# Dean and Chapter of Westminster


The Romanesque Monastic Buildings at Westminster Abbey

Whatever the precise circumstances of its disappearance, Lethaby’s cloister arcade has been lost, and with it went many, though not all, of its component parts. Photographs of the arcade are now the only clue as to the losses. Of the voussoirs illustrated, just one survives, and this is incomplete (Fig. 11). A loose figurative capital was also lost, while among the bases the only example to have come through was formed by joining together two different base types with cement (Fig. 12).69 The strik­ ing quatrefoil shafts disappeared, together with the moulded abaci. The capitals did better, and at least the majority of these have survived. As such, the larger carved pieces seem to have come through, while the residue has for the most part vanished. Grave though these losses are, enough survives to reconstruct something of the cloister arcade, though obviously without the confidence that might have obtained had it been possible to examine all the pieces shown in the photographs. The voussoirs used in the second reconstruction included an arch with chevrons facing outwards and downwards flanking an angle roll. This is the design that forms the sole recognizable survivor, but because it has lost its rear section we cannot be certain that it formed a part of the arcade (Fig. 11). Other types include multiple rolls similar to the springer mentioned above, and one with a single downward-facing chevron. Lethaby obviously managed to fit a lot of voussoirs onto a centring, and we can only presume that his spacing was based on the intervals indicated by the surviving section of stylobate from the west cloister arcade. Yet there still remains the possibility that these voussoirs did not originate in the cloister arcade at all, but came from a blind wall arcade of a similar span. What can be demonstrated is that the arcade employed single shafts to support the arches, and in the absence of anything remotely related to a paired capital one should

Fig. 11. Mid-12th-century voussoir from the great cloister John McNeill

Fig. 12.

Base formed by joining half a cylindrical base to half a quatrefoil base Stuart Harrison


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assume all the columns were single. Moreover, if single-column Continental cloisters are a guide, it is most unlikely Westminster’s walks featured intermediate piers, though it will have employed either clustered columns or piers at the angles.70 At Westminster, three types of shaft are represented — cylindrical, octagonal and a quatrefoil cluster — all of which appear in Lethaby’s reconstructed arcade. The type of arcade this is likely to have given rise to is now best represented by Reading Abbey, where two different types of single shaft were used, cylindrical and octagonal, but where the octagonal shafts were set on bases designed so that the columns could present either a face or an angle to the walk.71 The burden of evidence is that these shafts were set so as to alter­ nate at Reading, and in so far as variety involving cylindrical and octagonal supports is usually resolved into alternating patterns, this must be the most likely disposition at Westminster. Alternation in Anglo-Norman architecture is almost always iambic (A-B-A-B). Dactylic (B-A-A-B-A-A-B) arrangements are generally reserved for bay sub­ divisions and are a by-product of triple-arched compositions, and triplets (A-B-C-A­ B-C or A-B-C-B-A) are only usually encountered where one of the supports (A) is a respond.72 Where more than two supports are used, one of which is a cylinder, the cylinder tends to predominate, and forms the stressed beat (A) in a composition where the second beat (B) itself alternates. The infirmary hall at Ely is a good example (Fig. 6), where the piers are arranged as cylinder, flat octagon, cylinder, angled octagon, cylinder and so on (A-B1-A-B2-A-B1). This is the most likely arrangement for the cloister arcades at Reading Abbey. The unanswerable question at Westminster is whether it also used three-shaft compositions in each walk. So if the cylinder is A, the octagon B1 and the quatrefoil B2, the alternation might have been A-B1-A-B2-A. The alternative is that the walks may have varied, with one walk alternating cylinders and octagons (A-B1-A-B1), and the next walk alternating cylinders and quatrefoil clusters (A-B2-A-B2). Either of these alternatives is possible, but both have their origin in a rhythmic sensibility that on current evidence seems to have crystallized in the cloister at Reading.73 The capitals are more elaborate, and a greater variety of material has certainly sur­ vived here, though caution must again be exercised as capitals supported by single shafts could be employed in a variety of locations, not simply in the cloister arcade. The provenance of the Westminster capitals is also not wholly secure, as Scott’s discoveries were never itemized. With these caveats, the capitals that either survive or are known from photographs and drawings can be divided into three basic types, all of them carved from approximately 12 in. (305 mm) cubes.74 The most common is a form of trilobed or trefoil scallop capital, which exists in two distinct variations, one with a standard trefoil face, and one with a lower semicircular lobe but where the upper face is rectangular (Figs 13 and 14). Some of these are relatively plain, but others are embel­ lished with animal and human heads, or foliage at the angles (Fig. 15). The second capital type carries foliate decoration across all faces. Two of these must have been recovered by Scott, as they were recut to be used in the walling of the later cloister walls. This recutting has reduced the level of original detail considerably, but where it does survive it can be seen that they were carved with vigorous swirling leaves and pellet decoration. A more complete example boasts a central leaf with a foliate spray to each side where the leaf tips curl back on themselves (Fig. 16); the stems are entwined with other swirling leaves that spring from the corners and incorporate animal heads in their lower parts; in turn, a third series of leaves goes beneath their stems from the side faces; and in the lower centre the three centrally springing stems 84

The Romanesque Monastic Buildings at Westminster Abbey

Fig. 13. Conventional trefoil capital from the cloister arcade Stuart Harrison

Fig. 14.

Square-field trefoil capital from the cloister arcade

# Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Fig. 15. Conventional trefoil capital with foliate enrichment Stuart Harrison

sprout from a ring decorated with pellets. It is a vigorous and well-executed piece. Related to it is a capital whose one partially surviving face has been cut back, but which appears to show a pair of affronted animals, so it is clear that the foliage capitals extended to entangled animals at the very least (Fig. 17). That the foliate types are con­ temporary with the trefoil capitals can be confirmed by comparing the treatment of the leaf stems of the former with that of a damaged trefoil capital that preserves closely comparable foliage in its surviving angle. This is also the type of sinuous beaded foliage that is used on a number of capitals in the dormitory undercroft that are likely to have been recut at the same time as the cloister walks were being reconstructed.75 85

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Fig. 16. Foliate capital recut for use in the later cloister wall. The right side shows the profile of the later cloister plinth course, indicating that it was recovered during Gilbert Scott’s rebuilding of the west and south alleys Stuart Harrison

Fig. 17. Capital recut for reuse in the later cloister wall, apparently originally carved with affronted animals entangled in foliage John McNeill

The third type of capital is figurative, though as these are more varied in shape and apparent date they are dealt with below. None of the surviving capitals is carved with integral abaci, and separate abaci are shown in Lethaby’s photographs with an under hollow and quirk on the impost, which is a fairly standard 12th-century type. One of these abaci was carved with a tail-block, however, and appears taller, employing an under chamfer and carved decorated impost. This probably came from a portal, or may have been a variant used in a cloister angle-pier. Along with the majority of the figur­ ative capitals, all the abaci seem to have been lost. 86

The Romanesque Monastic Buildings at Westminster Abbey

Putting these elements together, it is possible to draw an outline of the most likely form of the arcade, bearing in mind the caution expressed above regarding the design of the arches themselves (Fig. 18). The greater part of what survives appears stylistically consistent, and is significantly later than the surviving east and south ranges. While Westminster’s combination of trefoil and foliate capitals was probably once relatively common in Anglo-Norman cloister arcades, the distinctive treatment of the lower angles of the trefoil capitals, and the types of foliage used, are best paralleled by loose capitals likely to have come from the cloister at Winchester Cathedral, and with work at St Bartholomew’s Smithfield.76 This suggests that what survives of the cloister arcade at Westminster dates from the middle of the 12th century. The way that Westminster’s capitals were originally organized is more speculative, particularly as we have com­ paratively few of them, and there is no reason to suppose that what survives came from any more than one or two walks. So we may not have a representative sample. Never­ theless, the mix of two different types of trefoil capital along with a more varied foliate or inhabited-foliate group is suggestive, and could have been incorporated into an alternating system that complemented that of the supporting shafts. It also seems highly likely that most or all of whatever cloister that had been constructed during the late 11th century at Westminster was replaced in the years around 1150. The position occupied by Westminster’s mid-12th-century cloister relative to other Anglo-Norman cloisters is difficult to judge. Not enough loose stonework survives from Anglo-Norman cloisters for one to be able to generalize, but what evidence there is suggests that repeated paired columns and capitals were favoured, as is likely to have been the case at Norwich, Bristol, Glastonbury, and Christ Church Canterbury, and which become standard in 12th-century Cistercian and Augustinian cloisters.77 Nonnarrative capitals are also favoured. Wibert’s infirmary cloister at Christ Church, Canterbury, mixes single and paired columns, while the former cloister at Winchester

Fig. 18.

Possible arrangement of a section of the mid-12th-century cloister arcade


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Cathedral is the one Anglo-Norman great cloister that seems likely to have alternated single and paired columns. Westminster is thus relatively unusual in respect of its single cloister supports, and is most likely to have been inspired by Reading. figurative capitals The capital featuring the Judgement of Solomon is the only figurative capital to sur­ vive, though, as has already been mentioned, there were others. Lethaby, for example, mentions a capital that depicts ‘devils and the Jaws of Hell’. He also reconstructed an image of Luxuria on the basis of a fragmentary carving of ‘two dragons biting at a woman’s breasts’, which he goes on to say was embellished with an image of ‘a devil seizing a person’ to its rear.78 These two capitals are discussed alongside the Judgement of Solomon, and the fact that Lethaby reconstructed Luxuria with a frame modelled on the Solomon capital makes it clear he felt they belonged together.79 The photographs taken around 1900 by the then clerk of works at the Abbey, Thomas Wright, record even more. That showing the north side of the chapter-house vestibule includes an eroded capital embellished with three men, two of whom look to the left while one faces right (Fig. 1). The left return side of the capital was also carved with what may have been figures, but these are indistinct. Towards the rear one can also discern what appears to be a projecting block abutment, as if the capital was originally set into a wall. This in itself would not disqualify it from forming part of the cloister arcade, as angle piers may have been employed, but it would seem more likely that it belonged to a portal connecting the cloister with the church, or the chapter-house, or a range. It would certainly appear to have been a respond capital. Behind this capital is yet another damaged figurative respond capital, while the next but one capital to its right carries the remains of a composition featuring some sort of scaly, fantastical creature. Finally, Wright’s photograph of the former refectory hatch (Fig. 19), clearly shows the lower half of figure walking amid foliage on an otherwise damaged fragment of stone, a particularly galling loss, as the great majority of the carved stones shown in this photo­ graph do survive.80 Gilbert Crispin and William Rufus Unquestionably the most problematic of the lost capitals, however, is that which features Abbot Gilbert Crispin (1085–1117x18) and William Rufus (1087–1100) (Fig. 20). This was first brought to public notice in 1831, when John Britton exhibited a drawing of the capital by William Capon (d. 1827) at the Society of Antiquaries of London.81 Britton recorded the inscription and remarked that the capital had been in the possession of Sir Gregory Page Turner, but that it was not then known where it was preserved. Thereafter, E. W. Brayley published a fuller account, together with engravings of the three surviving faces derived from Capon’s drawing in The Graphic Illustrator, and Brayley and John Britton included a discussion of the capital in their monograph on Westminster Palace.82 Virtually everything that is known about the capital is in these two 1834 accounts.83 They reveal that it was discovered in 1807 in a partition wall at cellar level between the Mitre and Horn taverns in Union Street, Westminster.84 That stub of wall was a remnant of the late-14th-century Great Outer Gate — or High Gate — to Westminster Palace, otherwise demolished in 1706. By the time the capital had been acquired by William Capon, only three sides were legible. The inscription was published as ‘E CLAUSTRU[M] ET REFE . . . U[M] SUB ABB[AT]E 88

The Romanesque Monastic Buildings at Westminster Abbey

Fig. 19.

Photograph of c. 1900 showing loose sculpture jammed into a former cupboard within a blocked doorway to the former refectory # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Fig. 20. Engraving (first published in 1834) based on a drawing by William Capon of three faces of a capital discovered in 1807


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GISLE[BERTO] . . . R[EG]E WILLELMO SECUN[DO]’, which Brayley and Britton felt referred to the building of the cloister and refectory at Westminster Abbey.85 It was carved ‘of freestone’, was 12 in. square when viewed from above, 13.5 in. tall, and tapered conically to a diameter of 9 in. at the base.86 Their last word on the subject was to remark that William Capon had sold the capital to Sir Gregory Page Turner for the considerable sum of 100 guineas.87 Notwithstanding the find-site (at some remove from anything else that can be associ­ ated with the Abbey) and the precocious figure style, most commentators have taken the capital at face value — as a carving that was probably made for the cloister, and which dates from the reign of William Rufus. The dissenters have been William Lethaby, who felt it must be appreciably later than 1100, and Frank Barlow, who argued that the inscription had been misread, and that a more likely transcription would render it as ‘Praise, under Abbot Gilbert and King William the Second, to the founders and other holy men’.88 There is nothing in either version of the inscription that seems inherently problematical, though, as Richard Mortimer has pointed out, William Rufus was not a particularly generous benefactor to Westminster Abbey.89 Whatever the text of the complete inscription, the imagery suggests the capital records a donation or confirmation, with both Gilbert Crispin and William Rufus holding a scroll or pancarte on consecutive faces, and a scene in which the abbot is officiating at a service, a codex held before him open at the words ‘Ego sum’. The fundamental problems with the capital as it has come down to us are its shape and apparent stylistic date. While it is true that the top of the capital could support an abacus of the same size as was used elsewhere in the cloister, the additional height is at odds with anything else likely to be from the cloister arcade. Moreover, this height is not simply an archaeological curiosity, it is an agent of stylistic expression, notable in the turning body of the abbot holding the scroll where the proportions lend the figure a real sense of movement and three-dimensional presence. The figure style is quite different to that of the Judgement of Solomon, while the micro-architectural detailing, the sweep­ ing hollow and subsidiary mouldings of the framing arches, for instance, if anything compare with the Westminster trefoil capitals (Figs 14 and 15). Impossible to date with precision, this compositional style is inconceivable in Anglo-Norman England before the 1120s, and could well be appreciably later. If one accepts this, it raises the question as to why the capital was carved, and what it was intended to convey. There is, of course, the possibility that it was an early-19th-century forgery, though the engravings we have of the capital seem too odd for that — making it appear ambiguous, fragmentary and, above all, too idiomatically ‘Romanesque’. The alternatives are that the capital was commissioned in the later 1120s or 1130s and is the visual equivalent of Osbert de Clare’s forged charters;90 or that it dates from the abbacy of Gervase (1138–1157x58), an illegitimate son of King Stephen, and perhaps celebrates the effective restitution of the Abbey’s lands by referring them back to the most recent monarch who was poli­ tically acceptable to the abbot’s father.91 It is now impossible to reconstruct its original setting, though if the capital has come from the cloister, its height and shape make it most unlikely it originated in one of the cloister arcades. The Judgement of Solomon The Judgement of Solomon capital has long been associated with the cloister, and treated alongside those capitals that Scott recovered when he rebuilt the outer walls of the south and west walks of the cloister (Figs 21a–d). Indeed, Lethaby included it in his 90

The Romanesque Monastic Buildings at Westminster Abbey

Fig. 21b. Judgement of Solomon capital: Solomon takes hold of the baby

Fig. 21a. Judgement of Solomon capital: the mothers plead their case before Solomon

# Dean and Chapter of Westminster

# Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Fig. 21c. Judgement of Solomon capital: a sword is brought to the king

Fig. 21d. Judgement of Solomon capital: ‘And all Israel heard of the judgement’

# Dean and Chapter of Westminster

# Dean and Chapter of Westminster

cloister arcade reconstructions. Two of its faces have been shaved back for reuse, as with others that Scott picked out of the cloister walls, and the likelihood is that this is where it was found. Where it was first used is a different matter, in that it appears significantly earlier than the rest of the surviving cloister arcade capitals, though its size and shape admirably suit what can be deduced of the cloister arcade. The best parallels for its overall form are with capitals from Anselm’s crypt at Canterbury — particularly as regards the unusual treatment of the frame, which has a short return along the vertical before a pictorial element cleverly takes over as an angle marker. It is best seen in the face depicting Solomon crowned, where the frame returns around the back of a servant before abruptly terminating beneath his shoulder. Below this the angle of the capital 91

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is formed by the rear of Solomon’s throne. In other words, the bounding elements at the top of the individual scenes belong to a formal frame, while at the bottom they form part of the narrative. It is an extremely uncommon compositional device, and is otherwise only paralleled at Canterbury, where it is most evident in St Gabriel’s Chapel (Fig. 22).92 So unusual is this that one would hazard it is by a sculptor or sculptors from the same Canterbury workshop. As such, Westminster’s Judgement of Solomon is likely to date from c. 1100. The story is taken from the Book of Kings, and features two prostitutes who shared a house and who had given birth within a couple of days of each other. Shortly after the births one of the babies died.93 The identity of the living baby is disputed between the women, and a case is brought before Solomon. The mother who speaks first maintains the babies were switched during the night by the dead baby’s mother, something that is denied by the second mother. Solomon summarizes the statements of the two women, and then calls for a sword. A sword is duly brought before the king, and Solomon orders the living child to be divided in two, at which the true mother reveals herself and drops her suit. The story ends with the verse, ‘And all Israel heard of the judgement which the king had judged, and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was within him, to do judgement’. The opening scene of the Westminster capital is thus most likely to be the well-preserved face in which we see a woman standing holding a swaddled baby, with a second woman addressing the crowned Solomon from

Fig. 22.

Detail of the capital in St Gabriel’s Chapel, Christ Church Cathedral, Canterbury John McNeill


The Romanesque Monastic Buildings at Westminster Abbey

the floor (Fig. 21a). The narrative then develops from right to left. The next face appears to show Solomon taking hold of the baby (Fig. 21b), followed by a scene in which the baby is passed to a soldier holding a raised sword (Fig. 21c). The final scene depicts a man pointing at a woman holding a baby, both apparently smiling, in front a porticoed building (Fig. 21d). This last scene was probably intended to represent the public acclamation of Solomon’s Judgement — the man with the outstretched arm standing in for ‘all Israel’.94 The iconographic models for the Westminster capital are elusive, not least because depictions of the Judgement of Solomon are rare before the second half of the 12th century, and this despite the subject having a visual currency that can be traced back as far the late-4th-century San Nazaro reliquary.95 Early medieval examples tend to situate the action on a grand stage, and may include both babies, as in the late Carolingian bible from San Paolo fuori le Mura, Rome, or a late-9th-century copy of the Homilies of Gregory of Nazianzus (Paris, Bibliothe`que nationale, MS gr. 510).96 However, the Stuttgart Psalter of c. 900 reduces this to the living baby, and the singlebaby mode then seems to become standard in the 11th and 12th centuries, before the importance of the second (dead) baby is once more recognized in examples from c. 1200 onwards.97 Most pre-1150 rehearsals of the Judgement also relate the story as a single scene, while in manuscripts the subject is usually confined to initials. Westminster’s is a narrative giant, the most extended treatment to have come down to us from the Romanesque period, and the only earlier example of a multi-scene Judgement that sur­ vives is a north Spanish ivory casket of c. 1000 now in the Glencairn Museum at Bryn Athyn.98 The imagery of the Glencairn casket may reflect an early lost iconography on which the Westminster capital also draws, in that both examples have one of the mothers standing while the other pleads with Solomon from the floor.99 Both also incorporate an image of an arcaded building in elevation, which is almost certainly intended to represent Solomon’s Temple. However, there is no precedent for extending this to four episodes, and, although it is just possible there was a stock four-scene cycle that formed the basis for the Westminster capital, it seems more likely that the sculptor reimagined the story to suit the format of a capital. Even the celebrated version of the Judgement of Solomon in a north transept window at Strasbourg Cathedral of c. 1200 runs to no more than three scenes.100 The reason for making these points is to draw attention to the wider significance of the capital. It is the earliest surviving narrative capital worthy of the name from AngloNorman England, and if it is from the chapter-house entry, or east walk of the cloister, which must be its most likely positions, it will be broadly contemporary with the earliest narrative capitals in a cloister anywhere in Europe — at Moissac.101 Given the subject matter, the chapter-house fac¸ade would be more appropriate, though in the absence of new evidence it is impossible to pin down its original position.102 Moreover, the relationship between setting, imagery and function in Romanesque cloisters is loose at best.103 With hindsight one can see that this type of sophisticated figurative sculp­ tural display did not play to Anglo-Norman aesthetic tastes or strengths — indeed, neither did Anselm’s crypt at Canterbury — but it serves as a reminder as to just how open, ambitious and fluid was Anglo-Norman culture in the years around 1100. conclusion The evidence presented here accords with the current consensus that Westminster’s monastic precincts were begun under Edward the Confessor and continued after the 93

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Conquest. Notwithstanding the loss of an early west range, it is likely that an initial nucleus of ranges, along with essential ancillary structures, such as the reredorter and monastic kitchen, had been completed around a great cloister before 1100. Thereafter, there is abundant evidence for a wide-ranging renewal of the monastery in the middle of the 12th century. Two aspects of this call for comment — one concerning the scope and organization of the mid-12th-century work, the other concerning what may have been replaced of the earlier precincts. The mid-12th-century work encompassed an infirmary, the replacement of all or part of the great cloister, the insertion of masonry partitions in the dormitory undercroft and the probable construction of a new pulpitum within the church. There may have been more. The recent discovery of fragments of carved and painted chevron in the rubble packing around the 14th-century windows of the refectory suggests the refectory may have been refenestrated (Fig. 23), while the scallop capital recovered from the wall separating the undercrofts of the Jerusalem Chamber and College Hall points towards there having been a mid-12th-century west portal.104 Moreover, the fragment of deeply undercut and richly ornamented intersect­ ing blind arcading that Lethaby associated with the infirmary chapel seems much more likely to have come from a chapter-house, and the possibility that Westminster’s 11th­ century chapter-house was either extended or rebuilt should certainly be entertained.105 In support of this a stray voussoir in Westminster’s lapidary collection is decorated with a wide chevron roll which is designed to fit an arch assembly yet is also tapered from front to back, indicating that it is likely to have been set in the external face of a curving wall, such as an apse.106 The extent to which these various mid-12th-century projects were integrated is debatable. Only the infirmary can be closely dated, to c. 1158–62. The rest is undocu­ mented and exists in a stylistic range that runs from c. 1140 to c. 1170. The stylistic register also varies considerably, and the nave material was carved by a workshop at some remove to any other represented at Westminster. Taken together this constitutes a wide-ranging programme of works, and, though it is now difficult to recreate the way in which it was conceived or organized, the major projects can be reduced to the infirmary, great cloister and nave refurbishment. If the chapter-house were also recon­ structed that might be considered a fourth, but any other work, the cutting of capitals and insertion of partition walls in the dormitory undercroft, for example, could have

Fig. 23. Fragment of chevron carving from the refectory Stuart Harrison


The Romanesque Monastic Buildings at Westminster Abbey

been arranged as an offshoot of one or other of these projects. There is enough distinc­ tion in the sculpture for us to suggest that the nave workshop is a one-off, while the infirmary and great cloister overlap, and some, at least, of their specialist stone-carvers could have moved between one site and the other. Their construction might have been simultaneous or sequential. Stylistically, it is impossible to say, though since the relative demands for different components vary — huge numbers of capitals and shafts for the cloister, much moulded stonework and substantial quantities of squared ashlar for the infirmary — simultaneous construction on the part of a large workshop ought to have been possible. The historical evidence points to Abbot Lawrence as the principal orchestrator of the mid-12th-century work. In part this is by default. The vacancy between the death of Abbot Gilbert Crispin in 1117 or 1118 and the appointment of Abbot Herbert in 1121 was disastrous for the monks of Westminster. Many of its estates were seized, and the costs of obtaining royal charters and fighting legal cases to ensure the return of its lands pushed it heavily into debt. This debt seems to have persisted into the 1130s and was perhaps compounded by the additional costs incurred in resisting the efforts of Gilbert, bishop of London, to exercise his jurisdiction over the Abbey.107 Herbert’s successor was Gervase of Blois (c. 1138–c. 1157), an illegitimate son of King Stephen. Gervase’s abbacy is difficult to assess. He was deposed by Henry II in late 1157 or early 1158, and by the time John Flete came to write his history of Westminster he had acquired a repu­ tation for dissipating Westminster’s estates and chronic mismanagement.108 Recent scholars have argued that the criticism was largely undeserved, and was the result of embarrassment at his deposition on the part of the monks, and the acceptance of stories circulated by Gervase’s successor, Lawrence (1158–73).109 Lawrence is certainly likely to have been the main source for the allegations of mis­ management, as the 12th-century testimony is found in chronicles from Durham and St Albans, monastic communities with which Lawrence was associated.110 These accounts are not without their own contrasts either. The Gesta Abbatum juxtaposes the generosity of the abbot of St Albans, Robert de Gorron (1151–66) with the ingrati­ tude of Abbot Lawrence, telling us that, in addition to a donation he made on Lawrence’s appointment, Robert de Gorron gave the new abbot of Westminster horses and silverware to a value of 200 marks. Robert de Gorron had been persuaded to help Lawrence because Gervase had squandered Westminster Abbey’s resources for his own ends. The monastery was dilapidated and the monks were destitute.111 Yet the ungrate­ ful Lawrence still persuaded the king to support Westminster in a lawsuit against St Albans over possession of an estate at Aldenham. Adding to this picture of neglect under Gervase, John Flete bluntly maintains that Lawrence inherited monastic pre­ cincts that had been damaged by fire, and were for the most part ruinous.112 The picture derived from Flete and the Gesta Abbatum is thus tangled and heavily influenced by Abbot Lawrence himself. A distance has been opened up between the two abbacies, meaning it would be unwise to dismiss the possibility that Gervase had been able to make a start on the remodelling of the monastic precincts himself. If so, it is most likely he will have begun with the cloister, but the historical circumstances do not favour expensive building operations at the Abbey before c. 1150.113 The second question is equally speculative. What motivated the remodelling of West­ minster’s monastic precinct? It is certainly possible to present the mid-12th-century work as reactive: the infirmary brought Westminster into line with a wave of new infir­ mary building then transforming English monastic precincts; the cloister could have been replaced as a result of John Flete’s fire; and a nave pulpitum might have been 95

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constructed as part of a larger liturgical refurbishment of the Abbey in preparation for the translation of Edward the Confessor to a new shrine. Alongside this, however, there is evidence of a broader sense of dissatisfaction with inherited monastic precincts in Benedictine circles around the middle of the 12th century, when many show signs of redevelopment. The best known example is Wibert’s work at Christ Church Canter­ bury, but there is evidence for extensive mid-12th-century building in monastic pre­ cincts at St Augustine’s, Canterbury, Winchester, St Albans, Glastonbury, Ely, Chester and Durham. Did this also have a role to play at Westminster? More to the point, what sort of cloister might the mid-12th-century cloister arcades have replaced? Notwithstanding the lack of a single in situ arcade from an Anglo-Norman great cloister, loose capitals suggest that many Anglo-Norman cloister arcades were either replaced from the 1120s onwards, or were first established then.114 The absence of recycled material from early Anglo-Norman cloister arcades more generally is striking in this respect, particularly as there is abundant documentary evidence for their construc­ tion. The cloister capitals from Norwich seem to be among the earliest, arguably date­ able to the 1120s, followed, perhaps, by the capitals from Reading, Hyde Abbey and Lewes Priory.115 The renewal of Benedictine great cloisters then seemingly gathers pace with Winchester, Rochester, Christ Church Canterbury, Westminster, Glastonbury and Durham. Some of these reconstructions were necessitated by fire, and some, like Reading or Hyde Abbey, were new or at least recent foundations. However, the only capital that arguably fits a cloister and predates the 1120s is the Judgement of Solomon capital, and even this is of c. 1100, whereas one would have expected Westminster’s first cloister arcades to have been built against the south and east ranges around 1080. This last raises the possibility of piecemeal development, and the uprating of an initial temporary set of walks at Westminster with, say, a stone cloister arcade in the proces­ sionally important east walk around 1100. Short of further excavation, the precise nature of Westminster’s 11th-century cloister is unknowable. But whether the culprit was fire, as John Flete would have it, or simply a desire to join the ranks of Benedictine houses with enhanced precincts, Westminster was in good company in turning its back on its early cloister. Perhaps we should entertain the possibility that what Westminster replaced was among a first generation of Anglo-Norman cloisters built of wood.116 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Without Warwick Rodwell and Tim Tatton-Brown this paper would have been impossible to write. Their extraordinary generosity in facilitating access, responding to queries and sharing their profound knowledge of Westminster, illuminates every page. We are deeply in their debt. For help and kindnesses received in many different ways, the authors would also like to thank David Bates, Anna Eavis, Peter Fergusson, Diana Gibbs, Lindy Grant, David Harrison, Dan Miles, Noel PageTurner, Nigel Ramsay, Christine Reynolds and Tony Trowles.

NOTES 1. W. R. Lethaby, Westminster Abbey Re-Examined (London 1925), 37. As will become apparent, the authors are conscious of a wider debt owed to Lethaby in identifying, recording and interpreting material that in many instances has since disappeared. 2. See below. 3. Lethaby, Westminster Re-Examined (as n. 1), 32–35.


The Romanesque Monastic Buildings at Westminster Abbey 4. The capital in question is shown towards the left on the lower step. The photograph can be dated to between the unveiling of the Lowell tablet in 1893 and the death of the photographer, Thomas Wright in 1906. We are very grateful to Christine Reynolds for providing us with a copy of the photograph, and for estab­ lishing its date. Thomas Wright was clerk of works from 1871 until 1905. 5. This seems highly unlikely, and there is certainly nothing in the relevant file (AA05658/11 — Chapter House and Pyx Chamber) that refers to any loose sculpture other than the storage of the chapter-house Annunciation figures. We are grateful to Jennifer Pearson of English Heritage for arranging access to this file. 6. G. G. Scott, Gleanings from Westminster Abbey (Oxford/London 1863, 2nd edn), 14–15. 7. We exempt from this statement the material removed by Lethaby from the dormitory around 1910, as this is not ‘loose’, in the sense that the original position is uncertain. 8. The date of Sulcard’s death is unknown, though it is generally assumed his account of the history of Westminster was written around 1080. For the full text, see B. W. Scholz, ‘Sulcard of Westminster: Prologus de construccione Westmonasterii’, Traditio, 20 (1964), 59–91. 9. See Scott, Gleanings (as n. 6), 2–13, and J. T. Mickelthwaite, ‘Notes on the Abbey Buildings at West­ minster’, Archaeol. J., 33 (1876), 15–48, at 18 and 24–35, for the view that the south and east ranges were built under Edward the Confessor. Bilson argued the monastic buildings were ‘pushed forward after the Conquest’, and favoured a start under Abbot Vitalis or perhaps slightly earlier. See ‘Autumn Meeting at Westminster’, Archaeol. J., 67 (1910), 397–406; John Bilson’s remarks are summarized at 401–02. Lethaby then follows Bilson; see Lethaby, Westminster Re-Examined (as n. 1), 22–23. For the Royal Commission assessment, see RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in London, I: Westminster Abbey (London 1924), 82–84. 10. R. Gem, ‘The Romanesque Rebuilding of Westminster Abbey’, in Anglo-Norman Studies III: Proceed­ ings of the Battle Conference 1980, ed. R. Allen Brown (Woodbridge 1981), 33–60, at 55, and E. Fernie, ‘Edward the Confessor’s Westminster Abbey’, in Edward the Confessor: The Man and the Legend, ed. R. Mortimer (Woodbridge 2009), 139–50. 11. W. Rodwell, ‘New Glimpses of Edward the Confessor’s Abbey at Westminster’, in Edward the Con­ fessor (as n. 10), 151–67. 12. Ibid., 159–66, and P. Mills, ‘Excavations at the dorter undercroft, Westminster Abbey’, Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, 46 (1995), 69–124, at 100–02. 13. Rodwell, ‘New Glimpses’ (as n. 11), 155–58. 14. For a summary of what is known of the chapter-house that preceded the present structure, see B. Harvey, ‘The monks of Westminster and their chapter house’, in Westminster Abbey Chapter House: the history, art and architecture of ‘a chapter house beyond compare’, ed. W. Rodwell and R. Mortimer (London 2010), 102–11. The mid-13th-century Estoire de Seint Aedward le Rei describes the pre-1245 chapter-house ‘Clostre i fait, chapitre a frund / Vers Orient vouse e rund’ (‘He makes a cloister and a chapter-house fac¸ade, vaulted and round towards towards the east’). See R. A. Brown, H. M. Colvin and A. J. Taylor, The History of the King’s Works: The Middle Ages, 2 vols (London 1963), I, 15–16. 15. Micklethwaite identified an oblong opening in the infirmary passage, now blocked up, which he suggested was the dormitory day-stair; see Micklethwaite, ‘Notes on the Abbey Buildings’ (as in n. 9), 26–27. Lethaby, in turn, suggested that traces of a small spiral staircase at the south-west corner of the dormitory was the day-stair; see Lethaby, Westminster Re-Examined (as n. 1), 26. Both suggestions seem unlikely, and we have here adopted the more usual position for a day-stair, where it gives onto the east walk of the cloister within a few bays of the chapter-house entry. 16. Several of these partitions have been subsequently removed, but in certain cases the partitions clearly coincided with in situ carving of capitals that stylistically date to the middle of the 12th century. Vestiges of painted decoration on the vault of the Pyx Chamber also run behind a partition wall. The foliate designs used on the undercroft capitals are broadly similar to those of the cloister arcade capitals discovered by George Gilbert Scott (see below). 17. Rodwell, ‘New Glimpses’ (as n. 11), fig. 7.1. 18. Ibid., fig. 7.1 and 157–59. 19. An alternative may have been a scheme for broad arches supporting a wooden ceiling. If one accepts that detailed preparations are likely to have been made for the east range around 1060, the only east range undercrofts that precede Westminster and remain standing are Sant Pere de Rodes (Catalonia), which featured diaphragm arches and barrel vaults, and Saint-Benigne at Dijon, which employs intermediate piers and groin vaults. Rodes is undated, but appears to belong to the early-11th-century phases at the site; see I. Lore´s, El Monastir de Sant Pere de Rodes (Barcelona 2002), 83–89. The east range at Dijon was built under Abbot Halinard (1031–52); see C. Sapin ed., Les pre´mices de l’art roman en Bourgogne (Auxerre 1999), 70–72. 20. Lethaby produced a drawing of the best-preserved example of the dormitory tau-capitals before it was removed in 1910, pointing out that only the abaci were bonded in to the wall, and that the capitals were cut in the round and simply sat on the shafts; see Lethaby, Westminster Re-Examined (as in n. 1), 23, fig. 6. This


stuart harrison and john m c neill compares closely with the tau-capitals in St John’s Chapel at the Tower of London; see J. Crook, ‘St John’s Chapel’, in The White Tower, ed. E. Impey (New Haven CT/London 2008), 110–14. Note the distinctive cutting back of the angles into four segments. 21. The History of Westminster Abbey by John Flete, Notes and Documents relating to Westminster Abbey 2, ed. J. A. Robinson (Cambridge 1909), 83. 22. For an extended and illuminating discussion, see Harvey, ‘The monks of Westminster’ (as n. 14), 108–10. 23. In this we follow Gem, ‘The Romanesque Rebuilding’ (as n. 10), 60, and W. Rodwell, ‘Appearances can be Deceptive: Building and Decorating Anglo-Saxon Churches’, JBAA, 165 (2012), 22–60, at 54–55. 24. Rodwell, ‘Appearances can be Deceptive’ (as n. 23), 54–56 and fig. 29. Other fragments of the south range that reveal elements of its detailing include a part of the upper north wall that survives within a minor canon’s house, while a ground-floor window around its south-east corner is preserved within a Westminster School office. 25. RCHME, Westminster Abbey (as n. 9), 85. See also T. Tatton-Brown, ‘The Adrian Boult Music Centre, Westminster School: Some provisional Notes’, unpublished report, revised and presented to Westminster School in February 2007, held at the School. We are again indebted to Tim Tatton-Brown for furnishing us with a copy of this report. It is of course possible that a pentice originally connected the kitchen with the refectory. 26. Rodwell, ‘New Glimpses’ (as n. 11), 155. 27. For a calculation of the width of the original west walk, and of the position of the nave portal, see Fernie, ‘Confessor’s Westminster’ (as n. 10), 147–50. 28. For a short description, see RCHME, Westminster Abbey (as n. 9), 91–92. 29. For Lethaby’s reconstruction drawing, see Lethaby, Westminster Re-Examined (as n. 1), 28 and fig. 9. 30. H. F. Westlake, Westminster Abbey: the church, convent, cathedral and college of St Peter, Westminster (London 1923), 321–22. 31. Ibid., 322. Following the fire, those monks then resident in the infirmary were moved to a chamber described as that of ‘Robert Typetot’. The list of expenses incurred as a result of the fire makes it clear that by 1298 the infirmary included a chapel, hall, two kitchens, a garderobe and a bakehouse. Repairs to the chapel evidently continued for some time, as a will made at Hurley in 1311 by the royal almoner, Henry of Bluntesdon, assigned a debt of £50 owed by the abbot to the convent for work on the infirmary chapel. See also B. Harvey, Living and Dying in Medieval England 1100–1540: The Monastic Experience (Oxford/New York 1993), 87–90. 32. RCHME, Westminster Abbey (as n. 9), 91. 33. Westlake, Westminster Abbey (as n. 30), 319. 34. Although a New Work fund had been set up by 1335 to finally remedy some of the defects to the Abbey buildings caused or exacerbated by the 1298 fire, the construction of new infirmary chambers was evidently not a priority. The plan was to replace the earlier infirmary hall with two sets of chambers to the north and south of a new infirmary cloister, the 14th-century foundations of which were discovered in 1922 under the existing 17th-century ‘Little Cloister’. A new portal was cut through the wall at the west end of the chapel in 1371–72 to the designs of John Palterton, while the chambers to the north and south of the cloister were built between c. 1364 and 1373. The infirmary cloister itself was then built between 1373 and 1390, the final pay­ ments in 1389–90 being to roof and turf the cloister; see B. Harvey, The Obedientiaries of Westminster Abbey and their Financial Records c.1275–1540, Westminster Abbey Record Series III (Woodbridge 2002), 117–18. 35. Thomas of Walsingham, Gesta Abbatum Monasterii Sancti Albani, ed. H. T. Riley, 3 vols (Rolls Series, xxviii.4, 1867–69), I, 150. 36. The king, Thomas Becket, Roger Pont-l’Eveque, Robert Chesney, Robert de Gorron (abbot of St Albans) and Abbot Lawrence are specifically named. The prologue to the account of the meeting also states ‘cum universitate tam Archiepiscoporum quam Episcoporum atque Abbatum et aliorum optimatum regni’; ibid., 150. 37. For an overview of the whole process of canonization, see B. W. Scholz, ‘The Canonisation of Edward the Confessor’, Speculum, 26 (1961), 38–60. For Lawrence’s contact with Ailred of Rievaulx, see Maurice Powicke’s introduction in The Life of Ailred of Rievaulx by Walter Daniel, ed. and trans. F. M. Powicke (Oxford 1950), xxxvi. 38. E. Mason ed., Westminster Abbey Charters 1066–c.1214, London Record Society 25 (London 1988), ‘Calendar of Papal Documents’, nos. 167 and 168. 39. Ibid., ‘Calendar of Papal Documents’, nos. 169 and 170. 40. History of Westminster Abbey by John Flete (as n. 21), 94. The Latin text is ‘Pro cujus anniversario annuatim celebrando assignantur sex marcae de antiqua pensione ecclesiarum de Wendelesworth et


The Romanesque Monastic Buildings at Westminster Abbey Patricheseye, per ipsum appropriatarum ad usus fratrum infirmorum, quia ad curam infirmorum semper direxit oculum pietatis, in se recogitans illud beati Benedicti in regula sua’. 41. Customary of the Benedictine Monastery of Saint Augustine, Canterbury and Saint Peter, Westminster, ed. E. M. Thompson, 2 vols (London 1904), II, 246. The text of Richard Ware’s customary is transcribed from a manuscript that was badly damaged in the Ashburnham House fire of 1731 (now BL, Cotton MS Otho C XI), for which reason the text describing the infirmary chapel has gaps within it. The surviving Latin is ‘qui et in super infirmarius luminaria inveniet [. . .] et videlicet stagiarii forte [. . .] les ad altare sancti [. . .] beati Laurencii celebrant’. The customary then alludes to a set of instructions for the celebration of Lawrence’s anniversary ‘modo quo inferius specificabitur’, though this is the last that we hear of it, and the remaining sections of the manuscript are lost. The section of Westminster Dissolution inventories marked ‘Seynt Kateryn’s Chapell within the Farmarye’ also includes a reference to an altar cloth that was presumably used on the altar of St Lawrence: ‘One Awter cloth with a front of whyte and red Damask with ane [sic] ymage of seynt Erasmus and seynt Laurence sett with perlis and stone’; see J. A. Robinson, The Abbot’s House at Westminster (Cambridge 1911), 47. 42. For a short discussion of anniversary masses for abbots, see J. McNeill, ‘A Prehistory of the Chantry’, JBAA, 164 (2011), 1–38, at 9–10. 43. Westlake, Westminster Abbey (as n. 30), 319. 44. The Annals of Roger de Hovedon, ed. and trans. H. T. Riley, 2 vols (London 1853), I, 411–12. 45. Westlake, Westminster Abbey (as n. 30), 330–31. The 1237 confirmation of Magna Carta took place following a four-day discussion in the Chapel of St Katherine, at which the king agreed to observe the charter and add three barons to the king’s council in return for a tax of one-thirtieth on moveables; see J. Maddicott, The Origins of the English Parliament, 924–1327 (Oxford 2010), 457, and David Harrison’s article in this volume, 133–51. We are very grateful to David Harrison for sending us the text of his article prior to publi­ cation. The number of meetings and consecrations that took place in the infirmary chapel is likely to be con­ siderably greater than those mentioned above, as the exact location of most of the great assemblies known to have been held at Westminster Abbey between c. 1160 and c. 1250 is not identified. 46. Maddicott, The Origins of the English Parliament (as n. 45), 329. The last consecration to be held in St Katherine’s was in 1227. 47. The most-studied English monastic infirmaries are Canterbury and Ely; see P. Fergusson, Canterbury Cathedral Priory in the Age of Becket (New Haven CT/London 2011), 109–23, and A. Holton-Krayenbuhl, ‘The Infirmary Complex at Ely’, Archaeol. J., 154 (1997), 118–72. 48. R. Gilchrist, Norwich Cathedral Close: The Evolution of the English Cathedral Landscape (Wood­ bridge 2005), 165–98 and fig. 63. According to the First Register, the infirmary at Norwich was built in 1183, while John of Oxford (1175–1200) was bishop; see E. Fernie, An Architectural History of Norwich Cathedral (Oxford 1993), 159. 49. Notwithstanding numerous documentary references to the building of monastic infirmaries in England in the 11th and early 12th centuries, there is little archaeological evidence for their design before the second quarter of the 12th century. Earlier medieval infirmaries may have followed the arrangement suggested on the Sankt Gall plan, with a collection of separate chambers arranged around a cloister, one side of which was occupied by the infirmary chapel. While not exactly paralleling the Sankt Gall plan, certain early Cistercian infirmaries, such as Clairvaux and Waverley, seem close to this apparent early medieval type, grouping structures irregularly around a cloister. For an illuminating discussion on both the Cistercian examples and monastic infirmary design in general, along with a generous compendium of plans, see P. Fergusson and S. Harrison, Rievaulx Abbey: Community, Architecture, Memory (New Haven CT/London 1999), 111–35. 50. Fergusson and Harrison, Rievaulx (as n. 49), 123–27. 51. See T. Tatton-Brown, ‘The Buildings and Topography of St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury’, JBAA, CXLIV (1991), 61–91, here 75–76 and fig. 2, and Fergusson and Harrison, Rievaulx (as n. 49), 125. The infir­ mary seems likely to have been built under Hugh of Trottescliffe, as it was Hugh who appropriated the church of Chislet to the infirmary. I am immensely grateful to Tim Tatton-Brown for providing me with this reference; see William Thorne’s Chronicle of St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury, ed. A. H. Davis (Oxford 1934), 69. 52. Westlake, Westminster Abbey (as in n. 30), 320–22. The text of the customary implies an axial arrange­ ment: ‘At the two evening processions which take place in winter from the convent as far as the [infirmary] chapel, small candles are to be lit to light it through its length as well as a large fire in the middle of the hall’. The translation is Westlake’s, ibid., 320, n. 4. 53. There is some discussion as to whether the chancel of the infirmary chapel at Christ Church Canterbury was originally apsidal but rapidly reconstructed with a square east end after differential settlement, as has been argued by Tatton-Brown, or was built as a square-ended chapel from the outset, as at Westminster and Ely. Fergusson has most recently argued in favour of the latter; see Fergusson, Canterbury Cathedral Priory (as


stuart harrison and john m c neill n. 47), 119–20. Conversely, the infirmary chapel one now sees as a partial ruin at Rievaulx was a replacement of c. 1200. The mid-12th-century infirmary chapel was smaller and positioned off the south-east corner of the hall; see Fergusson and Harrison, Rievaulx (as n. 49), 127. 54. The relevant section of the 1234 visitation is ‘Item discursum per claustrum et per infirmariam versus cameram prioris tam monachis quam aliis fieri firmiter prohibemus ne tranquillitas claustralium turbetur’; see R. Graham, ‘A Papal Visitation of Bury St Edmunds and Westminster in 1234’, English Historical Review, XXVII (1912), 739. The 1266 order is in BL, Cotton MS Faustina A III, fol. 210; see Westlake, Westminster Abbey (as n. 30), 443. 55. Westlake, Westminster Abbey (as n. 30), 443. Lethaby also included an infirmary cloister in his sug­ gested 12th-century infirmary plan; see Lethaby, Westminster Re-Examined (as n. 1), 31, fig. 11. Barbara Harvey, on the other hand, very much doubts that the 12th-century infirmary buildings included a cloister; see Harvey, Living and Dying in Medieval England (as n. 31), 87–90. 56. See n. 55, and Harvey, Living and Dying in Medieval England (as n. 31), 89. The relevant accounts are in Westminster Abbey Muniments 19318. 57. By the later Middle Ages, there were two latrines attached to the infirmary, one by the entry to the infirmary garden. A second latrine drained into a cess-pit. See Harvey, Living and Dying in Medieval England (as n. 31), 79 and 90. 58. Fergusson and Harrison, Rievaulx (as n. 49), 130. 59. In a charter dateable to between 1158 and 1169, Nigel, bishop of Ely, granted the monks of Ely one treetrunk each week for work on their infirmary from the bishop’s wood at Somersham; see N. Karn, English Episcopal Acta 31: Ely 1109–1197 (Oxford 2005), no. 46. 60. Among monastic infirmaries that predate the new wave of building in the 1150s the infirmary built at St Albans by Abbot Geoffrey de Gorron (1119–46) may have been influential. The problem is that practically nothing is known about it other than what is recorded in the Gesta Abbatum. This does, however, suggest it consisted of an axially aligned hall and chapel: ‘Et alium domum construxit, ipsi aulae consimilem, cum capella versus orientem, videlicet Infirmariam: in qua Infirmaria et capella jussit, ut prius silentium districte observari, et valentudinarios ad majorem mensam’; Thomas of Walsingham, Gesta Abbatum (as n. 35), 76. 61. At Ely the alternation is A-B1-A-B2-A-B1; at Westminster it is A-B1-A-B1. 62. See, in particular, All Saints, Walsoken (Norfolk). 63. Lethaby, Westminster Re-Examined (as n. 1), 32–33. See also Lethaby’s comments in W. R. Lethaby, ‘The Cloister of Southwark Priory and other early Cloisters’, Archaeol. J., 71 (1914), 155–60, at 156. 64. Such discoveries are not uncommon, as it was standard practice to recycle stone when rebuilding cloister arcades. The surviving 12th-century capitals from the cloister of Norwich Cathedral Priory were simi­ larly recovered from the later medieval wall cores of the replacement cloister; see J. Franklin, ‘The Roman­ esque Cloister Sculpture at Norwich Cathedral Priory’, in Studies in Medieval Sculpture, ed. F. H. Thompson (London 1983), 56–70, at 56. 65. Lethaby, Westminster Re-Examined (as n. 1), 34. 66. Ibid., 31–32. Most of the surviving voussoirs are likely to be from the infirmary chapel, but Lethaby included some particularly elaborate intersecting blind arcading with the material he believed to have originated in the infirmary, illustrated at fig. 13. 67. See Scott, Gleanings (as n. 6), 14–15, and Lethaby, Westminster Re-Examined (as in n. 1), fig. 15. There are fragments of two heavily beaded capitals and three voussoirs (carved with an embattled design enriched with beading on both the extrados and soffit) that probably also belong with this group. The discoveries were not mentioned by Scott in Gleanings from Westminster Abbey and must have been made some time after his RIBA lecture. 68. Rodwell, ‘New Glimpses’ (as n. 11), 155. 69. Westminster’s lapidary collection contains a number of voussoirs, but of those used by Lethaby in his cloister arcade reconstruction only one survives. The remaining voussoirs in the lapidary collection fall into two groups: one with beading that relates to the mid-12th-century carved stonework excavated in the nave, and the other consisting of chevron comparable to that of the infirmary chapel. One spurred base also survives, and appears likely to belong to a portal or window jamb. 70. See, for example, Roda de Isa´bena, or La Seu d’Urgell. 71. See R. Baxter and S. Harrison, ‘The Decoration of the Cloister at Reading Abbey’ in Windsor: Medieval Archaeology, Art and Architecture of the Thames Valley, ed. L. Keen and E. Scarff, BAA Trans., xxv (Leeds 2002), 302–12. 72. See, for example, the nave of St Margaret at Cliffe (Kent). 73. Baxter and Harrison, ‘Reading Abbey’ (as n. 73), 304. 74. That is to say that the capitals are roughly 12 in. (305 mm) from the upper surface to the bottom of the necking, while the upper surface is 12 in.612 in.


The Romanesque Monastic Buildings at Westminster Abbey 75. The exception to this is the capital above what is now the central column in the Pyx Chamber, where the design is sufficiently different to suggest these may have been recut earlier in the 12th century. 76. J. Hardacre, Winchester Cathedral Triforium Gallery Catalogue (Winchester 1989), 8–11. Much of the sculpture from St Barthomew’s Smithfield remains unpublished, but for a discussion of its broader stylistic context, see M. Thurlby, ‘The Place of St Albans in Regional Sculpture and Architecture in the Second Half of the Twelfth Century’, in Alban and St Albans: Roman and Medieval Architecture, Art and Archaeology, ed. M. Henig and P. Lindley, BAA Trans., xxiv (Leeds 2001), 162–75. 77. For a broader discussion, see S. Harrison, ‘Benedictine and Augustinian Cloister Arcades of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries in England, Wales and Scotland’, JBAA, 159 (2006), 105–30, and D. Robinson and S. Harrison, ‘Cistercian Cloisters in England and Wales’, ibid., 131–207. 78. Lethaby, Westminster Re-Examined (as n. 1), 34 and fig. 19. 79. Unfortunately, Lethaby offers no details. If a stub of the capital frame survived to form the basis for his reconstruction drawing it would be significant, as it would open up the possibility that the Judgement capital existed in a larger context. Indeed, the imagery of Lethaby’s lost capital — Luxuria on one side and a devil seizing a soul on the other — suggests it too may have been part of a larger iconographical composition. The parable of Dives and Lazarus sometimes encompassed both these images. 80. The piece in question is the third from the bottom on the left-hand side of a hatchway on the south side of the refectory giving on to the misericorde. The photograph was published in 1899, at which date the hatchway was in the clerk of works’ office. 81. Reported under ‘Antiquarian Researches’ for 9 June 1831; see The Gentleman’s Magazine, CL/1 (1831), 545. 82. E. W. Brayley ed., The Graphic and Historical Illustrator (London 1834), 87–88, and E. W. Brayley and J. Britton, The History of the Ancient Palace and Late Houses of Parliament at Westminster (London 1836), 444–46. 83. Brayley and Britton had not only acquired a collection of Capon’s drawings, they also had his notes on the capital, which they duly summarized. 84. Brayley and Britton, History of the Ancient Palace and Late Houses of Parliament (as in n. 82), 444. See also ‘Notes and Remarks, by the late Mr. William Capon, to accompany his Plan of the ancient Palace of Westminster [Read 23d December, 1824.]’, SAL, Vetusta Monumenta, V (London 1828), 1–7. The plan on pl. XLVII shows the site where the capital was discovered in 1807. 85. Graphic and Historical Illustrator (as n. 82), 88. 86. Ibid., 87. 87. Brayley and Britton, History of the Ancient Palace and Late Houses of Parliament (as n. 82), 446. Like others before us, we have made attempts to trace the capital, and John McNeill would like to record his thanks to Nigel Ramsay for suggesting he get in touch with the descendants of Sir Gregory Page Turner, and to Noel Page-Turner of Honiton for generously spending many hours searching through the family papers. It appears there is no mention of the capital in the surviving family papers, nor in those papers deposited by Mr F. A. Page-Turner at the Bedfordshire Records Office. 88. Lethaby, Westminster Re-Examined (as n. 1), 35, and F. Barlow, William Rufus (London 1983), 113–14. Barlow suggests the inscription should be read as LAUS FU[NDATORIBUS] ET RELI[QUIIS]/ [SANCTOR]U[M] SUB ABB[AT]E GISLE[BERTO]/[ET REGE] WILLELMO SECUN[DO]. Lawrence Stone followed Lethaby in suggesting the capital was appreciably later than the Judgement of Solomon capital; see L. Stone, Sculpture in Britain: The Middle Ages (Harmondsworth 1955), 50, n. 10. 89. Richard Mortimer, personal communication. See also E. Mason, Westminster Abbey and its People, c.1050–c.1216 (Woodbridge 1996), 24–32. We would also like to thank David Bates, who has been immensely helpful in discussing the capital, and assuaged a concern expressed at the conference that the usage Willelmo Secundo was anachronistic, pointing out that although the numbering of English kings was unusual before the middle of the 12th century it was not unknown. Herman the Archdeacon uses the term Willelmus secundus in a passage that was written before 1095; see Herman the Archdeacon and Goscelin of St-Bertin, Miracles of St Edmund, ed. T. Licence (Oxford 2014). 90. The death of Abbot Gilbert Crispin in 1117 or 1118 brought an interregnum that proved catastrophic, and over the next three or four years the Abbey lost control of a significant portion of its estates. Although the date at which Osbert de Clare became prior is unknown, it was during the abbacy of Herbert (1121–1136x38) that he was appointed, and during the abbacy of his successor, Gervase (1138–57) that he stepped down. Osbert was frequently at odds with the abbots, a condition that earned him periods of demotion or exile. To an extent, this clouds the dates at which Osbert produced his forgeries, though his motive seems reasonably clear — that the fake charters might act as an inexpensive way of winning back Westminster estates; see Mason, Westminster and its People (as n. 89), 33–40. 91. On Abbot Gervase, see ibid., 37–51.


stuart harrison and john m c neill 92. For a general consideration of the sculpture in Anselm’s crypt, see D. Kahn, Canterbury Cathedral and its Romanesque Sculpture (London 1991), 37–75. 93. I Kings 3, 16–28. 94. George Zarnecki clearly felt differently, and suggested that the opening scene was the damaged face to the right of the face showing the soldier with his sword raised — what is argued above to be the second scene. Zarnecki also dated the capital to c. 1120, bringing earlier by twenty years the dating he first suggested in the 1950s; see G. Zarnecki, J. Holt and T. Holland, English Romanesque Art 1066–1200 (London 1984), 158, and G. Zarnecki, Later English Romanesque Sculpture 1140–1210 (London 1953), 53 and pl. 1. 95. The relief depicting the Judgement of Solomon on the San Nazaro reliquary is conveniently illustrated in J. Elsner, Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph (Oxford 1998), 230, and discussed at greater length in B. Ku¨lerich, Fourth-Century Classicism and the Plastic Arts (Odense 1993), 181–82. 96. For an illustration of the Judgement in the Bible from San Paolo fuori le Mura, see V. Jemolo and M. Morelli, La Bibbia di San Paolo fuori le Mura (Rome 1981), plate 15. For a larger discussion of the icono­ graphical development of the subject, see C. M. Kauffmann, ‘The Iconography of the Judgement of Solomon in the Middle Ages’, in Tributes to Jonathan J. G. Alexander: The Making and Meaning of Illuminated Medieval & Renaissance Manuscripts, Art and Architecture, ed. P. Guest and S. L’Engle (Turnhout 2006), 297–303. 97. Stuttgart, Landesbibliothek, Cod. Bibl. FOL 23, fol. 83v. For the later examples, see Kauffmann, ‘Judge­ ment of Solomon’ (as n. 96), 300–02. 98. For a short description and illustrations, see the entry by Charles Little in J. P. O’Neill ed., The Art of Medieval Spain a .d . 500–1200 (New York 1993), 141–42. The description of the relevant imagery as a multiscene Judgement of Solomon depends on one accepting that the representation of the Temple of Jerusalem on one of the short sides of the casket is intended to be read with the Judgement scene. Little dates the casket to between the 8th and 10th centuries, though the dating of earlier scholars to the late 10th or 11th centuries seems more likely. 99. A late Carolinigian ivory in the Louvre shows the mother of the living child in a gesture of supplication, further suggesting that the iconography of the two mothers before Solomon had hardened up by c. 1000; see A. Goldschmidt, Die Elfenbeinskulpturen aus der Zeit der Karolingischen und Sa¨chsischen Kaiser, VIII.–XI. Jahrhundert, 2 vols (Berlin 1914, 1918), I, no. 142, pl. 60. 100. V. Beyer, C. Wild-Block and F. Zschokke, Les Vitraux de la cathe´drale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, CVMA France IX/1 (Paris 1986), 70–75 and figs 52–57. The three narrative roundels are in transept bay nIII, to which they were moved in 1855. Prior to this they were in the innermost clerestory window on the east side of the south transept. 101. Moissac is a different proposition altogether, in that all the capitals believed to have been carved between c. 1096 and 1100 for the cloister arcade survive, and that more than half of these capitals depict subjects that might be described as narrative. For convenient diagrams, see M. C. Pereira, ‘Syntaxe et place des images dans le cloıˆtre de Moissac’, in Der mittelalterliche Kreuzgang, ed. P. Klein (Regensburg 2004), 212–19. Most recently, see C. Fraisse, ‘Le cloıˆtre de Moissac a-t-il un programme?’, Cahiers de Civilisation Me´die´vale, 50 (2007), 245–70. 102. If Lethaby’s intuition was correct, and the Judgement of Solomon was part of a larger figurative grouping of capitals carved around 1100, one would have to think this through more carefully. Few 11th­ century chapter-house fac¸ades survive, and those that do, such as Charlieu or Saint-Benigne at Dijon, were designed with several subdivided openings piercing the chapter-house west wall. Several capitals carved in the round could thus be accommodated above a stylobate. There are four pairs of columns in the case of Dijon, and originally probably eleven pairs of columns at Charlieu; see Sapin, Les pre´mices de l’art roman (as n. 19), 70–78. The design of the Westminster chapter-house fac¸ade is obviously impossible to deduce from current evidence, though it is reasonable to suppose it will have had a portal and at least two subdivided openings in the west wall. Thus there will have been room for at least two capitals carved on all faces (possibly more), along with a number of respond capitals in the portal. The only capital that Lethaby associated with the Judgement of Solomon was Luxuria. The remaining figurative capitals visible on Thomas Wright’s photo­ graphs appear later than 1100, and as most are respond capitals, they presumably formed part of a portal composition. 103. For a recent discussion of this question, see P. Klein, ‘The Iconography of the Cloister of Gerona Cathedral and the Functionalist Interpretation of Romanesque Historiated Cloisters: Limits and Possibilities’, in Cathedrals in Mediterranean Europe (11th–12th centuries): Ritual Stages and Sceneries, ed. G. Boto-Varela and J. Kroesen (Turnhout forthcoming). 104. Warwick Rodwell, personal communication. The painted chevron from the refectory was found in 2008, while the scallop capital was discovered in 2011 immediately south-west of the south-west tower of the Abbey, when a doorway was cut through the undercroft wall. Ailnoth was paid 40 shillings for supervising the


The Romanesque Monastic Buildings at Westminster Abbey recovering of the refectory roof during the vacancy that followed Lawrence’s death in 1174–75; Pipe Roll 21 Henry II, 80. See King’s Works (as n. 14), I, 58. Ailnoth’s work may have marked the completion of a larger refurbishment of the refectory. 105. For a discussion of blind arcading in English 12th-century chapter-houses, see J. McNeill, ‘The Romanesque Fabric’, in The Medieval Art, Architecture and History of Bristol Cathedral: An Enigma Explored, ed. J. Cannon and B. Williamson (Woodbridge 2011), 53–55. 106. The voussoir is labelled A20, and stylistically is likely to date from the 1150s or 1160s. As the cloister was also reconstructed at around this date, the voussoir could equally have formed part of a laver pavilion. 107. For a good account of Herbert’s abbacy, see Mason, Westminster Abbey and its People (as in n. 90), 33–36. 108. Ibid., 42–47. 109. Babara Harvey, ‘Abbot Gervase de Blois and the Fee-Farms of Westminster Abbey’, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, 40 (1967), 127–41, and Mason, Westminster Abbey and its People (as n. 90), 37–51. Gervase’s deposition was humiliating for the monks, and all the more difficult to accept if it was arbitrary and solely motivated by Henry II’s distrust of the kinsmen of King Stephen. From a later perspective, it must have seemed better if this could be presented as the rightful deposition of a corrupt and incompetent abbot, rather than as a precedent for unwarranted royal interference. 110. Notably the chronicle of John of Hexham and St Albans Gesta Abbatum. See Symeonis Monachi Opera Omnia, ed. A. Thomas, 2 vols (Rolls Series, lxxv, London 1882, 1885), II, 330, and Thomas of Walsingham, Gesta Abbatum (as in n. 35), 133. Abbot Lawrence had spent much of his early life at Durham, and on the advice of Maurice of Rievaulx (presumably before 1138 when Maurice resigned his post as subprior at Durham), went to Paris, where he attended the lectures of Hugh of St Victor. By 1143, he was back in England, carrying a personal letter of recommendation from Bernard of Clairvaux. For the next decade, he remained at Durham, and participated in the disputed election of Hugh le Puiset to the bishopric of Durham in 1153. After the election was overturned, and the bishop-elect and his supporters set out for Rome, Lawrence detached himself from the party and, according to John of Hexham, joined the monastic community at St Albans. Thereafter, we are told, he found favour with Henry II, and was appointed abbot of Westminster following the deposition of Gervase in 1158. 111. See, for example, ‘Et innata sibi liberalitate, Laurentium, Abbatem Westmonasterii de novo creatum, ut prætactum est, omni instauramento destitutum, (qui dilapidatorum habuit prædecessorem,) adeo efficaciter juvit, ut in brevi honorifice respiraret’ or ‘Abbas enim Westmonasterii, præedecessor Laurentii, ‘‘Gerum’’ nomine, filius Regis Stephani, clarior genere quam moribus, omnem fere ecclesiæe suæe substantiam in usus saeculares, ut prætactum est, secus quam deceret aut expediret, dissipaverat; ita ut nec ad victum vel vestitum conventus aliquid Laurentio, successor suo, reliquerat’; see Thomas of Walsingham, Gesta Abbatum (as n. 35), 112 and 133. 112. ‘In multis ecclesiae etiam profuit, et gratiam coram Matilde imperatrice tunc Anglorum domina invenit, et a rege Henrico secundo ejusdem imperatricis filio, utpote in reparatione officinarum monasterii et plumbatione earum, quae prius pro majore parte combustae erant et ruinosae’; History of Westminster Abbey by John Flete (as n. 21), 92. 113. Westminster suffered serious losses of income in the 1140s, when its valuable estates in the West Midlands were ravaged by Robert of Gloucester, as well as with the seizure of lands elsewhere; see Mason, Westminster Abbey and its People (as n. 89), 47–48. 114. For an extended discussion, see J. McNeill, ‘The Romanesque Cloister in England’, JBAA, 168 (2015), 34–76. 115. For Norwich, see Franklin, ‘Romanesque Cloister Sculpture at Norwich’ (as n. 68), 68. For a broader discussion, see Harrison, ‘Benedictine and Augustinian Cloister Arcades’ (as n. 77), 106–09. 116. As was the case with the initial late-11th-century cloister at Saint-Georges de Boscherville, which was built with wooden posts; see J. Le Maho, ‘Autour de la foundation de l’abbaye de Boscherville (de´but du XIIe s.), quelques observations historiques et arche´ologiques’, Bulletin de la commission de´partementale des Antiquite´s de la Seine-Maritime, XLIII (1995), 129–42. A substantial earth-fast post discovered during under­ pinning work at No. 18 Dean’s Yard (Liddells) in 2006 was analysed by the Oxford Dendrochronology Laboratory and given a felling date of 1092–1124, demonstrating that substantial timber structures were in use in the outer court into the 12th century. We are grateful to Tim Tatton-Brown to drawing this to our atten­ tion, and to Dan Miles for his generosity in sending us a copy of his report.


Numerical Archaeology: Gleanings from the 1253 Building Accounts of Westminster Abbey Revisited A. RICHARD JONES

By treating the content of documents rather than objects — particularly quantities and dates in the documents — numerical archaeology distinguishes itself from physical archaeology. Their goals do not differ: discovering what was done, and possibly to whom, by whom and why. Numerical archaeology is possibly more cerebral than physical archaeology, but seldom destroys the object of study. The principal difficulty of numerical archaeology is finding documents representative of the subject studied, rather than scattered randomly surviving snippets. Fortunately, in the case of West­ minster Abbey, there exists a substantially complete set of transcribed, translated and published accounts for the year 1253. These 1253 Westminster Abbey building accounts are the earliest known surviving record of a complete year in the construction of a large British church. the context of the 1253 accounts By 1253, construction at Westminster Abbey had been in progress for the seven pre­ vious years, starting in 1246 — eight years counting the demolition of the old church in 1245.1 The vast needs of this and other mid-13th-century projects for stone had lately transformed the quarries at Reigate from small surface operations to large under­ ground mines.2 Clearly, such projects were an economic engine demanding labour (particularly skilled labour), timber, lime, lead and other materials in unprecedented amounts, and would have altered the economic landscape in all these areas. After 1253, the project continued for nineteen additional years until the death of Henry III in 1272, which ‘brought the works to a standstill’, at which point ‘the fifth bay of the nave was complete to the top of the triforium, but lacked both clerestory and vault’.3 The year 1253 was the eighth of the twenty-seven years of this construction campaign. With only one (informed) guess — £1,500 for the total of both 1262 and 1263, or £750 a year for 1262–63 — Colvin’s best estimate4 of the cumulative expenditure for the twenty-seven years is £41,248,5 an average of £1,528 a year. Spending in 1253, namely £2,138, was well above this average. Colvin’s table6 cites cumulative expendi­ tures for 1246–59 of £28,128 (just over £2,009 a year for fourteen years), and for 1246–61 of £29,346 (just over £1,834 a year for sixteen years). The difference in the two cumulative figures, covering 1260–61 is £1,218, or £609 a year. Colvin’s table also provides totals for three sets of three years: £3,182 for 1264–66, £3,657 for 1267–69, and £3,563 for 1270–72. 104

BAA Trans., vol. xxxix, part i (2015), 104–128 # British Archaeological Association 2015

Numerical Archaeology

Given these amounts, it is possible to assign an expense to each year so that all the above amounts obtain. Of the many ways to do this, all will show a big decrease around 1260–63. One way is to project the £609 of 1260 backwards to 1259, with the remaining years 1246–58 assigned the same amount as is known for 1253, but with 1246 slightly reduced to £1,863 to create the correct 1259 sum. The years 1260–63 are as above, and the remaining three sets of three years are each assigned the average of the set. This solution, shown in Figure 1, can only be indicative, not in any sense reflecting more than the roughest contour of the project. It nevertheless comports with Lethaby’s ‘two works’: By the two works of the King is meant the building of the transepts, crossing, and the whole of the church to the east of these, including the chapter-house, in one effort; and then the extension toward the west in a second building period.7

The decrease in spending around 1260–63 represents a diminution of effort between the two works. Using year-by-year revenue figures from Ramsay8 and the expenditures of Figure 1, the proportion of the king’s revenues that went to Westminster Abbey each year from 1246 to 1271 varies from 1.2% to 9.8%. Over the twenty-seven years, the total expen­ diture on Westminster Abbey was 4.7% of the total of the kingdom’s revenues. It is quite remarkable that the one building absorbed such a large portion of the revenues, a clear demonstration of its importance to Henry. collateral material on the baa website The 2013 BAA conference at Westminster afforded an opportunity to rehearse and extend my earlier paper, ‘Gleanings from the 1253 Building Accounts of Westminster Abbey’ (henceforth GBA).9 As space precludes reproducing the full text of GBA, and its distribution, particularly in the UK, was sparse, the BAA has kindly made it available on its website. GBA should be consulted in conjunction with this paper, which will summarize it but deal mainly with previously unpublished material. The primary results of GBA were a complete table of tallies and wages for all workers recorded in the accounts, and a spreadsheet encompassing each purchase in the accounts and vari­ ous extracts from these. The worker table (GBA, fig. 5) is reproduced here as Figure 2, and the complete purchase accounts from the spreadsheet, merely excerpted in GBA, is Figure 3. In addition, the purchase spreadsheet is available on the BAA website as a Microsoft Excel1 spreadsheet in working order (henceforth PSS), with several sheets of supporting and derived material following the purchase sheet itself. the building account documents Around 1860, modern antiquarians ‘discovered’ a number of documents. Elizabeth Hallam Smith relates that in December 1859, on the death of Frederick Devon, the senior record keeper for the then vast confusion of presses, chests and disorderly piles of Public Record Office archives kept in Westminster Abbey’s chapter-house, ‘his longsuffering and more able deputy, and now successor, Joseph Burtt’ could at last begin the removal of these records to the new Public Record Office in Chancery lane, without Devon’s opposition.10 And in 1863, in an Appendix to the second edition of G. G. Scott’s book, Gleanings from Westminster Abbey, Robert Willis wrote: ‘Among the records deposited in the Public Record Office, one has been lately discovered by Mr. Burtt, 105

Fig. 1. Yearly and cumulative expenditure at Westminster Abbey, 1246–1272

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GBA, fig. 5

Fig. 2. 1253 at Westminster Abbey: workers and wages. Italic: not included in the accounts; not bold: discrepant sum; shaded: not explicit in the accounts, but consonant with them

Numerical Archaeology

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Fig. 3.


1253 at Westminster Abbey: purchase transactions by week(s), weeks -11 . . . 32

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Fig. 3. (continued)


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Fig. 3. (continued)


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Fig. 3. (continued)


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Fig. 3. (continued)


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Fig. 3. (continued)


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Fig. 3. (continued)


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Fig. 3. (continued)


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Fig. 3. (continued)

entitled ‘‘A roll of Payments of Wages, and of Purchases for the Works at Westminster, 37 Henry III’’’ (a roll of 31 weekly accounts, hence the abbreviation adopted here, A31W). These weekly accounts cover 1253 from Easter week until 6 December.11 Although it is not specifically confirmed, the sequence of events makes it easy to imagine that Burtt’s discovery was made in consequence of his administering the move to Chancery Lane. Willis transcribed A31W and tabulated many of its worker tallies, numbering the 31 weeks 1 to 32, calling Whitsun week (absent from the 31 weekly accounts as no work was done) week 7. A31W and three further documents (one sig­ nificant, two ancillary) comprise the objects studied: O A1Q: a summary account for the first quarter [1Q] of the year, the 11 weeks before

Easter.12 This is, of course, less detailed than A31W, but does extend coverage to the entire work-year. Extending Willis’s numbering, these weeks are numbered -11 to -1. Easter week (also absent from the accounts as no work was done) is after week -1 and before week 1, so is numbered 0; O D1Q: some of the details A1Q summarizes;13 O D3W: a memorandum of some details of the three weeks 28 April to 17 May 1253.14

Colvin’s edition of these documents — transcribed with abbreviations resolved, and translated on facing pages — is nearly perfect numerically. The only significant problem with Colvin’s edition is misplaced braces in D1Q, which alter the meaning; analysis of D1Q used the braces’ original placement. 116

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The hand that wrote A31W appears reasonably consistent throughout the original document. Variations in the names of the trades (worker categories), however, argue for three distinct writers. A table of the literal Latin text for each trade in each week revealed sets of weeks (three in all) with consistent spelling, each group presumably written by one scribe. Thanks are due Kathleen Much for consulting on this grouping. It is likely no coincidence that the accounts count three keepers and clerks — custo­ dians of the accounts. spreadsheets Figure 3 by itself is only a modern version of the original, a scribe’s exercise. Numerical archaeology is in the analysis of the data. By removing the unadulterated, error-prone drudgery from analysis, spreadsheet software marvellously facilitates it. First, it provides simple data accumulation in the process of properly creating a spread­ sheet, as well as data extraction according to complex conditions. Second, modern spreadsheet software provides a wide variety of numerical manipulations of extracted data. These include computing statistical properties and even manipulating matrices of data, which, among other things, can solve sets of simultaneous equalities. Third, the chart facilities of the spreadsheet, coupled with manipulation, create a variety of visual representations of the numerical gleanings. lists: simple data collection Lists of suppliers (GBA, fig. 10), goods (GBA, fig. 9) and units of measure (GBA, fig. 9) developed as purchases were entered into the spreadsheet: every use of these attributes in the purchases sheet was entered as a reference to a list entry in a separate (remote) sheet. An entry was added to the remote list if it was not already present. Thus, the data entry process produced the lists, which may also be seen in PSS. These lists are inter­ esting themselves, but also enable more complex inquiries. The most interesting of the three lists is the list of goods and task work purchased. This is not only an inventory of the contents of a cathedral-building kit for one year, but also includes the expendable necessities of a large construction project. There are no great surprises, but several items might not occur to everyone: Henry of Bridge supplied wax and pitch in weeks 12 and 30, tallow and grease in week 28, and oil and varnish in week 29; he and others provided locks in weeks 5, 9 and 14, with locks mended in week 24; straw in several weeks; and so on. The list of names, sorted several different ways, gives an impression of naming at the time, and indicates some of the geographical diversity of the workers; there is no stunning revelation. Finally, as GBA discusses, the list of units reveals some difficulty with an insufficiently granular currency, and an unresolved difficulty with the units of stone, which seem to relate poorly to the amount of stone and its price. Because of this difficulty, the units of stone, chalk, and marble are denoted cstu., rather than Colvin’s cwt; similarly, cliu. replaces cwt. for lime. Both substitutions connote uncertainty about the correct unit. Other units that may be unfamiliar are the rick for straw, the char for lead, the ell for canvas, the seam and the wey for glass, and the sheaf for steel. Dictionaries define a rick as a stack, but are not more specific — it is a largish, ambiguous measure, probably a fully heaped-up cart. Char informally means a cartload, but actually has a formal definition as 2,100 pounds of 25s. per pound.15 Ells, as discussed more fully below, are 117

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45 inches. For glass, the seam was 20 glass stone of 5 pounds [as opposed to the 8-, 12-, 121/2-, 14-, etc.-pound stones for other goods], 100 pounds.16 For most commodities, the wey (a ‘weigh’) was a much larger unit than the seam, but for glass, it was considerably smaller. Endorsement 4 at the end of A31W prices coloured glass at 12s. per seam and white glass at 6s. per seam. Applying these prices to a transaction in week 6 — two seams of coloured glass, four seams of white glass and eight weys of white glass, 52s. — the cost of the 8 weys of white glass is 4s. or 1/2s. per wey, or 1/24 the price of a seam of white glass. Assuming weights proportional to prices, a wey of glass was 1/24 the weight of a 100-pound seam of glass, thus 41/6 pounds. A different conclusion, based on Endorsement 4’s cost of 4s. for 6 weys of coloured glass — 2/3s. per wey compared to 12s. per seam — is a wey of 1/18 of the 100-pound seam, thus 55/9 pounds. We sincerely hope that the wey was not different for the two kinds of glass, so that this difference merely reflects variation in the prices agreed for the various transactions. As these two results bracket 5 pounds per wey, they suggest that the wey for glass was the same as the 5-pound stone, 1/20 of a seam. Finally, a sheaf, Latin garba, is a bundle, probably of 30, steel rods, ingots, or sheets. calendar: data interpretation The holidays noted in A31W and D1Q enabled the construction of a work calendar (GBA, fig. 1) showing 1252/3’s holidays and work days. That calendar does not exhibit the holidays as a list; Figure 4 lists them. (There is an unstated assumption that no work occurred before Sunday, 2 February 1252/3 (Candlemas), or after Saturday, 6 December 1253.) The calendar allowed reconstructing the days and hours worked, using two extrinsic sources: the variation of sunrise and sunset at London’s latitude (adjusted for the 7-day discrepancy between today’s Gregorian calendar and the Julian calendar in 1253), and Salzman’s description of work practices.17 GBA figures 2, 3 and 4 exhibit work over the course of the year, as determined by holidays and the length of the day. In spite of 72-hour summer work weeks, the number of hours in the 1253 work year, 2,200, is surprisingly close to the modern American work-year of fifty 40-hour weeks — 2,000 hours. 1253 seasons and weather Beyond the obvious conclusion that Christianity governed work, the calendar also reveals that no work was done in winter. The short winter days meant fewer hours available for work — witness the reduced wages following 2 November. Avoiding the cold must also have been desired, partly for the workforce’s comfort, but more impor­ tantly to enable mixing lime mortar and to allow it to begin its setting unfrozen. No other effect of climate and weather is evident in the accounts. Consistent with this observation, Short writes: ‘1253 Greatest Drought all Spring and Summer, Harvest great Rains; in Oct. and long after Drought again’.18 So 1253 had good dry working weather, except for autumn floods, which did not affect Westminster.19 simple sorting Three sheets in PSS sort the totality of transactions for weeks -11 to 32 by vendor, by description and by unit. This groups similar vendors or descriptions or units for study 118

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Fig. 4.

1253 at Westminster Abbey: holidays

without the tedium of scanning all the transactions to identify the transactions that comprise a group. numerical manipulation: providing insight into management of the project Figure 12 in GBA tabulates the number of purchases from each vendor for weeks 1–32, with totals each week for all vendors, and totals for each vendor for all weeks — 329 transactions in all, 88 of which have no stated vendor. The top six named vendors were: Henry of Bridge (35 transactions); Roger of Reigate (33); Richard the lime-burner (26); Richard Eastcheap (24); Agnes the lime-burner (19); and Richard Ogul (18). Of the remaining named vendors, 2 have 8 transactions in weeks 1–32, 2 have 4, 4 have 3, 11 have 2, and 28 have only 1. (Weeks -11 to -1 have 15 additional transactions, for none of which the vendor is stated; the table in PSS includes those weeks.) This pattern 119

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indicates that the organization of a large construction project was less hierarchical in 1253 than is customary today. The 1253 project office had to deal with hordes of vendors, mostly for very few transactions, involving considerable effort in finding them, agreeing prices, and distributing compensation. Add to this the transactions for wages paid to hundreds of individuals and multiple task-workers, and the advantage of adding layers of subcontractors, as is now done, becomes quite clear. Task-work may be viewed as a step in this direction. For weeks -11 to 32, in addition to the purchase transaction counts by vendor and week just described, PSS tabulates: O purchase transaction counts by description and week; O purchase transaction counts by unit and week.

Other numerical manipulations are facilitated by the spreadsheet software, with few limits. As a simple example, the preceding tables could be changed to exhibit monetary amounts instead of transaction counts. The order of those totals is different, so the lines are re-sorted into descending order of purchases totals. For weeks -11 to 32, with tables separated into task-work and goods sections, and duplicate tables in pence and in £/s/d format, PSS tabulates: O task-work/goods expenditure by vendor and week;

O task-work/goods expenditure by description and week.

The prices of goods could be extracted, as well. In addition, complex conditions could also be applied, such as limiting the extraction to transactions of specific groups of items, or to amounts exceeding some threshold. numerical manipulation: the first-quarter layers reveal their wage scale D1Q lists the names of 24 layers (exactly the number of layers in A1Q), each layer’s total wages for the 11 weeks, and numerous notations, that on careful examination tell which weeks each layer worked. A cautionary note: Colvin’s edition misplaced braces in D1Q, altering the meaning; the braces’ original placement must be used in deter­ mining attendance. Attendance can be represented in a matrix with a line for each worker, a column for each week, and a column for total wages. From this repre­ sentation it is only a short step to couching the problem as a system of simultaneous equations — the exact formulation that has convinced so many people they cannot abide algebra. However, the matrix-inversion facility of the spreadsheet software handles solving systems of equations, so the pain is minimal. Some knowledge is, of course, necessary: duplicate lines must be combined into one, and dummy columns must be added to create a square matrix before solving it. With this massaging, solution surprisingly succeeded: an exact solution in integral pence existed for the weekly wage rates. Unfortunately, the exact solution had a different wage rate for most weeks, but with only minimal jiggering, and with guidance from the exact solution, the solution of GBA, figure 6 was obtained. This solution shows that: O the layers were paid on the holidays designated mason’s, and not paid on king’s


O pay for the chief layer was 30d. (2s. 6d.) a week, less 5d. for an unpaid day; O pay for the other 23 layers was 26d. (2s. 2d.) a week, less 4d. for an unpaid day.


Numerical Archaeology

If Holy Saturday was a holiday, it was a paid mason’s holiday, impossible to distin­ guish from a workday by examining wages. Whether Holy Saturday was a holiday remains unanswered. Two exceptions are marked in GBA, figure 6. D1Q states that John Wolecumb came on Tuesday of week -9, so his pay is made 4d. less than the others that week. It is hypothesized, and marked in GBA, figure 6, that he and three others were paid for the holiday in week -7, this being the only finagle necessary to obtain the exact wage totals shown in D1Q. It seems perfectly possible that these four worked on Ash Wednesday, presumably on something urgent. numerical manipulation: group 2 correlations There are three entities in group 2: accountants, carts and labourers. Each entity might be paid for both king’s and mason’s holidays; king’s but not mason’s; mason’s but not king’s; or neither mason’s nor king’s — that is, there are four possibilities for each entity. As pay policy could be set independently for each entity, there are 46464 or 64 possibilities. Using an educated guess for the average daily compensation of accountants, and of carts, and subtracting that from the total compensation for all three entities known from the accounts, a correlation coefficient of the remaining com­ pensation and the number of labourer-days is computed. Of the 64 coefficients, the highest is for the case in which accountants are paid for all holidays but carts and labourers are paid for none. Thus group 2 data support the idea that none of the holi­ days were workdays, but do not give any indication whether it was the king’s holidays or the mason’s holidays for which the masons were paid. The spreadsheet that gave this result is obsolete and can no longer be executed; a new spreadsheet gave slightly dif­ ferent results, so some reconciliation is needed. The 64 correlation coefficients are closely bunched, and depend on the wages chosen for accountants and carts, so this is not a robust conclusion. charts Charts, as in Figure 5 (GBA, fig. 13), summarize and display the pattern of expen­ diture, both as time series and as totals for the period. They are ‘management sum­ maries’, which visually present the ebb and flow of the various expenditures, and show their relative importance, both as time series and as yearly totals. These charts do not include weeks -11 to -1, because a bar for 11 weeks does not fit properly into a bar chart with a bar for each week. Weeks -11 to -1 could have been added into the pie charts, but were not for consistency with the bar charts. These charts are an alternate depiction of the same data as in the tables. The bar charts, in particular, present the ebb and flow of work visually; the pie charts show the importance of the components of expenditure. Charts of the worker tallies have also proved fruitful. A1Q cannot be included in these charts because its cumulative tallies make it impossible to say how many worked in a given week, only that the tallies cannot exceed, and are almost certainly lower than the cumulative tallies. Thus, Figure 6 (GBA, fig. 7) charts only the worker tallies for weeks 1 to 32. In both this chart and the worker table, bulges in some of the tallies appear. For example, the 31 weeks of carpenter tallies were 32, 32, 32, 32, 32, 33, 33, 28, 23, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 13, 13, 13, 13, 13, 14, 14, 15, 14, 14, 14, 9, 9, 9 and 9. 121

122 GBA, fig. 13

Fig. 5. 1253 at Westminster Abbey: (left) expenditure, weeks 1 . . . 32; (right) goods, weeks 1 . . . 32

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GBA, fig. 7

Fig. 6. 1253 at Westminster Abbey: workers

Numerical Archaeology


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This has a bulge at the start: the number of carpenters more than 16 for the 31 weeks is: 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 17, 17, 12, 7, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0 and 0. In about the same weeks, glaziers (more than 2) had a bulge. Plumbers were mostly absent except in about these same weeks. Carts (more than 2) had a bulge late in the year, and plasterers and scaffolders were also part-timers. The bar chart of all trades exposes these bulges visually, and was the basis for charting the bulges and part-time trades in Figure 7 (GBA, fig. 8), which led to a narrative in GBA about a sub-project, hypothesized to be the chapter-house glazing. cc.v x x ells of canvas for the chapter-house windows A1Q mentions CC.VXX [sic] ells of canvas for the chapter-house windows. The [sic] reflects an internal incongruity, fortuitously evident because the V exceeds four: the Roman C supposedly is 100, but VXX, which reads as five score (five times twenty), is also 100. So it seems unlikely that C and VXX both meant 100. Assuming VXX did mean 100, the format of CC.VXX implies that counting was in twenties, and C, because it appears to the left of the point, denotes more than VXX. Thus, C likely denotes at least six score. This affirms R. D. Connor quoting Pegolotti, that in London, from the 14th century, ‘Canvas is sold by the hundred with 120 to the hundred [C] and 5 quarters [of a yard, or 45 in.] to the ell’. Thus, 26120 + 100, or 340 ells, not 300, were bought. Connor indicates the width of the canvas was likely 61/2 quarters [of a yard, or 581/2 in.].20 The chapter-house has six windows, each with four main lights about 25 ft tall21 and 51 in. wide,22 with a seventh similar window about half that height over the entrance. The width of the canvas thus spans the width of the lights. The total length of all the main lights was: 61/2 windows64 lights625 ft — 650 ft Add another 12 ft of quatrefoils and sexfoil:23 7 windows heads64 widths612 ft — 336 ft inner vestibule: 4 lights6141/3 ft24 — 571/3 ft Altogether, a total of — 1,0431/3 ft The length of canvas bought was 340 ells645 in., or 15,300 in. — 1,275 ft which seems about right, as there was no allowance in the figures for overlap at the tops and bottoms of the lights, or for cutting and piecing around the window heads. This further affirms 120 for C, because if C were 100, the purchase of only 300 ells (13,500 in. — 1,125 ft) seems insufficient for overlap, cutting, piecing, and wastage. units GBA discusses the problematic unit used for stone. Another question of units arises for ‘boards’, for which there are four transactions. In two of these, the description is 124

GBA, fig. 8

Fig. 7. 1253 at Westminster Abbey: worker subset

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boards and laths; a third transaction is for timber, boards and laths. These three are for £1 or so, and seem to use boards in the sense of planks — the lack of enumeration suggests only a few. But the fourth transaction, in week 15, is for 1,000 boards costing £5. Here, ‘boards’ seems more like a unit, first because a quantity is stated, and second because it is such a large quantity that counting makes little sense unless the objects are similar. Also, the fourth transaction is only about four times the cost of the other three, suggesting that the postulated unit is physically smallish. No mention of a special medieval unit for wood seems to be documented, but the modern American wood unit is the board-foot, a notional unit of wood volume, 144 cubic inches, measuring 1 ft [12 in.] long, 1 ft [12 in. nominal, actual 111/2 in.] wide, and 1 in. [nominal, actual 3/4 in.] thick. For other scantlings (cross-sections), nominal width in feet times nominal thick­ ness in inches is multiplied by the exact length in feet to obtain board-feet. Is it more than wishful speculation to think that some analogous volume unit was meant by ‘boards’ in the fourth transaction? GBA discusses a problem with the units of measure for stone: if ‘hundredweight’ (cwt) is the correct unit, the quantity of stone purchased in 1253 seems unbelievably small. A remedy is suggested by the varying prices for Reigate stone quoted in TattonBrown: 4s. per cwt from the 1253 accounts; 6s. per cwt from a 1259 account; and 6s. per ton (not cwt), plus 14d. per ton freight, in 1367–68.25 Because there are 20 cwt in a ton, the late price is only about 1/20 of the earlier. It seems to me unlikely that the price of Reigate stone decreased by a factor of 20 between 1253 and 1368. And as the amount of stone in 1253 would be far too small if the ‘hundredweight’ in Colvin’s translations is correct, the conclusion seems inevitable that the unit is not, in fact, hundredweight. In week 8 of the A31W parchment, where the ink is particularly dark, the symbol above the quantity of stone Roger of Reigate provided looks like a circled vertical line and is transcribed by both Willis and Colvin as a ‘c’; ‘hundredweight’ is how Colvin then translates this ‘c’. However, Colvin also gives hundredweight as the unit for the free­ stone purchase transaction immediately above, even though no superscript symbol at all exists in A31W for that transaction. This difference, which Colvin does not take as a distinction, raises the question whether superscribed ‘c’ in these accounts is being used to distinguish tons from cwt. The possibility deserves further examination. summary and conclusions A year’s work at Westminster began 2 February 1252/3 and ended 5 December 1253, 44 weeks later, with minimal interference from the weather. No work was done the weeks of Easter and Whitsun, otherwise the standard work-week was six days. The year’s beginning and ending days were both holidays, in addition to the 26 holidays in the 42 weeks worked, leaving 226 work-days in the work-year, totalling about 2,200 hours work. An unusual practice designated holidays either king’s or mason’s; work was not done on either kind of holiday, but at least some of the workers were paid for mason’s holidays. A total of 341 workers (201 skilled, 140 unskilled) worked at some time in the weeks preceding Easter, but how many worked in any particular week is not possible to say, although it surely is fewer than these cumulative tallies. After Easter, weekly tallies are available: staffing in week 1 after Easter was 314 (159 skilled, 155 unskilled), increasing to a peak of 435 (210 skilled, 225 unskilled) in weeks 9 and 10, and diminishing to 119 (80 skilled, 39 unskilled) at the end of the work-year in week 32. 126

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Expenditure for the year is as follows. WAGES Weeks -11 to -1 Skilled Work £196 2s. 0d. £ 64 12s. 71/2d. Unskilled Work £260 14s. 71/2d. Total Wages

Weeks £ 522 £ 266 £ 788

1–32 8s. 71/2d. 1s. 111/2d. 10s. 7d.

All Weeks £ 718 10s. 71/2d. £ 330 14s. 7d. £1,049 5s. 21/2d.

PURCHASES Task Work Goods Total Purchases

Weeks -11 to -1 £ 44 8s. 8d. £180 15s. 11/2d. £225 3s. 91/2d.

Weeks £ 247 £ 615 £ 863

1–32 11s. 0d. 16s. 5d. 7s. 5d.

All Weeks £ 291 19s. 8d. £ 796 11s. 61/2d. £1,088 11s. 21/2d.


£485 18s. 5d.

£1,651 18s. 0d.

£2,137 16s. 5d.

The project seems to have involved a much larger number of people interacting with its top managers (that is, a much greater span of control) than is customary today. Informal hierarchies probably mitigated this. These are some of the conclusions achieved by following the numbers. There are surely more to be found, particularly by examining the amounts of materials purchased in 1253 that would be used together — for example, stone, lime and sand. As some of these materials might be stockpiled or aged for future use, it would be very desirable to have accounts for additional years. Even so, the numerical archaeology carried out and described thus far provides welcome insight into the progress of the work at West­ minster in 1253.

NOTES 1. R. A. Brown, H. M. Colvin and A. J. Taylor, The History of the King’s Works: The Middle Ages, 2 vols (London 1963), I, 4, 130–57 (Westminster Abbey). 2. T. Tatton-Brown, ‘The Quarrying and Distribution of Reigate Stone in the Middle Ages’, Medieval Archaeology, XLV (2001), 189–201. 3. King’s Works (as n. 1), I, 150. 4. This and other amounts cited are rounded to the nearest pound. 5. King’s Works (as n. 1), I, 157. 6. Ibid., 156. 7. W. R. Lethaby, Westminster Abbey Re-Examined (London 1925), 38. 8. James Henry Ramsay [of Bamff], Revenues of the Kings of England 1066–1399, 2 vols (Oxford 1925), I, 262–365 (Henry III (1216–72)). Henry III’s regnal years begin on 28 October, and are captioned 1252–53, for example. The latter year is taken to correspond to the calendar year of Fig. 1. 9. Published in the AVISTA Forum Journal, 11/2 (1998/99), 13–32. 10. Elizabeth Hallam Smith, ‘The Chapter House as a Record Office’, chapter 8 in W. Rodwell and R. Mortimer ed., Westminster Abbey Chapter House: the history, art and architecture of a ‘chapter house beyond compare’ (London 2010), 124–38, at 135. 11. H. M. Colvin, ‘Westminster Abbey: 6. Payments for works at Westminster Abbey from 28 April to 6 December, 1253’, in idem, Building Accounts of King Henry III (Oxford 1971), 248–87, with all numbers conformed to TNA, E 101/467/1, here abbreviated A31W. 12. Idem, ‘Westminster Abbey: 4. Account of works at Westminster Abbey and Palace from 1 February to 19 April, 1253’, ibid., 236–39, with numbers conformed to TNA, E 101/466/30, A1Q. 13. Idem, ‘Westminster Abbey: 3. Payments for works at Westminster Abbey from 2 February to 19 April, 1253’, ibid., 224–35, with numbers conformed to TNA, E 101/467/4, D1Q. 14. Idem, ‘Westminster Abbey: 5. Memoranda concerning payments for works at Westminster Abbey from 28 April to 17 May, 1253’, ibid., 240–47, with numbers conformed to TNA, E 101/683/1, D3W. 15. R. D. Connor, The Weights and Measures of England (London 1987), 130.


a. richard jones 16. Ibid., 135. 17. L. F. Salzman, Building in England down to 1540 (Oxford 1952, repr. 1992), chapter III, ‘Organization: Regulations, Hours’, 45–67. 18. T. Short, A general chronological history of the air, weather, seasons, meteors, &c. in sundry places and different times: more particularly for the space of 250 years: together with some of their most remarkable effects on animal (especially human) bodies and vegetables, 2 vols (London 1749), II, 201. 19. Ibid., I, 149. 20. Connor, Weights and Measures (as n. 15), 94–95. 21. Westminster Abbey Chapter House (as n. 10), 144, scaled from fig. 134. 22. Ibid., 145, scaled from fig. 135. 23. Ibid., 144, scaled from fig. 134. 24. Ibid., 59, fig. 66, height 14 ft 4 in. explicit in the drawing. 25. Tatton-Brown, ‘Reigate Stone’ (as n. 2), at 196 for 4s. per cwt and 6s. per cwt; at 198 for 6s. per ton.


The Iconography of Henry III’s Abbey: A Note Towards Elucidation of Themes PAMELA TUDOR-CRAIG

The extraordinary level of restraint displayed by generations of England’s most dis­ tinguished medieval architects in continuing, through three centuries of as many archi­ tectural fashions, the basic lines of Henry of Reims’s elevation of 1245, gives to Westminster Abbey a unity of proportions matched by the continuation to the west end of an interwoven iconographic programme laid down from the beginning. First, from the outset there were the interests of a closely involved patron, Henry III himself. Secondly, there were the concerns of the monks, who could have looked upon this regal presence, just a few steps outside their enclosure, as invasive. Thirdly, and least con­ spicuously, there were the special talents of the lodge, rejoicing in a new-found mastery of portraiture, not only of all ages and types, but of all facial expressions from joy to misery. Their chief fields of independent display were the higher levels of the exterior, where savage atmospheric conditions have left us only replacements, and the less acces­ sible triforia, where we may hope future generations will savour their character heads. By definition, these areas were of less interest to the patrons, and less rigidly controlled. An exception would be the Chapel of St Faith, strictly within the province of the monks, where some of the finest essays in this vein can be found. The monks were also the most likely to profit from the triforia, so their positive encouragement of this aspect of the best medieval sculpture is affirmed. The parallel iconographic concerns of Church and State, as played out at Westminster Abbey in the mid-13th century, might lead us to expect royal imagery to be more evident to the north, where the triple transept doorways opened, for the first 200 years, to receive official royal entries from Westminster Palace. The single monastic doorway to the south gave into the cloisters and monastic quarters. Observation confirms this distinction, but there is much common ground. It was the duty and honour of the monks to care for and to display on appropriate occasions the Abbey’s extensive col­ lection of relics. On the other hand, the bulk of the most significant relics had been, and continued to be, royal gifts. Henry III’s special interest in relics was displayed in his demonstrative reception of a relic of the Holy Blood, a story fully expounded by Nicholas Vincent.1 For this relic, received in 1247 from the patriarch of Jerusalem, the king gave, in succession, three precious reliquaries: the first of them, as you would expect, of crystal; the second, a gold miniature tower; and the third, a gold covered cup studded with jewels.2 The swift banishment of the crystal cup may have been on account of the hazard of the blood drying out. It is argued persuasively by Vincent that the choice of a covered cup for the shape of the third reliquary may have been influ­ enced by the new cult of the Holy Grail.3 Largely because it provoked no successful surge of miraculous cures, the Westminster relic was outshone by the Holy Blood at BAA Trans., vol. xxxix, part i (2015), 129–157 # British Archaeological Association 2015


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Hailes. Despite the disappointment over his Holy Blood relic, Henry III’s interest in relics was undiminished. It had been established by 1240, five years before he laid the foundation stone for the new Abbey itself, when Henry set about the creation of a new and more splendid shrine for the only English saint whose body to this day remains entire within its medieval housing: Edward the Confessor.4 We will return to the role of relics in the liturgical display of the Abbey as appropriate in following a route west­ ward from the iconographic high point of that Shrine. The chief purpose of this essay, however, is to explore the overarching intent, from the outset in 1245, of the sculptural element in Henry III’s major rebuilding of West­ minster Abbey. From the first he had reason, conveyed by reading and image, to associate the Abbey’s legendary foundation with a cloud of angelic witnesses: SEINT Pere, du ceil claver Va sa iglese dedier, Des angeles mut grant partie Li funt servise e grant aie Li angele chantent au servise La nuit quant dedient liglise (Cambridge University Library, MS Ee.3.59, fol. 18r)

Thus did the great W. R. Lethaby open his second book on the Abbey, still an essential text for our researches.5 Lethaby was quoting from La Estoire de Seint Aedward le Rei, the Anglo-Norman poetic version attributed to Matthew Paris of St Aelred’s Vita Sancti Edwardi Regis et Confessoris of c. 1163.6 Two versions of St Edward’s life were therefore current in the reign of Henry III: that of the Cistercian St Aelred, in Latin, and a more beguiling adaptation in Anglo-Norman verse of slightly less than a century later. Illustrated versions of each are still extant, both in a form later than their original conception.7 Richard de Berkyng was elected abbot of Westminster in 1222, two years after Henry III laid the foundation stone of the Lady Chapel, in which Abbot Richard would require that he himself be buried. Before he died in 1246, Abbot Richard had lived to see his king lay another foundation stone of a more momentous sequel, that of the rebuilding of the Abbey itself. To the choir of the future the abbot left two long curtains of tapestry that would run the whole length of the stalls, on the north side showing the life of Christ, and on the south that of the Confessor. By definition, then, his tapestries were made by 1246. We only know of their appearance from a series of nineteen late-14th-century drawn copies appended to an Apocalypse in Trinity College Cambridge (MS B.10.2, fols 39r–44v, Fig. 1).8 To the scenes of the Confessor’s life in Abbot de Berkyng’s tapestries and in the 13th-century metrical version of Aelred’s text La Estoire di Seint Aedward le Rei (Cambridge University Library, MS Ee.III.59) were added further scenes, of St Peter’s mythical consecration of Westminster Abbey (Fig. 2).9 The dating of the illustrated copy of the Estoire poem is a delicate matter. The official dedication of the text is to Eleanor of Provence, therefore in or after 1236, when she became queen. Paul Binski has pointed out that the Estoire concludes with a strong hint to the king that he should be maintaining the Abbey and whatever belonged to it — an insinuation that would have been totally unfair after the summer of 1245, when the king committed himself and half the revenues of the realm to rebuilding it.10 On the other hand, the illustrated copy may have been made for Henry III’s daughter in law, Eleanor of Castile, upon her marriage in 1254.11 Both the tapestries and Estoire were surely known to the king, the tapestries during his formative years, when he and Henry of Reims were working out their intentions for the new building. The illustrated 130

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Fig. 1. Consecration of Westminster Abbey by St Peter; late-14th-century copy of the 13th-century tapestry of Abbot Richard de Berkyng (d. 1246) (Cambridge, Trinity College, MS B10.2, fol. 44r) Cambridge, Trinity College Library

version of the Estoire that we have was surely the product of a courtly artist working at Westminster, probably in the 1250s, when something of the new church could already be appreciated. Careful illustrations of the original consecration ceremony are found, both in the tapestries (now only known through their 14th-century copies) and in the illuminated manuscript.12 There is every reason to suppose that the illustrated copy of the Estoire was not necessarily the first made: an earlier, though perhaps less elegantly illuminated, version from St Albans was almost certainly in Henry’s hand from the beginning. It may yet emerge. It is the norm to dismiss medieval drawings of medieval buildings as too uninfor­ mative for consideration, and so they frequently are. For a start, the people in them are always too big for their settings. However, in both the tapestry and the Vita the artists 131

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Fig. 2. Consecration of Westminster Abbey by St Peter; Estoire di Seint Aedward le Rei, probably 1250s (Cambridge University Library, MS Ee.3.59, fol. 18r) By permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library

have struggled manifestly to suggest an architectural context, and we might attempt to follow them. The late-14th-century illuminator copying Abbot de Berkyng’s tapestries has set the scene of St Peter’s consecration (fol. 44r) in a credible goldsmith’s shrine of his own late-14th-century date, complete with almost realizable windows in the gable end, a ‘tiled’ roof and tapering spire with angled pinnacles (Fig. 1). An upper scene is set on the roof, where four angels, each carrying a flare (it was the middle of the night) stand behind a crenellated parapet. Such crenellated parapets on major churches, an obvious reference to castellar defences, became very popular in 14th-century England as a decorative trim to ecclesiastical buildings. So perhaps here they are a 14th-century embellishment. The actual west front of Exeter Cathedral is manned, as here, by halflength angels,13 where one angel is a battered survival, the rest 19th-century copies. In the manuscript the lower scene, with St Peter wearing his papal triple tiara, is set inside the church (Fig. 2). Here the Apostle is asperging with his left hand, and blessing the water in the font with his right. The font itself appears to be of a very early wooden type (as identified by John Blair).14 The Apostle is attended by five angels: the small one near him appears to be holding two spoons; the one behind the saint carries a boat for the holy oils; the angel immediately before the saint holds open a large book for him to read the service; and the outer pair carries candles. There are, quite properly, nine angels in all. The figures are, as usual, too large for their architectural setting, giving a general effect of confused overcrowding. In the Estoire, in the illuminated copy of the consecration by St Peter (fol. 18r), perhaps a decade later than the actual tapestries, the composition is more lucid (Fig. 2). 132

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Here the action is set within what would appear to be a cross-section of the church at the crossing. The Apostle, carrying his crozier, is performing the Asperges. An angel behind him holds ready the boat of Holy Water, and two angels before him carry candles. Two further angels, half-length and on a smaller scale, carrying candles, look down from what appears to be a capacious upper chamber. Such a large triforium, opening into two spacious upper chapels either side, is a striking feature of the Abbey itself in its 13th-century guise, and perhaps in St Edward’s church before it. In the illumination, above the roof the heads of three further diminutive angels look down through three apertures at the base of the tower. There are only eight angels altogether, but their arrangement on three intelligible levels, rising one above another in dimin­ ishing scale, suggests a new understanding of angelic order and functions. While he meditated on his ideas for the new abbey, whether he was consulting St Aelred’s Life of his favourite saint and role model, or admiring the abbot’s new hangings for the choir, Henry III had before him the legend of the first consecration by St Peter, attended by a flock of angels. By the time the metrical version of that tale came to be illustrated in the decorous visual language of the Estoire, that angelic host had been mustered on three intelligible levels. In both models angels inhabited not only the floor level that they shared with us, but the less accessible ranges above. A similar disposition may be traced in the actual sculptural arrangement of angels in Henry’s building. The first level to afford lodging for sculptural treatment, in the ambulatory and four radiating chapels, where the rebuilding actually began, was hardly above eye level — in the spandrels of the wall arcading. Here it is not surprising to find an angelic motif: small bust-length angels had been carved in the wall arcading of St Hugh’s choir at Lincoln half a century before. Angels, with outstretched wings in spandrels, and folded ones in half-spandrels, would remain a staple Gothic element. The angels in the wall arcading of the lower church of the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris are only bust length, affording little scope for activity. The western portal of Sainte-E´ liphe at Rampillon (Seine et Marne) has a full display of half-length angels in spandrels, many of them offering crowns to the Apostles below them; the Rampillon west front has been dated c. 1240–50.15 The fullest depiction of this theme in England before Westminster was along the west front of Wells Cathedral, not in spandrels, but in high relief in quatre­ foils, between the lowest pairs of full-length niches, work of the 1220s and 1230s. Of twenty-five quatrefoils, nine have lost their half-length angels, and one has only a frag­ ment. But the fifteen remaining angels carry between them nine sudaries, five mitres, two scrolls, five crowns, two veils and two books.16 The display along the spandrels of the exquisite choir screen at Salisbury, roughly contemporary with Westminster, is of twelve half-length angel musicians. The spandrels in the Salisbury chapter-house, built 1263–83, and those on the tomb of Bishop Giles de Bridport (d. 1262), again in Salisbury, are treated with scenes showing full-length figures. Full-length figures illus­ trating a not very cogent variety of subjects had filled the spandrels round the east end of Worcester Cathedral in the earlier 13th century, and after 1260 would grace the spandrels of the elder Lady Chapel at Wells. So the choice of full-length figures in groups at Westminster Abbey was not without parallel. The Westminster relief carvings have received through the centuries cavalier treat­ ment. The thrusting of the full-length reclining effigy of Sir Bernard Brocas (d. 1395), complete with canopied tomb, into the wall arcading of the Chapel of St Edmund may have been the first effectively to destroy the wall arcading of a whole bay of a chapel. Random savagery, largely of the years around 1600, has left us, in situ, only three 133

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mutilated, but partly legible, half spandrels in the two northerly radiating chapels, and one full spandrel in the southerly Chapel of St Edmund. This last has an angel holding two crowns, a familiar motif. Another spandrel with a similar subject, a single fulllength angel with outstretched wings playing a harp, survives, detached from its con­ text, in the museum.17 It has been recently dated to 1255–60, but that is surely too late for the swift pace of the first decade of Henry III’s rebuilding.18 However, the best preserved, if one can use such a term of fragmentary figures, are four further fragments of the ravaged northerly chapels’ wall arcades, now in the museum.19 One is a standing figure, seen from his left side, carrying a closed book, having neither head nor feet, identified by the present author as a deacon (Fig. 3). The second is a male torso, his right hand holding down his cloak strap (Fig. 4). The third is a lively composition showing the legs of a seated man with his right foot pointing sharply downwards, and his left foot resting on a higher ledge (Fig. 5). The quality of the drapery carving of these morsels is extremely fine, and indicates how tragic has been the treatment of the arcade spandrels. The lively pose of the third figure’s legs would have filled the awkward termination of a half-spandrel to perfection. Parallels for such assertive poses can be made among the voussoirs of the chapter-house doors of c. 1248–50.20 Compare also the painted portrayal of the tyrant Antiochus in the Painted Chamber of the 1260s.21 The suggestion that the second and third fragments are parts of further angels will not hold: angels do not wear cloaks, nor do they wear shoes. These have to be dominating men, therefore, in this context, kings. The fourth fragment is a little headstop of a smiling angel, for which see below. Therefore, in addition to the ‘deacon’ and the two full-face full spandrel angels (one playing the harp in a full spandrel, in the museum, the other holding crowns still in situ in the Chapel of St Edmund), we have two portions of seated kings, one definitely from a half-spandrel. We also have three mutilated half-spandrels in situ in the northerly radiating chapels of St John the Baptist and St Paul, each of which we can now recog­ nize, by reference to the pair of kingly fragments, as showing kings in conversation with one or more smaller angels. One is receiving a scroll from his angel (Fig. 6); another is listening to angelic harping (Fig. 7); the third half-spandrel has yet another lively king, but the three smaller figures with him are too damaged for identification. Furthermore, if we look round the corner into the north transept among a number of subjects bearing a different interpretation, to which we will return, we can identify two further groups of figures, one of them showing an angel censing a king and a secondary figure, and another an angel censing a prone figure. Around these radiating chapels there has been so high a proportion of destruction that no overall scheme can be put forward. Nevertheless, the facts that all but one (the deacon) of the surviving pieces, whether still on the walls (five) or now loose (two), could be construed as conforming to the theme of kings addressed by angels, and that another couple are of angels carrying out tradi­ tional occupations does suggest that encounters between angels and kings were a staple of the first level of decoration. Not all the missing spandrels were treated figuratively. One spandrel on the south side was treated with the diaper pattern that was to become ubiquitous further west to the south. The Chapel of St Benedict, at the junction of sanctuary and south transept, has all its spandrels treated with diaper, though here I suspect heavy restoration. The same is true of all spandrels in the south transept, and of spandrels associated with the blocking of the ground floor of the south-western aisle by the demands of the eastern cloister range. Diaper was used consistently on the flat surfaces of the upper reaches of Henry’s rebuilding, and only abandoned when the nave was continued in the following 134

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Fig. 3. Fragment of a standing deacon from wall arcading # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Fig. 4. Torso of a male figure, probably a king, from wall arcading # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Fig. 5. Lower part of a seated male figure from wall arcading # Dean and Chapter of Westminster


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Fig. 6. Spandrel, in situ in wall arcading, north side: a king receiving scroll from an angel # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Fig. 7. Spandrel, in situ in wall arcading, north side: detail from a king listening to a harping angel # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

century. It was not so used in earlier buildings in England, and only imitated to a very limited extent in the choir screen at Lincoln Cathedral, the north transept of Hereford Cathedral, and the west front of Dunstable. Paul Binski has observed the enlargement of the unit of the squares in the upper stages of the north sanctuary in Westminster Abbey, an enlargement continued throughout the whole of the north transept and eastern nave.22 He has, surely correctly, linked the change with a more careful eye to costs. Such a taking stock may be associ­ ated with the detailed accounts that survive for the 1253 season.23 Binski suggested that the diapering was cut in situ, but that would have been contrary to normal practice, and makes it hard to account for the blank area in an eastern bay of the south transept. 136

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Here it would be more reasonable to assume that the section of walling was needed sooner than the sculptors had anticipated, therefore erected before the diapers were cut, on the assumption that the pattern would be suggested in situ by the painters. Binski, and Lethaby before him, observed traces of red paint on the diaper. Binski assumed that it was the original finish. However, it is difficult to excuse so laborious and thank­ less a task as cutting, in stone, extensive passages of mechanical diapering, other than to provide a faceted gold surface for a shimmer of light, especially effective if the light source were flickering and moving candles. The contemporary and adjacent chapterhouse doorway furnishes coeval evidence of the ubiquitous use of red paint as a back­ ground for gold. The source of the diaper motive must have been contemporary shrines, where the goldsmith could reproduce a diapered surface far less laboriously than a stone cutter. We may suspect that the diaper motif originated in Henry’s con­ fidence, instilled during those formative years 1240–44, when work was being under­ taken on the Shrine of the Confessor, in Edward and his father Odo the Goldsmith. Diapering does occur in a very subsidiary role in the decoration at Chartres and Amiens cathedrals, also surely borrowed from the contemporary art of the goldsmith, but never on the scale of Westminster.24 Diapering can be readily and effectively applied when the surface is malleable. At Burghley House there survives a charter of Henry III giving lands to Peterborough Abbey in 1270, one of three charters with similar gifts spanning the 1090s to 1400, all retaining their original seals and seal bags.25 The 1270 seal bag is of leather, stamped with a diaper pattern, and bearing traces of gold paint over red; it is lined with cotton twill. Leather, like metalwork, takes kindly to stamping. Again, diaper as an enrichment of the painted background was popular in Parisian illuminated manuscripts of the mid-13th century, not only for royal patrons,26 and it continued to be used in illumination into the 14th century. The great pages of the Psalter of Robert de Lisle carry in the work of the Madonna and the Majesty Master a range of subtle variations in design and colour combinations in diaper.27 It also has an afterlife in the small-scale architecture of tomb canopies, such as that of Edmund Crouchback (d. 1296). We have yet to consider the small headstop of a smiling angel from the arcading of the radiating chapels (Howard and Sauerberg, Fig. 8A, 211). Henry III’s special interest in facial expressions,28 and smiling angels in particular, can be traced back to 1240, when he described in detail the specific expression he required for a pair of angels to flank a rood he was giving to the Church of St Peter in the Tower of London;29 yet to require that angelic figures ‘with cheerful & joyous countenances’ should flank an image of Christ suffering on the Cross jars upon the modern mind.30 The Pauline theology of the Atonement, the essentially redemptive suffering of Christ, reached its fullest exposition in St Anselm, the Benedictine archbishop of Canterbury, in his key work, the Cur Deus Homo of 1098. In the years around 1240, Henry III’s growing allegiance to Benedictine monasticism at Westminster will have brought him under the shadow of St Anselm’s view of Atonement, expressed succinctly in that saint’s Prayer to the Holy Cross: O Cross, chosen and prepared for such ineffable good, The work that was accomplished on you exalts you more Than all the praises of human or angelic thought and tongue [. . .]31

Two kinds of smile are known to medieval sculpture. The nominal smile affecting only the lips (which take on a shallow V shape), known in Greek archaic sculpture, is found in the 1140s, for example, among the column figures of the west front of Chartres 137

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Cathedral. Then there is the infectious smile, spreading up the cheeks to the eyes and provoking, at its best, a responsive smile on the face of the beholder. This smile is for ever associated with the angels on the west front of Reims Cathedral and is not usually thought to have appeared there before the mid-1230s. Henry III’s very specific request in 1240 is therefore keenly up to date, and may well have resulted from direct contact with a French prototype. Inevitably, we think of Henry of Reims, but even he is not documented at Windsor until 1243. An ivory discovered in 2013, probably French, of the seated Virgin and Child, both smiling, has been recognized as a genuine master­ piece, its elephant tusk carbon dated to c. 1230.32 Its voluminous folds, especially round Our Lady’s feet, compare closely with those of the Amesbury Psalter (Oxford, All Souls College, MS 6, fol. 189r) of c. 1250–55.33 Reims Cathedral, the coronation church of French kings, is the locus classicus of angels. They spread their wings in tabernacled niches upon the standing buttresses, and cluster in giddy subservience around the Coronation of the Virgin in the central gable.34 St Denis, martyr and patron saint of France, is flanked by a pair of them in the north­ west porch. The tall, slender St Denis has a puzzled expression, as if wondering what has happened to his head (of which he is carrying the crown), having preceded Thomas Becket in having his skull bisected by a sword. His attendant angels are ill matched (Fig. 8). The one on his left is swaying and willowy like the saint himself, and bears the famous Reims smile, but the one on his right is a clumsy interloper who would be much happier in the company of the similarly inept Virgin in the central doorway. If we were to transpose the dull angel beside Denis and the smiling angel by the boring Virgin, both groups would be more at ease (Fig. 9). It seems that, when in the spring it came to installing them on the front, a juggling took place. Admiration for the pair of new­ fangled smiling angels that were intended to exchange joyful glances athwart the puzzled St Denis led to the actual transposing of one of them with the old-fashioned Gabriel by the central door (Our Lady must always have the best). But why, when no one else was so honoured, was St Denis allotted in the first place not just one but a pair of attendant angels? And why should they have been, apparently, the first figures in French sculpture to have displayed these bewitching smiles? In 626, the remains venerated as those of St Denis, martyred in c. 250 ad, had been taken to Saint-Denis, where, unsupported by major miracles or a substantial literature, they languished. Two hundred years later in 827, the Byzantine Emperor Michael II gave a copy in Greek of the works of Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite, mystical theo­ logian, to Louis the Pious, who appropriately passed it on to the royal foundation of Saint-Denis. There Abbot Hilduin attempted a translation (to be superseded twenty years later by John Scotus Erigena), and the equation was gladly made of the PseudoAreopagite with the 3rd-century patron saint of France. In fact, the influence on the writings of this Dionysius of the last neo-Platonist, St Proclus, who died as patriarch of Constantinople in 446/7, gives a terminus post quem for the work of the PseudoAreopagite. The latter’s title refers to the equation of him with St Paul’s Athenian convert, a spurious equation he himself fostered in his Treatise on the Divine Names,35 a first reference to which in 528 constitutes a terminus ante quem. The fusion of the three persons (Paul’s Athenian convert, France’s patron saint and the late-5th-century author) who provided the credentials of this single author — an author who would remain strikingly influential throughout the rest of the Middle Ages — was accom­ plished largely at Saint-Denis, where the famous apologia of Abbot Suger (1081–1151) for the extravagance of his rebuilding of the Abbey, itself the most eloquent medieval plea for the role of the visual arts in worship, was inspired by the pseudo-Areopagite.36 138

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Fig. 8. Reims Cathedral, west front, north portal: St Denis flanked by one smiling angel and one originally intended for Gabriel in the Annunciation group in the central doorway, arrangement as it currently is, c. 1238 Drawing by Nicola de Quincey RIBA

Fig. 9. St Denis flanked by a pair of smiling angels, as was originally intended in c. 1238 Drawing by Nicola de Quincey RIBA

Thus Suger: ‘Being nobly bright, the work should brighten the minds, so that they may travel through the true lights to the true light where Christ is the true door’; ‘out of my delight in the beauty of the house of God, the loveliness of the many-coloured gems has called me away from external cares, and worthy meditation has induced me to reflect [. . .] on the diversity of the sacred virtues: then it seems to me that I see myself dwelling in some strange region of the universe which neither exists entirely in the slime of the earth nor entirely in the purity of Heaven [. . .]’.37 Thus the pseudo-Areopagite: ‘It is by way of [the] perceptible image that we are uplifted as far as we can be to the contemplation of that which is divine [. . .]’.38 The writings of the pseudo-Areopagite include his Mystical Theology, the prime source for our medieval mystical tradition, especially for The Cloud of Unknowing. However, his Celestial Hierarchy was the basis of his medieval fame.39 The Gothic 139

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imagination was already alive with angels and bemused by the incomprehensibilities of Ezekiel. We owe to this Dionysius the still familiar three-part classification: a highest rank of Cherubim, Seraphim and Thrones; a middle rank of Virtues, Dominions and Powers; and a lowest rank of Principalities, Archangels and Angels. Nowhere in the Bible are they listed together. The Cherubim appear in the Garden of Eden, and fre­ quently in the Books of Kings, Chronicles and Samuel, in connection with the Mercy Seat in the Tabernacle. They occur once in Isaiah (37, 16); in the Psalms ‘God dwelleth between the Cherubim’ (80, 1); and once more in Hebrews (9, 5). The Seraphim appear only once, in Isaiah 6, and there with the six wings they have in common with the Cherubim. The Seraphim are first paired with the Cherubim in the ‘Te Deum’, a hymn usually attributed to St Benedict (c. 480–c. 550), possibly already under the influence of the pseudo-Areopagite. As for the Thrones, in the form of angels as opposed to ordinary thrones, the only biblical reference to them, or to the rest of the Dionysian groups, is in St Paul’s letter to the Colossians 1, 16: ‘For by Him were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible or invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions or principalities or powers’. As for Virtues, as a term for a class of angels, there is no reference to them at all in the Bible. The pseudo-Areopagite must have turned to the body of Jewish writing attributed to Enoch, starting with a first book of before 170 bc; a second book claimed for the early Christian period and only found in Old Church Slavonic; and a third book, possibly of the 4th or 5th century ad, con­ taining much information about angels.40 On these shaky foundations the pseudoAreopagite built his confident text and entered the stream of Benedictine thought.41 So we owe to the Pseudo-Areopagite the classification of angels into three groups of three, in ascending order of dignity. We also owe to him the radiant smiles that char­ acterize the pair that flanks his statue at Reims. Having expounded the duties and distinctions of rank of the angelic hierarchies in fifteen dense chapters, the pseudoAreopagite winds down in the penultimate paragraph to the question of ‘the joy of the heavenly ranks’. It is due, he declares, to ‘the way they participate in the divine joy caused by the finding of the lost’.42 He goes on to add an instance derived from mystical experience: ‘They are unspeakably happy in the way that, occasionally, sacred men are happy when God arranges for divine enlightenment to visit them’.43 The difficulties arising in attempting to illustrate the elaborate arrangement of three classes of angels, each with three subdivisions, within the equally elaborate articulation of Gothic architecture is sufficiently illustrated by the archivolts of the central southern porch of Chartres Cathedral. Obviously the highest hierarchy of Cherubim, Seraphim and Thrones must cluster nearest to the Christ of the Last Judgement on the tympa­ num. The innermost archivolt is of necessity the shortest, so these, the grandest of them all, are extremely small. There are eight of them. The middle-ranking angels, Virtues, Powers and Dominions, are seated, and some of them wear crowns. They occupy two archivolts, are much larger and there are fourteen of them. A further two archivolts accommodate the lowest ranks, Angels, Archangels and Principalities. There were twenty-two of these, variously bearing curved trumpets, shields and perhaps inscribed plaques. One is them is missing. They are smaller than the middle ranks, but larger than the Cherubim.44 As far as I am aware, the idea was not tried again. Nor have I found them in the more natural context of the later Gothic angel roofs, the first of which is in Westminster Hall. Where they carry emblems, they are usually the implements of the mass, to which we will return. Between 1240 and 1243, following a few partially successful attempts, stemming usually from Saint-Denis, Robert Grosseteste, Henry III’s advisor, made a translation, 140

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with commentary, of the Dionysian corpus, just in time to inform Henry III’s thinking about angelic iconography in his Abbey.45 The Dominican, Albertus Magnus, was fol­ lowing suit by 1248, and from then on theological scholarship concerning the nature of angels was active until the 17th century.46 However, it soon veered from classification to philosophical issues concerning the nature of angels — matters beyond this king, whose immediate concern was that of the pseudo-Areopagite: hierarchies mattered a great deal to Henry. He famously consulted Grosseteste about whether his consecration as king gave him the status of priesthood,47 to which Grosseteste responded with the verdict the Emperor Charlemagne had received: no. His coronation only conferred on him the office of deacon, which meant reading the gospel at mass, but not consecrating the host. Charlemagne built that reply into the design of his rotunda at Aachen, where the emperor’s ceremonial progress to read the gospel was the most dramatic moment in the service. Perhaps it is not fortuitous that the only surviving figure, other than angels, kings and attendants, from the wall arcading of the eastern chapels of Henry’s West­ minster Abbey, is a deacon. It follows that the king would have been seriously interested in the roles allotted to the Nine Orders of Angels as set out by the pseudo-Areopagite. On which of them might he, as monarch, rely? Here again he met with a rebuff. On the whole the pseudoAreopagite says very little that is clear-cut, but on this matter he is firm: responsibility for human problems is the province of the third and lowest Order, Angels, Archangels and Principalities. These may, in their turn, consult the middle Order, the Dominions, Powers and Virtues, but humans have no direct access to those higher regions. Again, Dominions, Powers and Virtues may converse with the highest rank, the Cherubim, Seraphim and Thrones, but that highest rank alone has immediate access to the Godhead. As he pondered these intimidating distinctions, Henry III would have appreciated the vistas of ever-increasing glory opening to his imagination. He may have consoled his lowly position as a mortal with the thought that if Principalities looked after kingdoms, as their name suggested, and Angels attended, as the Bible frequently said, to all sorts of people, might not royalty hope for the ear of an Archangel? Here at last we have a possible theme for the spandrels of kings consorting with angels around the east end of the Abbey: kings guided and supported by Angels or even Archangels. Could they refer to biblical kings so privileged? We have at least eight sculpted groups in the Abbey spandrels, but the whole Old Testament only offers one example of a king encounter­ ing an angel: David by the threshing floor of Araunah. No examples of angels con­ versing with kings are offered in the New Testament, where kings fare poorly. So I am suggesting that the iconography here does not refer back to biblical precedent, but to a more immanent possibility: that Christian kings — Edward the Confessor, for instance — might encounter an angel. The 1550 catalogue of the books in the library of Westminster Abbey opens with a comprehensive list of the titles of Robert Grosseteste’s books, but The Celestial Hier­ archy is conspicuous by its absence. Nowadays the focus of interest is on Grosseteste’s early scientific treatises, especially on light. Before 1550, his translation, with com­ mentary, of the works of the pseudo-Areopagite was his most famous book. A parallel situation occurred at Wells. I have argued that the west front of Wells Cathedral illus­ trates the company of the City of God, as expounded by St Augustine, and that the west front of Salisbury Cathedral is a reduced rendering of the same subject. John Fortis, chancellor of Wells from 1254 if not before, left to the library there his copy of Augustine’s City of God. In 1291, the dean of Salisbury returned to Wells a copy, surely 141

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this same copy, of The City of God.48 I am suggesting that similar borrowings took place at Westminster, but no careful abbot reclaimed the The Celestial Hierarchy from the royal bookshelves. So it is proposed here that the preponderance of the wall-arcade spandrels of the first stage of Henry III’s rebuilding were dedicated to the role of Angels, or Archangels, as advisors to kings. What of the iconography of the vault bosses? In the north-eastern bay of the ambu­ latory there is a solitary boss carved with a cluster of angels’ heads. The wooden tie-bars specific to that area have been assumed, persuasively, to indicate a first experi­ ment. The figurative motive was not repeated in the ambulatory, nor are the high vault bosses anywhere treated figuratively, unlike those of the contemporary retrochoir at Ely. On the other hand, the western aisle of both transepts, from north to south, is the field for a sequence of bosses of David harping, Aaron and Moses, the souls in Abraham’s bosom and scenes from the life of the Virgin. Among these fine bosses the Annunciation in the north-western corner is particularly striking for its multiplication of angels. The Holy Dove and the scroll-bearing and blessing Gabriel interrupting the reading Virgin are attended by two further angels. This rare iconographic addition of secondary angels is repeated in the Annunciation scene flanking the inner doors to the chapter-house, where two additional pairs of angels fly through clouds, one couple in the train of Gabriel, the other flying towards the Virgin. But what are we to make of the three magnificent bosses, nowadays termed the ‘Mythical Combats’, in what is usually interpreted as the antechamber to the king’s private pew, running over the eastern cloister bay, which in the 14th century would be partitioned and turned into the Muniment Room? As we have seen, care had been taken to avoid putting richly figurative bosses in the exceptionally tall main vaults of the Abbey, where they would have been unintelligible to the naked eye from the floor. It was a different matter in the transept aisles, especially the south transept western aisle, where flooring over the cloister gave, from what is now the Muniment Room, a close view of the vault. Those frequenting this privileged private space had a glimpse of the high altar, and (when their stall canopies were lower than their present replace­ ments) of the monks at prayer. Immediately over the heads of those in that same privileged space are bosses continuing from the north transept aisle the life of the Virgin, leading to its climax in her Coronation. It is thought by many scholars that the length of this south-west upper aisle was used by Henry III and his family as a private chapel. It is entered beside a richly sculpted ante-chamber, with exquisite corbel heads of the ideal king and queen — but why do we find in this ante-chamber, of all places, three wildly strenuous bosses of furious mythical creatures, one of them a centaur wearing a cape fighting a conventional dragon (Fig. 10)?49 A culture that exacted high moral standards and encouraged frequent confession was as aware as our own of the struggles within the human psyche, and graphically visual­ ized them. Even in the most sacred places? Yes, particularly in the margins and orna­ mented initials of constantly used psalters. The search for parallels for these struggling figures is most plentifully rewarded among illuminated initials of a generation or more before this building campaign. The nearest I have found is the initial H at the opening of an illuminated north French copy of Gratian’s Concordia Discordantium Canonum of c. 1180 (Fig. 11).50 Note again the cape. It can only be assumed that the transmis­ sion of designs such as these came about through copybooks. The reasoning behind the immediate juxtaposition of sacred and disturbingly secular subject matter within ecclesiastical art in the medieval period was a special interest of Michael Camille,51 and 142

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Fig. 10. Boss of a centaur and dragon in the Muniment Room vestibule # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

is now of Mary Carruthers.52 A technique for confronting, and then firmly dismissing, disturbing distractions at the outset of a period set aside for meditative prayer was generally advocated: the ancient Office of Compline opens with a quotation from the Epistle of St Peter (5, 8): ‘Brethren, be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, whom resist stead­ fast in the faith’. So it is no accident that these tumultuous bosses of dragons, a man, a centaur and a half-man half-beast tearing or stabbing one another should appear at the threshold of Henry’s private sanctuary. These bosses have long been associated with an entry in the 1253 accounts paying Robert of Beverley (who would succeed as master mason seven years later) 32s. for four bosses. The equation is tempting, but it must be remembered that there are three combat bosses here, and no place for a fourth. Over the ambulatory and radiating chapels there is the cavernous space of the tri­ forium and upper chapels, rarely entered before our time by the general public. How far these four extra chapels went into service in the 13th century, and how far they were provided against the day when more monks might go forward for ordination and there­ fore need more altars, is speculative. But the whole area could not have been intended for general access. A similar issue of privacy is associated with the Chapel of St Faith, traversed by access to the night stairs at a higher level, and provided at ground level with a door, unlike the radiating chapels, which were only partitioned off by screens. There was a precedent at Reims Cathedral for the lively and realistic head sculpture found in these largely inaccessible areas. Here we find evidence exhibited by the lodge of a natural interest in the new possibilities of totally realistic portrait sculpture. Both the Westminster triforium and Chapel of St Faith are graced with head corbels of remarkable variety, liveliness and beauty. Perhaps they reminded the monks of their cardinal duty to pray for all sorts and conditions of people. 143

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Fig. 11. Gratian’s Concordia Discordantium Canonum, c. 1180 (J. Paul Getty Museum, MS Ludwig XIV, fol. 8v) J. Paul Getty Museum

Alongside the Dionysian angels and kings in the north transept lower spandrels there is another theme, to which a clue is offered by the two large wall-paintings on the south wall of the south transept, of Sts Thomas the Apostle and Christopher.53 Neither is rare in medieval English painting. Christopher as patron saint of travellers will become virtually universal in later church schemes, but this is apparently his debut on an English wall, and only in one of five drawings added c. 1250 to the Westminster Psalter was he seen before in England.54 The reason for the double arrival in a regal context of so previously obscure a saint is that Henry III had given to the Abbey a relic of Christopher’s head.55 In the painting the Christ Child is laying his hand on that head, thereby indicating to the faithful that they had before them that part of the saint that had been embraced by the Holy Child himself. This major relic also deserved a life-size reliquary, and would have been of special importance. In the same way, a portion of the arm of St Thomas the Apostle had been given to the Abbey by Edward the Confessor, and this also, having been forcibly guided into the side of Christ by the Saviour himself (according to the wall-painting), was specially venerable.56 Henry III took a special interest in this relic, even though he was not the donor. While staying in his court between 1243 and 1245, Henry of Avranches, author of the versified life of St Francis, 144

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Fig. 12. Litlyngton Missal: display of relics in initial for feast of the relics (Westminster Abbey, MS 37, fol. 254r) # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

composed a verse in honour of the Apostle St Thomas, alongside verses honouring Sts Edward and George.57 This major relic also deserved a life-size arm reliquary. On the Feast of Relics, 16 July, the sacristan would display the most prestigious of the Abbey’s vast collection on the altar of the relics, which stood (until displaced by the chantry of Henry V) at the head of the apse, and expound their significance (Fig. 12).58 Wall-paintings and relics together would have enhanced veneration. It would be diffi­ cult to explain by any other affiliation the pairing in wall-painting of an Apostle and a slightly mythical Atlas figure. If further post-Reformation monuments fixed to the blind west wall cutting off the cloisters from the south transept were to be moved, traces of more wall-paintings of saints specially venerated in the Abbey would probably emerge. These paintings of saints specially venerated in the Abbey suggest some of the sub­ jects of the carved spandrels of the opposite transept (other than those, already dis­ cussed, describing kings encountering angels). St Michael slays the dragon on the wall opposite his chapel in the eastern aisle of the north transept. He already had another dedication, on a gallery at the west end of the 1220 Lady Chapel. To one side of him along the western aisle of the north transept there emerges from the dragon’s belly St Margaret, always a favourite among pregnant women. She already had the dedica­ tion of the church immediately outside the north door, and the Abbey had a relic of her, given by the Confessor himself.59 She is usually paired with St Katherine, another early Christian martyr, but that saint had already been engaged by the monastic infir­ mary. Instead, on the other side of St Margaret we have a group of five ladies, the central one carrying a jar (Fig. 13). The obvious attribution to the Magdalen has not been put forward before, because Mary Magdalen is usually accompanied by two ladies, and here she has four. But, unlike the Gospel of Mark, Luke itemizes in this scene Mary Magdalen and ‘Joanna and Mary the mother of James and other women who were with them’ (authors italics) so the association with the Magdalen is firm.60 Queen Matilda had given to Westminster Abbey two rings that were claimed as having belonged to Mary Magdalen.61 The Litlyngton Missal of 1383–84 is far too late to offer parallels for the iconography in this transept, except in retrospect. No abbot would ever be as aware as Litlyngton of his Abbey’s treasures, their provenance and significance in the yearly cycle. His glorious 145

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Fig. 13. Mary Magdalen and her companions at the Sepulchre; spandrel of the west wall of the north transept # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

missal provides images for all the Abbey’s major feasts, only that of Becket having been savagely vandalized. The initial for All Saints, one of the Abbey ten major feasts, is closely comparable with one of the spandrels (Figs 14 and 15).62 This subject, demand­ ing a large caste, was a challenge to both sculptor and illuminator working in a re­ stricted space. The illuminator allowed his saints to spill down the margins; the sculptor was hard pressed to accommodate even a nominal company of heaven in his spandrel. A Last Judgement, with obligatory devils and angels, which has been suggested for this spandrel, would have been impossible. That subject is usually reserved for a tympanum or other ample space on a main axis. If some of the spandrels round the radiating chapels and north transept illustrated the lowest tier of the celestial hierarchy in conversation with kings, what of the upper and topmost tiers? They must rise in dignity. The pseudo-Areopagite insisted that the middle rank were hidden, so the twenty-four bust-length angels in the always incon­ spicuous, and now blind, soffits of the lancets over the north doors are well placed. For the most part they carry out the standard tasks of making music, and bearing crowns, censors and scrolls. But there are eight innovations. Reading from the west, no. 8 carries a paten, 6 a lavabo, 11 an open book (which has been interpreted as a missal), 12 the consecrated host, 15 a veiled chalice, 18 a mass dial, 22 a censor and incense, and 24 bells (Figs 16 and 17).63 The pseudo-Areopagite had no special role to suggest for his middle ranks, Domin­ ions, Virtues and Powers, other than that they could communicate with Angels, Arch­ angels and Principalities beneath them, and with Cherubim, Seraphim and Thrones above them, and that their activities were largely hidden. But the idea of angelic participation in the mass goes back at least to the legend of the Holy Roman Emperor St Henry II (973–1024), who concealed himself one night in the cave chapel dedicated to St Michael at Monte Gargano in southern Italy. At midnight he found himself caught up in a celebration of the mass conducted by a company of angels. Abbot Odilo of Cluny was a friend of Emperor Henry II, so this legend may have passed through Benedictine hands. The equation of the sacred elements of the mass with angels’ food 146

The Iconography of Henry III’s Abbey

Fig. 14. Spandrel of All Saints in the north transept # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Fig. 15. Litlyngton Missal: initial for All Saints (Westminster Abbey, MS 37, fol. 279v) # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

was part of the enhanced iconography of Corpus Christi of the 13th century. There was a precedent in psalm 78, 25, where the psalmist may have been referring to manna. In the hand of St Thomas Aquinas or one of his circle, the ‘food of angels’ would be specifically applied to the Eucharist in the famous hymn ‘Pange Lingua’, composed to celebrate the creation of the Feast of Corpus Christi in 1264.64 Spirituality at West­ minster did not have to wait, however, for Aquinas. It had been already expressed in the writings of a saint especially close to Henry III’s interests: Aelred of Rievaulx, 147

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Fig. 16.

Angel carrying utensils used in the celebration of the Eucharist J. Paul Getty Museum

Fig. 17. Angel carrying utensils used in the celebration of the Eucharist J. Paul Getty Museum

author of the text behind the choir tapestries, had already made much of Bethlehem as the House of Bread in the preamble to his extended meditation on Christ in the Temple at the age of twelve.65 There he wrote: ‘[. . .] In order that men might eat the bread of angels, the Bread of Angels became man [. . .]’. The continuing popularity from the mid-13th century until the Reformation of the idea of angelic involvement in the celebration of the Eucharist can be observed among the angels carrying instruments of the mass in the famous late medieval wooden roofs of East Anglia. The institution of the Feast of Corpus Christi, probably the most significant theological development in the western church between ad 800 and 1517, took place four years before the con­ 148

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secration of the present high altar of Westminster Abbey. The lengthening of that altarpiece, which took place while it was being constructed, must have been a response to the lengthening of the high altar itself, no doubt to accommodate a high mass with three concelebrants. The climax of the triads of Dionysius the pseudo-Areopagite, closest to the Divinity itself, are the Cherubim for angelic wisdom, the Seraphim for divine love and the Thrones.66 His source for the Thrones is the Book of Ezekiel, where the exiled prophet had a vision by the Brook of Kedar.67 The pseudo-Areopagite warned his readers against imagining the Thrones as material seats upon which the Supreme Deity might recline. Ezekiel himself had been ravaged by exile in Babylon. Were the Israelites no longer within range of their God? The terrifying vision of the flying chariot answered his problem. By the 5th century ad, the pseudo-Areopagite was no longer concerned about divine omnipresence: it had been long established. He suggested instead that the Thrones symbolize ‘openness to the reception of God’ — not a concept provoking visual interpretation. Thrones, in the more practical sense, had occupied Henry III’s mind since 1234, when, with the advice of Odo the Goldsmith and his son Edward, he turned his atten­ tion to the making of a fitting royal throne.68 The development from a simple structure, hardly more than a bench, on his great seal of 1219 to the wide and elaborate seat with arcaded back and sides and gambolling lions on the great seal of 1259 may in part reflect their suggestions. A solution to the issue of a fitting design for the coronation throne of English kings came towards the end of Edward I’s reign in an unexpected acquisition: the Stone of Scone.69 If Henry III intended to place an image of God enthroned, in the form of boss or wall-painting, in the centre of a vault over the crossing he never lived to finish, that would have been a fitting completion to his distribution of the heavenly hierarchies. By a single bold stroke he had pushed the normal Benedictine position of the choir stalls (across the transepts) westwards into the nave. He had the advantage of the Confessor’s exceptionally long nave, and was able to arrange vestries on a dog-leg plan to provide access to the liturgical choir from the north transept, and to the nave altars from the west. By voiding the spacious crossing, he laid out a theatre for coronations on an un­ paralleled scale. A figure of the Godhead enthroned, immediately, though vastly far, above the royal throne would have been eloquent indeed. There remain to be considered the Cherubim and Seraphim, who fly just below the two transept rose windows (Figs 18 and 19). The distinction between Cherubim, for angelic Wisdom, whose colour is blue, and Seraphim, for divine love, whose colour is red, would no doubt re-emerge were these most beautiful of all 13th-century sculptures to be cleaned and cared for with the techniques and skills now so well understood and practised at the Abbey. Gilbert Scott had a cast made of the south-west angel, and the cast painted to record colour found there.70 Needless to say, we cannot assume accuracy by modern standards, and the probable loss through the drastic technique of casting is to be lamented, but the overall impression of the cast angel is of garments painted white or yellow dotted with small patterns predominantly of red paint. So this pair, in the south transept, above the entry for the Church Spiritual, was probably the Seraphim for divine Love, and the pair to the north, above the entry of the regal arm of governance, Cherubim for angelic Wisdom. The overriding question, if they represent Cherubim and Seraphim, is why are these figures not six-winged. For that matter, why are none of the angels in the spandrels of the Angel Choir at Lincoln six-winged? That is the place above all others, since it was 149

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Fig. 18. Great angel in the north­ west corner of the north transept # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Fig. 19. Great angel in the north­ east corner of the north transept # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

the episcopal church of Robert Grosseteste, author of the first translation in England of Dionysius the pseudo-Areopagite, where you would expect the closest adherence to his guidelines. The six-winged Cherub had been visualized in the diagram by Alain de Lille,71 the prolific Cistercian theologian and poet.72 He wrote about 1200 an Expositio Prosae de Angelis and De Sex Aliis Cherubim, of which an illustrated version sets out a 150

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drawing of the six-winged Seraph.73 A glance at Alain de Lille’s Seraph with its three pairs of wings clearly shows that there was no dignified way such a figure could be displayed other that centrally. The labelling of each feather or group of feathers with a virtue is fine as an aide-memoire in a manuscript, and was taken up by Thomas of Celano in his first life of St Francis,74 but it would be illegible at a distance. By his first and oft-repeated version of St Francis’s reception of the stigmata from a six-winged Seraph fused with the Crucified, Thomas of Celano, writing in 1228–29, had broken down the boundaries of the pseudo-Areopagite’s protocol. Nevertheless, in the disposi­ tion of the heavenly hierarchy at Westminster Abbey it remained imperative, following the pseudo-Areopagite, that the Cherubim and Seraphim should occupy the highest space, should soar: and so they do, in half-spandrels just below the great rose windows of the transepts ends, themselves eloquent illustrations of the definition of God for which Alain de Lille is immortalized: ‘an intelligible sphere whose centre is everywhere’. The pseudo-Areopagite’s chief distinction within his hierarchy was in the matter of access: humans might not converse with any angels but the three lowest ranks, and Henry III, not knowing that the pseudo-Areopagite’s distinction had broken down in 1224, conformed here to that rule. In England, information about the momentous event of a Seraph in immediate contact with a saint did not depend upon written sources. There were Franciscans in England before St Francis died in 1226. One of them, Brother William, was a personal friend at St Albans of Matthew Paris, Henry III’s historian. Matthew Paris himself drew the Reception of the Stigmata in his Chronica Maiora.75 Moreover, Brother William gave to Matthew Paris his own drawing of Christ among the seven candlesticks, the Christ of the Apocalypse.76 This drawing is on a separate sheet of parchment, which was originally larger than the manuscript into which it was eventually bound. When it was still an independent sheet, it would have been easier to do what Francis Wormald contrived to do in c. 1950 for the benefit of his small group of privileged pupils, the present author among them: he held up against a lamp Brother William’s drawing of the Apocalyptic Christ, so it was back-lit. The effect of lumi­ nosity was unforgettable, even in days of even lighting. When the ink was fresh and the light flickered it must have been startling. The drawing into Joachimist speculation of St Francis brought both Franciscan and Dominican Orders into trouble in the mid-13th century through their association with the followers of Joachim de Fiore.77 This extremist sect was forecasting the end of the world in 1250 or 1260, having identified St Francis with the Angel of the Sixth Seal in the Book of Revelation.78 When John of Parma, involved in these apocalyptic speculations and leader of the Spiritual, as opposed to Conventual, Franciscans, was replaced as general of the Order in 1257 by St Bonaventura, calm was provisionally restored. It might still have been unwise to remind the excitable that Francis’s reception of the stigmata from a six-winged Seraph had been interpreted as a warning of the impending Apocalypse by displaying four great six-winged Cherubim and Seraphim immediately below the great rose windows in the Abbey. In the fateful year 1255, when Franciscans and Dominicans had joined forces to declare a doom-laden prophetic future based on the writings of Joachim, Pope Alex­ ander IV at Agnani condemned the ‘Eternal Gospel’ (which claimed to supplant the usual four), by the most inflammatory Franciscan, Gerard of Borgo Donnino, and imprisoned the author. In 1260, Richard de Ware, newly elected abbot of Westminster, went to Agnani to have his appointment ratified by the same pope. He brought back to the Abbey the group of Cosmati craftsmen and their materials to lay the floor of the sanctuary and to furbish the Shrine of St Edward. The message of that pavement carries 151

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Fig. 20.

Great angel in the south transept

# Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Fig. 21. Imp below the great angel in the south-west corner of the south transept # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

a very different system, based on folklore, to calculate the Age of the World, and its future prospects.79 Providing you are very economical with the allowance you make for the remoter past, this calculation provides plenty of future for these great angels to fly. Situated immediately below the great rose windows, these angels are true and glori­ ous descendants of the classical winged victories in half-spandrels flanking the openings of triumphal arches in imperial Rome (Fig. 20).80 With their disarmingly large feet and sharply bent wrists guiding swinging censers, they are essentially Gothic; indeed, they are English Gothic, for at the ultimate tip of each sharp spandrel, beyond the censer, there is a little twisting stiff leaf, a last remembrance of the laurel wreath. These angels go beyond worldly praise. They are off-cuts from the further stars, enclosing the gentle symmetry of the Confessor’s life, expressed in the giving and returning of a ring, sculpted in the intervening spandrels. Yet beneath the feet of the south-west Seraph there crouches a grinning imp (Fig. 21), first cousin to the famous imp in a similar posi­ tion in the Angel Choir at Lincoln, which also owes its overall iconography to Robert Grosseteste’s work on angels. At Lincoln a falcon also appears on the wrist of a smiling angel. The term ‘imp’ carried a secondary meaning in the regal sport of falconry, favoured by Edward the Confessor, Henry III’s role model, and by Henry’s contem­ porary and author of De Scientia Venandi per Aves of 1250, the Emperor Frederick II. A further work on the skill of falconry, with a chapter on the care of falcons in sickness 152

The Iconography of Henry III’s Abbey

and health, was written by no less a scholar than Albertus Magnus.81 In that context an ‘imp’ is a replacement or repair of a broken feather with a moulted one, enabling the bird to fly higher.82 The association of this device with the Cherubim and Seraphim (who must, like the falcon, fly highest), assures us that among the celestial hierarchies there is not only praise and music, but laughter. postscript The term ‘imp’ to describe the practice of repairing the flight feathers of birds of prey continued, as witnessed by George Herbert’s poem ‘Easter Wings’. Easter Wings Lord, who created Man in wealth and store, Though foolishly he lost the same, Decaying more and more, Till he became Most poor: With thee O let me rise, As larks, harmoniously, And sing this day thy victories. Then shall the fall further the flight in me. My tender Age in sorrow did beginne: And still with sicknesses and shame Thou didst so punish sin That I became Most thinne. With thee Let me combine, And feel thy victorie: For if I imp my wing on thine, Affliction shall advance the flight in me.


My debt goes back through generations of deans, canons, architects, librarians, archivists and archaeologists to that generous and modest scholar, Peter Howgrave-Graham, who first shared with me some of the Gothic secrets of the beautiful and mysterious place that is Westminster Abbey. Today I am especially indebted to Richard Foster and Christine Reynolds, without whom I could not have got this article together; to Joseph Spooner, who lavished his skills on the knots in my text; and to Warwick Rodwell, who shares his inspiring leadership with all who care for West­ minster Abbey; and to his splendid colleagues.

NOTES 1. N. Vincent, The Holy Blood: King Henry III and the Westminster Blood Relic (Cambridge 2001). 2. The first and second are illustrated by Vincent. The first features on the cover of his book, and frequently elsewhere, in an illumination of Matthew Paris’s Chronica Majora (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 16, fol. 215r). See further, among others, M. E. Roberts, ‘The Relic of the Holy Blood and the Iconography of the Thirteenth Century North Transept Portal of Westminster Abbey’, in England in the Thirteenth


pamela tudor-craig Century: Proceedings of the 1984 Harlaxton Symposium, ed. W. M. Ormrod (Woodbridge 1985), 129–42, at fig. 8. For the second reliquary depicted in another Matthew Paris manuscript (BL, Royal MS 14 C VII, fol. 142r), see Vincent, The Holy Blood (as n. 1), 172. The third must be the covered-cup relic on the altar of relics in the Litlyngton Missal of 1383–84, illustrated in P. Tudor-Craig, ‘‘‘The Large Letters’’ of the Litlington Missal and Westminster Abbey in 1383–4’, in Illuminating the Book: Makers and Interpreters. Essays in Honour of Janet Backhouse, ed. Michelle Brown and Scot McKendrick (London/Toronto 1998), 102–19, at 108, fig. 70. 3. Vincent, The Holy Blood (as n. 1), 174–75. 4. For Abbot John Feckenham’s solemn declaration, made before the House of Commons on 10 April 1557, that he had found the sacred body (of the Confessor) and restored it to its ancient sepulchre, see Oxford, Bodleian Rawlinson MS D.68, quoted by A. P. Stanley, Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey (London 1868), 610–16. The statement by Abbot Feckenham and the 1868 study by Stanley are both quoted by J. G. O’Neilly and L. E. Tanner, ‘The Shrine of St. Edward the Confessor’, Archaeologia, C (1966), 124–54, at 129–30. 5. W. R. Lethaby, Westminster Abbey Re-Examined (London 1925), 1. 6. For Aelred’s text, see Migne, Patrologia Latina, 195, cols 738–90, at 740; for that of Matthew Paris, see H. R. Luard ed., Lives of the Confessor (London 1858), 1–358, with Lethaby’s quotation at 10. For the full text and illustrations of La Estoire, see M. R. James, La Estoire de Seint Aedward le Rei (Princeton 1920). 7. The 14th-century copies of de Berkyng’s tapestries are now Cambridge, Trinity College, MS B 10.2. The 13th-century illustrated copy of La Estoire de Seint Aedward le Rei is Cambridge University Library, MS Ee.III. Both are discussed and illustrated in P. Binski’s ‘Abbot Berkyng’s Tapestries and Matthew Paris’s Life of St Edward the Confessor’, Archaeologia, CIX (1991), 85–100, and idem, Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets: Kingship and the Representation of Power 1200–1400 (London 1995), esp. chapter 2, ‘The Cult of St Edward’, 52–89. 8. Binski, ‘Abbot Berking’s Tapestries’ (as n. 7), 87–97 and figs XVI–XXI. 9. Ibid., Appendix II, and figs XXb–XXI, XXIIIc–XXIVa. 10. Ibid, 94–95. 11. Ibid., 94–95 and Appendix II, 96–97. 12. Ibid., figs XXIa and XXXd, and Binski, Westminster Abbey (as n. 7), fig. 82. 13. P. Tudor-Craig, ‘Bishop Grandisson’s Provision for Music and Ceremony’, in Exeter Cathedral: A Celebration, ed. M. Swanton (Exeter 1991), 136–44. 14. J. Blair, ‘The Pre-History of English Fonts’, in Intersections: The Archaeology and History of Chris­ tianity in England 400–1200. Papers in Honour of Martin Biddle and Birthe Kjolbye-Biddle, ed. M. Henig and N. Ramsey (Oxford 2010), 149–77. 15. W. Sauerla¨nder, Gothic Sculpture in France 1140–1270 (London 1972), 469–70, figs 180 and 181. 16. These calculations are based upon the lists in L. Colchester, The West Front of Wells Cathedral (Wells 1976, 5th edn), 10. 17. The harping angel and the angel censing a prostrate figure were drawn by Lethaby in his Westminster Abbey Re-Examined (as n. 5), 188–89. 18. T. Cocke, 900 Years: The Restorations of Westminster Abbey (London 1995), cat. 5, 113 and fig. 73. 19. J. Alexander and P. Binski ed., Age of Chivalry: Art in Plantagenet England 1200–1400 (New Haven CT/London 1987), cat. nos 292–94, illus. A deacon would wear a dalmatic and stole, and he frequently carries a missal against his chest to form, as it were, a living lectern to support the Gospel. His highest duty is to read the Gospel himself. 20. See R. Foster and P. Tudor-Craig, ‘The Sculptural Decoration of the Westminster Chapter House Portals’, in Westminster Abbey Chapter House: the history, art and architecture of ‘a chapter house beyond compare’, ed. W. Rodwell and R. Mortimer (London 2010), 158–83 and 279–82, esp. 173, fig. 162, and pl. 163. At that time I assumed the torso and legs belonged to one figure, but I am grateful to Diane Rodwell for telling me this is not the case. 21. Illustrated in P. Binski, The Painted Chamber at Westminster, Society of Antiquaries of London, Occasional Papers, n.s., 9 (London 1986), fig. xxii. For a revised dating, see Christopher Wilson in the present volume, 152–86. 22. P. Binski, Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets (as n. 7), 26–27 and figs 21–27. The same observa­ tion had been made by Lethaby, Westminster Abbey and the King’s Craftsmen: A Study of Mediaeval Building (London 1906), 147–49 and fig. 63. 23. See A. Richard Jones in this volume, 104–28. 24. Lethaby discussed the role of Edward and Odo in transactions concerning the shrine for Edward the Confessor in The King’s Craftsmen (as n. 22), 293–94. It is probably significant that Henry had been closely


The Iconography of Henry III’s Abbey concerned with the shrine in the years immediately before he turned to the larger question of the building to house it. 25. See P. Tudor-Craig and L. Monnas, ‘A seal bag of 1085 at Burghley House’, in New Offerings, Ancient Treasures: Studies in Medieval Art for George Henderson, ed. P. Binski and W. Noel, 237–55, and eaedem, ‘A Seal Bag of 1400 at Burghley House’, in England and the Continent in the Middle Ages: Studies in Memory of Andrew Martindale, ed. M. Moran and J. G. Mitchell, Harlaxton Medieval Studies VIII (Stamford 2000), 238–48. I am not aware of a publication of the 1270 example. 26. See, for example, the Psalter of c. 1250, probably made for a nun of Meaux, in the BL (MS Royal 2 B ii), illustrated S. McKendrick, J. Lowden and K. Doyle, Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination (London 2011), 122–23. 27. BL, Arundel MS 83, fully illustrated in L. F. Sandler, The Psalter of Robert de Lisle in the British Library (London 1983, 1999). 28. See the headstop of a weeping man from Clarendon Palace, illustrated in Age of Chivalry (as n. 19), cat. 285, 323. 29. I am grateful to Dr Richard Foster for checking this reference in the Close Rolls for 1240. 30. According to Alexander Cruden’s Complete Concordance to the Old and New Testaments (Cambridge 1990), neither the word ‘smile’ and its derivatives, nor ‘frown’ occurs in the Bible. ‘Smile’ is of Anglo-Saxon origin. 31. E. S. Prout, Cur Deus Homo? Why God became Man?, Christian Classics Series I (London [1886]); Sr Benedicta Ward trans. and ed., The Prayers and Meditations of Saint Anselm with the Prosologion (London 1973), 104. 32. This remarkable ivory with a provenance going back to Syon Convent (founded by Henry V in 1415, and therefore possibly going back to the 13th century in the English royal collection) was sold at Sotheby’s on 4 December 2013, cat. 33. I am grateful to Dr Bijzet for discussing this figure with me and to his colleague Christopher Mason for sending me the catalogue. 33. Oxford, All Souls College, MS 6. See Age of Chivalry (as n. 19), cat. nos 316, 331–32, illus.; N. J. Morgan, Early Gothic Manuscripts (II) 1250–1285, A Survey of Manuscripts Illuminated in the British Isles IV (Oxford 1988), no. 101 illus. 34. The pathetic remains of this giddy group are in the Muse´e de Tau in Reims, while copies make sense of the arrangement on the front. 35. See C. Luibhe´id with P. Rorem, Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works (New York 1987), 47–131. 36. E. Panofski ed. and trans., Abbot Suger: On the Abbey-Church of St.-Denis and its Art Treasures (Princeton 1946). 37. Abbot Suger (as n. 36), 25 . . . 30. 38. Pseudo-Dionysius, ‘The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy’, line 373b; see Complete Works (as n. 35), 197. 39. For ‘The Celestial Hierarchy’, see Complete Works (as n. 35), 143–91. 40. The founding scholarship on the nebulous writings associated with ‘Enoch’ is that of R. H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigraphia of the Old Testament (Oxford 1913). However, the discovery at Qumram of seventy fragments related to the earliest Enoch sources has not yet been fully absorbed into the literature. The mention of Enoch in Genesis 4, 17 and 5, 18 as the offspring of Cain and Jared, and in 22, 24 as having ‘walked with God’, led to his being mentioned in Luke’s genealogy of Christ, 3, 37. Moreover, the Epistle to the Hebrews (11, 5) declares that like Elijah he had not tasted death, and the Epistle of Jude refers to him as a prophet of judgement. 41. For recent work on the Pseudo-Dionysius’s writings, see Sarah Coakley and Charles M. Stang, Rethink­ ing Dionysius the Areopagite (Oxford 2009), and Diamaid MacCulloch, ‘Silence in Christian History’, Times Literary Supplement, 29 March 2012. See also ‘The Celestial Hierarchy’, in Complete Works (as n. 35), 190. 42. Luke 15, 7–10. 43. Complete Works (as n. 35), 190. 44. Sauerla¨nder, Gothic Sculpture (as n. 15), 431–32 and pls 112–13. 45. See Jean LeClercq in Complete Works (as n. 35), 29. 46. See I. Iribarren ed., Angels in Medieval Philosophical Inquiry (Aldershot 2008), esp. 32. 47. See Binski, Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets (as n. 7), 33, quoting Roberti Grosseteste Epistolae, ed. H. Luard (London 1861). 48. See P. Tudor-Craig, ‘Wells Cathedral West Front and the City of God’, in Prophecy, Apocalypse and the Day of Doom: Proceedings of the Harlaton 2000 Symposium, ed. N. Morgan, Harlaxton Medieval Studies XII (Donington 2004), 356–76, at 374, n. 65. 49. A tile design in the chapter-house shows a centaur wearing a cap. 50. J. Paul Getty Museum, Santa Monica, California, MS Ludwig XIV, fol. 8v. Binski illustrated all of them (Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets (as n. 7), 76–77 and pls 109–11) and also referred to Romanesque


pamela tudor-craig illumination, quoting the Winchester Bible. For the 1253 account to Robert of Beverley of 32s. for four bosses, see P. Tudor-Craig in C. Wilson, P. Tudor-Craig, J. Physick and R. Gem, Westminster Abbey, The New Bell’s Cathedral Guides (London 1986), 92–93, illus. 51. See his Image on the Edge: the Margins of Medieval Art (London 1992). For comments by the author on this issue in an early-14th-century context, see W. Rodwell and C. Atkins, St. Peter’s Barton on Humber, Lincolnshire, 2 vols (Oxford/Oakville CT 2001), I, 482–92. 52. Mary Carruthers, The Book of Memory (Cambridge 2008). Her instances are largely drawn from illustrated manuscripts, but her thesis of encouraging recollection by creaturely imagery is equally true of the decoration of sacred buildings. 53. Binski, Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets (as n. 7), pls 225, 227 and 228. 54. BL, Royal MS 2 A XXII. See ibid., 81. 55. ‘rex Henricus tertius dedit reliquias [. . .] plures crustas de capite sancti Christophori’; J. Armitage Robinson ed., Flete’s History of Westminster Abbey (Cambridge 1909), 71. 56. Among the group of Apostolic relics given by Edward the Confessor were the arms of the Apostles Bartholomew and Thomas; Flete’s History (as n. 55), 70. 57. Regis J. Armstrong, J. A. Wayne Hellmann and William J. Short ed., Francis of Assisi: Early Docu­ ments, 3 vols (New York/London/Manila 1999–2001), I: Francis of Assisi: The Saint, 424. 58. For the altar of the relics, see Tudor-Craig, ‘Litlington Missal’ (as n. 2), esp. fig. 70, which shows a monk demonstrating on an altar a collection of relics, including a (crowned) head and an arm reliquary from the Litlyngton Missal (fol. 254r). 59. Flete’s History (as n. 55), 72. 60. Luke 23, 55–56; 24, 1 and 10–11. 61. Flete’s History (as n. 55), 72. 62. See Sauerla¨nder, Gothic Sculpture (as n. 15), 105, n. xliv. 63. C. J. P. Cave and L. E. Tanner, ‘A Thirteenth-Century Choir of Angels in the North Transept of Westminster Abbey and the Adjacent Figures of Two Kings’, Archaeologia, LXXXIV (1934), 63–67. 64. M. Rubin, The Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture (Cambridge 1991), 164–21. 65. Aelred of Rievaulx, Treatises and the Pastoral Prayer, introduction by D. Knowles (Kalamazoo 1971), 7 and 16. 66. His writings have been published and translated frequently, for example into German in H. Heil and A. M. Ritter, Corpus Dionysiacum II: Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagita. De coelesti hierarchia, de ecclesiastica hierarchia, de mystica theologia, epitulae, Patristische Texte und Studien 36 (Berlin 1990), and into English (as n. 40). 67. See the impenetrably mysterious first chapter of the Book of Ezekiel. 68. Henry III’s first Great Seal (1219), carried out by the goldsmith Walter de Ripa, does not depart significantly from that of his father. See W. Kingsford, ‘Some English medieval seal engravers’, Archaeol. J., 97 (1940), 155–79, at 158–59. His second Great Seal (1259) is illustrated and discussed by Binski, Westminster Abbey (as n. 7), 84 and pl. 59. It was designed by the goldsmith William of Gloucester, with advice from Edward of Westminster. A reference to the lions of the Throne of Solomon was put forward by F. Wormald in ‘The Throne of Solomon and St. Edward’s Chair’, in De Artibus Opusculas XL: Essays in Honor of Erwin Panofsky, ed. M. Meiss, 2 vols (New York 1961), I, 532–39. 69. W. Rodwell, The Coronation Chair and the Stone of Scone: History, Archaeology and Conservation (Oxford 2013), esp. 25–32. 70. Now in the Victoria & Albert Museum cast court. 71. For Alain de Lille (before 1128–1202/3), see G. R. Evans, Alan of Lille: The Frontiers of Theology in the Later Twelfth Century (Cambridge 1983). 72. ‘God is an intelligible sphere whose centre is everywhere and circumference is nowhere.’ 73. BL, Harley MS 3244, and Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 66 fol. 100, illustrated in Binski, Westminster Abbey (as n. 7), 190, pl. 247. 74. Thomas of Celano (1185/90–1260) wrote the first life of the saint in time for the canonization in 1229, three years after Francis’s death. For Celano’s description of the receiving of the stigmata from the Seraph who was also the Crucified Christ, see Francis of Assisi: The Saint (as n. 58), 263–65. ‘The feathers of these wings (the lowest pair) are a wide range of affections arising from hatred of sin and developing a longing for justice’; ibid., 283. 75. Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, Parker Library, MS 16, fol. 70v, discussed by R. Brooke, The Image of St Francis: Responses to Sainthood in the Thirteenth Century (Cambridge 2006), pl. 22, 199 and 198–202. See also P. Brieger, English Art 1216–1307, Oxford History of Art (Oxford 1957), pl. 55a. 76. BL, Cotton MS Nero D I, fol. 156.


The Iconography of Henry III’s Abbey 77. Marjorie Reeves, Joachim of Fiore and the Prophetic Future: A Medieval Study in Historical Thinking (London 1976, Stroud 1999). 78. See Reeves, Joachim of Fiore (as n. 77), chapter 2. The generals of the two Mendicant Orders, Humbert de Romanis (Dominican general 1254–63) and John of Parma (Franciscan general 1247–57), issued a joint encyclical in 1255 declaring a critical visionary role for the friars in a third age. 79. See Richard Foster, Patterns of Thought: The Hidden Meaning of the Great Pavement of Westminster Abbey (London 1991), 80–110. 80. There was a sprinkling of triumphal arches all through the Roman Empire. The one at Reims still stands, but without winged victories in the spandrels. 81. See Albertus Magnus, De Falconibus, book 23, chapter 40 of his De Animalibus. 82. This definition may be found, for example, in Webster’s International Dictionary, or C. T. Onions, W. Little, H. W. Fowel and J. Coulson, The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford 1933, 1st edn). All dictionaries classify the usage as archaic.


The Cosmati Pavements and their Topographical Setting: Addressing the Archaeological Issues WARWICK RODWELL

Westminster Abbey possesses the only two Cosmati pavements in Britain, and they differ markedly in design and construction. The first was laid in the sanctuary in 1268, the second, slightly later, in the shrine chapel of St Edward the Confessor. Both pave­ ments have recently undergone intensive study, and that in the sanctuary was subjected to a major conservation programme in 2008–10, enabling it to be on public view once again. This paper records some of the new discoveries and discusses the changing topography of the sanctuary and shrine areas since the 13th century. It considers issues such as the positions of screens and steps, arrangements for access by pilgrims, the setting of the Coronation Chair and the possibility that there was originally a third Cosmati floor in the high-altar bay between the two extant pavements. It has long been acknowledged that Westminster Abbey possesses the only two intact Cosmati floors in Britain: the ‘Great Pavement’, as it is often described, was laid in 1268 and occupies much of the floor area of the sanctuary, or Sacrarium; the other pavement lies to the east and is in the Chapel of St Edward, the focus of which is the shrine-tomb of King Edward the Confessor (d. 1066) (Fig. 1).1 For short, they are generally known as the ‘sanctuary’ and ‘shrine’ pavements.2 The shrine pedestal itself, begun by 1268–69, was also completely covered with Cosmatesque decoration, although most of that has been lost over the centuries.3 The shrine was dismantled at the Dissolution in 1540, but reconstructed again, with modifications, in 1555.4 To the north of the shrine lies the tomb of Henry III (d. 1272), which is also inlaid with Cosmatesque work, and in the south ambulatory is a small tomb-chest similarly decorated.5 It was undoubtedly created for the burial of a royal child, but his or her identity is uncertain.6 The tomb was relocated, presumably from St Edward’s Chapel, to the ambulatory in the late 14th century. Also repositioned is a spirally twisted shaft that was probably once a floorstanding candelabrum, or a pillar for a statuette: it was reused in the 16th century as a shaft at the north-west corner of the shrine pedestal.7 A further example of Cosmatesque work is the mosaic inlay in the tomb-cover of John de Valence (d. 1277), which is set into the floor of St Edward’s Chapel, due east of the shrine. Several other monuments, including the effigy of John’s son, William de Valence (d. 1296), with its once-sumptuous Limoges enamel decoration, were almost certainly ejected from the chapel in order to make way for more royal burials.8 Finally, mention must be made of the Westminster Retable, the ornate altarpiece of c. 1270, associated with the high altar: it displays a variety of decorative techniques, including 158

BAA Trans., vol. xxxix, part i (2015), 158–179 # British Archaeological Association 2015

The Cosmati Pavements

Fig. 1. The Cosmati pavements in context: plan of the eastern arm of Henry III’s church,

showing the principal 13th- and 14th-century features referred to in the text. 1. Sanctuary (Great)

pavement; 2. High altar (present position); 3. Shrine Chapel pavement (plan as surviving);

4. Shrine-tomb and altar of St Edward the Confessor; 5. Site of Holy Trinity altar (relics);

6. Sedilia. Tombs: 7. Henry III; 8. Eleanor of Castile; 9. John and Margaret de Valence; 10.

Edward I; 11. Richard II and Anne of Bohemia; 12. Aveline de Forz; 13. Edmund ‘Crouchback’;

14. Aymer de Valence; 15. William de Valence; 16. Unknown child (Cosmati tomb). Steps: a. and

b. surviving medieval steps; c. post-medieval timber stair to enter the chapel


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painting, gilding, glass inlays and micro-mosaic work.9 Moreover, its plain back was painted to simulate purple porphyry, thereby linking it to the surrounding Cosmat­ esque work, in which porphyry is very prominent. All these elements are assignable to the 13th century, and more specifically from the late 1260s to the 1280s. Further additions were made to the furnishings in the opening decade of the next century. First came St Edward’s Chair — better known today as the Coronation Chair — in 1300,10 followed by the sedilia in c. 1307.11 The decoration of both included painting, gilding and coloured-glass inlays, all of which harmonized with the retable. There were doubtless other decoratively related furnishings and fittings to complete the ensemble, as well as several highly ornate royal tombs on the north side of the sanctuary,12 but the principal and most unfortunate lacuna in our knowledge concerns the materials and physical appearance of the high altar itself. It too was potentially Cosmatesque. While all these architectural features and furnishings are well known, and some have attracted a good deal of scholarly discussion, the overall topography of the sanctuary and shrine chapel has received less study than it deserves. There are several issues of an archaeological nature that have not hitherto been addressed, and one of the aims of this paper is to highlight them. It does not claim to be definitive: research and investigations on site are continuing. sanctuary and shrine The presbytery plan of Henry III’s new church (begun 1246) comprised three straight bays, east of the crossing, followed by a polygonal apse of five cants, the whole being enveloped by a spacious ambulatory and radiating chapels. The first bay is the widest and aligns with the transeptal aisles; the second and third bays are narrower, but of equal width, the former housing the high altar and latter St Edward’s altar. The shrine is situated entirely within the apse, its western edge aligning with the chord. There were four changes of level, relative to the ambulatory floor, encompassing a total differen­ tial of 1.60 m. The first change was at the crossing, the pavement of which (together with that of the quire) stood three steps higher than the floors of the transepts and ambulatory. These steps, along with the transept screens that stood upon them, were expunged in 1844, and compensated for by adding a further three steps to those leading up from the crossing to the sanctuary. The entrance to the sanctuary was marked by one or two (now five) Purbeck marble steps, extending across the full width of the eastern crossing arch,13 and the matutinal altar would have stood immediately to the west. The top step, which is medieval and in situ, is centred on the axis of the eastern crossing piers (Fig. 1, step ‘a’). Once in the sanctuary, there were then another three steps to reach the high altar, but they were not in the same positions as now. The present altar, steps and paving of the dais were designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1862–63, but not executed until 1866–67.14 Scott sited two new steps immediately east of the arcade piers between the first and second bays of the presbytery, and a third one forms a small dais for the altar itself. He did not reinstate the medieval arrangement, which had been swept away in 1706 to install the Queen Anne altarpiece.15 The altarpiece was a massive marble construction with wings, which required an extensive dais, and that was constructed with one or more steps on its west side. The new dais spread over and obliterated the eastern edge of the Cosmati pavement. Fortu­ nately, a detailed drawing of the high-altar area in 1532 is contained in Abbot Islip’s 160

The Cosmati Pavements

Fig. 2. Detail from Abbot Islip’s funerary roll (1532), showing the late medieval arrangement of steps in front of the high altar # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

funerary roll.16 It shows three steps close to the altar screen, two of them breaking forward at the centre of the sanctuary, to create a dais immediately in front of the altar (Fig. 2). This arrangement may be no earlier than the 15th century. Finally, there were one or two more steps from the altar dais up to pavement level in the Chapel of St Edward. Again, the two existing steps are Victorian and present only in the doorways of the stone screen dividing the sanctuary from the chapel. Since the screen was installed in 1441, a different arrangement must have existed thitherto, and some firm evidence of that is apparent in the Purbeck marble paving towards the western edge of the chapel (Fig. 1, step ‘b’, discussed below). Although the positions of the steps have been revised, the basic floor levels have not been altered in the sanctuary and shrine chapel since the 1260s. At present, it is unclear how the interface between the elevated floors within the four presbytery bays, and the ambulatory outside, was handled. In several bays a low limestone step and wall-bench are present in the ambulatory, but there are no certain indications of vertical retaining walls above bench level.17 These must have been set back under the arcade, but have been eclipsed by the substructures of the royal tombs that were later inserted into every bay. 161

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It can reasonably be assumed that the sanctuary and chapel were enclosed by screens fitted in each arcade bay, probably on the axis of the piers (which are flanked by en de´lit shafts). However, the relevant areas of arcade masonry are so heavily obscured, and in some cases damaged, that no convincing scar patterns relating to screen attachment have yet been discerned. Binski has argued that there were fixed screens, one of which apparently collapsed in 1308.18 It is just possible that some of the plain ashlar masonry incorporated in the back of the Aveline tomb is part of a screen wall on the north side of the sanctuary.19 Finally, we have to ask a fundamental question relating to floors: how did Henry III originally intend to pave the sanctuary and shrine chapel? The basic layout, and prob­ ably the levels, must have been determined in the mid- or late 1240s, long before the idea of constructing Cosmati pavements had been mooted. The general flooring material in the 13th-century Abbey comprised squares of Purbeck marble, and small amounts of this paving still survive in the ambulatory and east cloister walk. No doubt, Henry III intended ab initio that the focal pavements would be ornate, and this could have been achieved with a ceramic tile floor (as in the chapter-house), mosaic work in Purbeck marble alone, or some other form of opus sectile involving the use of coloured marbles. There was good precedent for this at Canterbury Cathedral, where the elaborate floors of the Corona, the Trinity Chapel and the adjacent ambulatory contained a consider­ able variety of stone types and shapes. These pavements had variously been laid between the 1180s and c. 1220.20 In an attempt to establish the nature of the bedding material, and whether the sanctuary pavement had been laid over a previous floor, three soil-cores were taken to a depth of 1 m in places where the medieval mosaic had been destroyed. The results were surprising. The contemporary mortar bed for the pavement was shown to be c. 100 mm in thickness; below this was soil containing occasional pebbles and lumps of mortar, but that quickly gave way to fine, dark-grey silty loam, which continued to the bottoms of the cores. The clean, compact nature of the loam and the paucity of inclusions are archaeologically more consistent with building on a virgin site than a monastic com­ plex with a long history.21 This result contrasts with the evidence reported by Lethaby when he excavated beneath the shrine pavement in 1910, where he found that ‘the ground had been made up for several feet by a filling of stone chips, the waste from a mason’s yard’.22 He seems to imply that this deposit, together with the bedding for the pavement, was 5 ft 8 in. (1.73 m) in thickness, and that below it was a further 2 ft (0.61 m) of unspecified material before reaching the natural ‘sandy loam’. This accords well with the deposits revealed in an excavation in 2012 in Poets’ Corner Yard, 20 m due south of Lethaby’s discovery.23 From time to time, it has been hypothesized that there could have been a crypt beneath the Cosmati pavement in the apsidal chapel, although Lethaby’s investigation clearly demonstrated otherwise. Nevertheless, Peter Foster, Surveyor of the Fabric, produced a plan and section of a hypothetical crypt, and caused at least six boreholes to be drilled through the floor in 1976.24 The results were, predictably, negative. sanctuary pavement After a prolonged period of study and small-scale trials, a cleaning and conservation programme was carried out on the pavement in 2008–10, under the direction of Vanessa Simeoni, the Abbey’s Head Conservator (Fig. 3). This shed much light on the 162

The Cosmati Pavements

Fig. 3.

Cosmati pavement in the sanctuary, after conservation, 2010 The Downland Partnership # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

construction of the floor and its subsequent history, and a monograph detailing the entire project is in preparation. Here, I shall discuss only a few aspects of the pave­ ment’s topographical setting. There is a general consensus that the inspiration for the Cosmati pavements at West­ minster should be credited to Richard de Ware, who was elected abbot in 1259 and journeyed to Rome and Anagni in the following year, to seek papal confirmation of his appointment. On his return, Ware presumably told Henry III about the great marble pavements that he had seen in Italy, and the king was persuaded that Westminster Abbey needed one. Ware made a second visit to Rome in 1267–68, when he arranged 163

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for Italian marble workers — including one Odoricus — to come to England and lay a pavement for the king. The precious materials would have been acquired and imported at the same time, notably purple and green porphyry, and several other stone types of Mediterranean origin. Binski has pointed out that the acquisition of materials from Rome, for the creation of the only known Cosmati pavement in north-west Europe (outside Italy), is likely to have required papal collaboration.25 However, this did not mark the first arrival of porphyry in medieval Britain, since the material was already present in the opus Alexandrinum pavement at Canterbury. In addition to laying the sanctuary pavement, the same, or follow-on, lapidary teams must have been respon­ sible over the next two decades for further Cosmatesque works in the Abbey: the shrine pavement, St Edward’s shrine, Henry III’s tomb, the unknown child’s tomb and other monuments.26 The Westminster sanctuary pavement differs fundamentally from all Italian Cosmati floors in three respects: first, the matrix in which the mosaic is laid is grey Purbeck marble, rather than white Carrara marble; secondly, the borders are inlaid with latten letters, forming inscriptions; and, thirdly, a considerable amount of coloured glass was used, as well as stone, for the most intricate mosaic work. One of the inscriptions tells us that the pavement was laid in 1268, but the formula employed strongly suggests that it was only added after the death of Henry III in 1272. Although the floor would have been the final element of the sanctuary to be con­ structed, after all overhead building operations and decoration had been completed and the scaffolding removed, more than two decades had elapsed since work on the presbytery began in 1246. A chronological lacuna has to be filled. We know that the transepts were finished by 1259, when demolition of the eastern part of the Roman­ esque nave was commenced, where the monastic quire would have been. Consequently, that area could no longer have housed the quire and doubled as a makeshift presbytery, as it presumably had done for the past decade. The new presbytery must have been completed by then, if not a year or two earlier.27 The quire, which had to be linked to the presbytery, is likely to have been relocated to the recently completed crossing. Somehow, continuity of the monastic liturgy had to be maintained. At any rate, the liturgical focus was reinstated in its easterly location in the later 1250s, and a floor of some kind must have been laid in the sanctuary by then. We have no information on this point, but it was most likely a Purbeck marble pavement.28 Abbot Ware did not travel to Italy until 1260, and so the possibility of laying a Cosmatesque floor had not even been conceived. I therefore suggest that in 1267–68 a relatively plain floor of Purbeck marble slabs was taken up and the construction of the new Cosmati pavement begun. Most of the com­ ponents would have been prepared off site, and it would only have taken a few months to install the floor. This involved constructing a level bed of lime-concrete, upon which the intended design was marked out. The matrix was then laid down. It comprised strips of Purbeck marble, straight and curved, defining the squares, rectangles, central quincunx and guilloche border (Fig. 4). The twenty small roundels embraced by the guilloche comprise individual discs of Purbeck marble into which intricate designs were chased. These, too, were set on the mortar bed. The two rectangles in the north and south sides of the outer frame are also formed from single slabs of Purbeck marble with shallowly chased designs: they are coffin lids (see below). All the remaining voids in the floor matrix were then filled with lime mortar to within about 1 in. (25 mm) of the surface: this formed the bed for the much thinner stone and glass mosaic work, which 164

The Cosmati Pavements

Fig. 4.

Purbeck marble components individually shaped and assembled to create the matrix for the Cosmati work of the sanctuary pavement # David S. Neal

was then laid. At some stage, matrices were cut in the borders to hold the latten letters of the three inscriptions.29 The pavement was designed to incorporate two burial places, one on the north side, in which Abbot Ware was interred in 1283, and the other on the south. It is often held that Ware’s successor, Walter de Wenlok, was laid to rest in the latter chamber when he died in 1307, but there is conflicting documentary evidence asserting that he was buried 165

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on the south side of the high altar, in front of the screen door opening into the shrine chapel.30 An unidentified burial in a lead coffin was found alongside the sedilia during Scott’s restoration, but that is more likely to have been the grave of Anne Neville, Richard III’s queen (d. 1485).31 There were also other medieval burials in the north and south borders of the sanctuary pavement, all now unmarked. The two burial chambers each comprised a monolithic Purbeck marble coffin set into the ground before the pavement was constructed, and covered with a rectangular Purbeck marble lid which was flush with the surface of the floor and was inlaid with Cosmati mosaic, mostly in glass (Fig. 5). While Ware’s coffin lid had an inscribed latten

Fig. 5.

Abbot Ware’s coffin lid set into the north side of the sanctuary pavement: view from the south-west Photograph courtesy of Christopher Wilson


The Cosmati Pavements

fillet running around its perimeter, the southern lid had no provision for an inscription. Indeed, we cannot be certain that an interment was ever made in the latter coffin. The application of ground-penetrating radar to the pavement revealed several under­ lying anomalies, the interpretation of which is uncertain. However, it provided good definition of Ware’s coffin; this has a head-recess at the west end and contains metal objects.32 The positions of these suggest a sepulchral chalice and paten, and possibly a crozier-head. It had never been clear how corpses could have been inserted into the coffins, once the floor was finished, until a chance discovery was made during conser­ vation. It was noted that Ware’s coffin lid was flanked on the north and south by narrow strips of poorly laid tesserae. Investigation of a damaged area revealed that the strip covered a gap between the lid and the remainder of the pavement, and within that gap were the decayed remains of an iron ring and link, attached to a staple secured in the edge of the lid (Fig. 6). Scanning with a metal detector revealed that there were four such fittings to each coffin lid. Thus, when Ware died, the ‘sacrificial’ strips of tesserae were removed and the con­ cealed iron rings lifted out of the gaps so that they came just above floor level. Bars could then be threaded through them, enabling the lid to be raised bodily off the coffin. After the interment, the lid was replaced and the mosaic strips reinstated (Fig. 7). The

Fig. 6. Detail of the south-west corner of Abbot Ware’s coffin, revealed when cement filling was removed from a damaged area of the pavement, 2010. A. coffin lid; B. coffin; C. mortar-filled gap between the coffin lid and surrounding Purbeck marble frame, capped with a sacrificial strip of mosaic work concealing the iron lifting rings; D. Purbeck marble frame, channelled to receive an inscribed latten fillet (missing) # Dean and Chapter of Westminster


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Fig. 7. Diagrammatically adapted photograph (see Fig. 5), illustrating how provision was made for Abbot Ware’s coffin lid to be lifted out of the pavement, for his interment in 1283

attachment of iron rings, links and chains to heavy objects that needed to be lifted vertically in a confined space was not unusual, and the fittings that allowed Henry III’s coffin to be lowered into his tomb are still in place.33 In a similar vein, rings, links and staples were attached to the Stone of Scone in the mid-1320s, not in this instance to aid lifting, but to chain it to the floor of St Edward’s Chapel, for security.34 The mosaic-inlaid area of sanctuary pavement measures 7.55 m square, and is framed by a plain border of Purbeck marble. On the west the border comprises a broad step, but on the other three sides it is a narrow strip. On the north and south that strip in turn is flanked by a band of mosaic ‘tiling’ in Purbeck marble, laid by Scott in suc­ cession to a chequer pattern executed in black and white marble in 1706.35 We do not know how these bands were previously floored. Scott was responsible for the present 168

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designs, but whether he took his cue from any residual archaeological evidence that may have come to light we cannot tell. John Dart, writing about the pavement in 1723, lamented that workmen erecting the Queen Anne altarpiece ‘broke it up [. . .] where the marble slabs lie round the edges on the sides’.36 The question is: precisely what did they break up and why was it worthy of anguished comment? No less problematic is the eastern border of the pavement, where two-thirds of each roundel was obscured in 1706 by the repositioned steps up to the altar dais. Drawings by John Talman (1707),37 Rudolph Ackermann (1812),38 George Maw (1862)39 and Orlando Jewitt (1863)40 all confirm the cut-off point of the decoration. However, the pavement does not appear to have been physically truncated (although the roundels were badly damaged), but merely overlaid by the new steps. That being so, it is difficult to appreciate why Scott not only renewed all six roundels, but also substituted designs of his own, rather than be guided by the surviving evidence.41 This is uncharacteristic of a man who normally adopted an archaeological approach to restoration. He based two of the new designs on other roundels in the pavement, and the remaining four were inspired by motifs in the shrine floor.42 high-altar pavement The greater part of the second bay of the presbytery is currently occupied by a floor that is raised by two steps and extends across its full width. It carries a multi-coloured pavement of opus sectile, designed by Scott in the late 1860s. The high altar stands on an additional dais, raised by one step. The materials were mostly new then, but some antique purple porphyry roundels were also included. They had no historical association with the Abbey, but were given to Dean Stanley by his father-in-law, the earl of Elgin. We have no precise information on the previous flooring material, although it would appear that a lime-concrete base was laid down in 1706 to support the great mass of the Queen Anne altarpiece. The floor was probably finished with a chequer of black and white marble. The medieval pavement in this area was destroyed at that time, a fact robustly lamented by John Dart. At first sight his account appears confusing, since he refers to the main pavement, and that in the altar bay, as though they were contiguous. Although they are now separated by two steps, it is apparent from the Islip drawing of 1532 that the pavements in the first and second bays were contiguous and for the most part at the same level. Dart tells us that ‘a great number’ of the stones were ‘taken up at the erecting of the new Altar, and some of them are with the Right Honourable the Lord Harley’. He then goes on to say that the whole pavement was threatened with destruction, but ‘it was for the most part sav’d’ through the timely intervention of Lord Oxford and the bishop of Rochester.43 The latter was Thomas Sprat, Dean of Westminster at the time. However, the workmen ‘broke it up under where the Altar stands, and where the marble Slabs lie round the edges on the sides’. Had these areas merely been paved with Purbeck marble, or some other relatively plain material, Dart would not have been so exercised by their loss: the possibility that there was originally a third Cosmati pavement in front of the high altar must be seriously considered. It was common in Italy to lay a pavement up to the altar, and to continue it around the sides (or install separate flanking panels). The sanctuary pavement at Westminster is so far forward of the altar that the latter would have appeared uncomfortably detached if there had been nothing but grey Purbeck marble paving and steps filling the intervening space, which is readily apparent from Figure 1. The discord would have been further emphasized by the presence of the 169

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colourful shrine pavement immediately behind the altar, there being no intervening solid screen at the time. The topography of the altar bay best lends itself to being paved with two or three separate Cosmatesque panels. Unfortunately, the loss of all medieval flooring in the relevant area means that this can only remain an attractive hypothesis. However, the setting of the altar underwent change in the later Middle Ages, and the hypothetical 13th-century ‘middle’ pavement is unlikely to have remained fully intact. The great stone altar screen erected in 1441 now forms the eastern limit of the presbytery, shutting off the shrine pavement from view, and its installation certainly disrupted the primary floor and steps. Since that date, the high altar has stood on a dais against the screen, and the drawing of 1532 shows its elevation by two or three steps. The 13th-century retable was rehoused in a shallow recess in the new screen, directly above the altar. In Scott’s restoration of the west face of the screen, a mosaic panel by Antonio Salviati was installed in the place once occupied by the retable. Scott also appreciated the need to give the altar a Cosmatesque floor-setting, to link it visually to the medieval pavement. There is no reason to suppose that the axial position of the high altar has changed since the 13th century by more than c. 0.5 m, if at all. However, this gives rise to another enigma. When Henry III died in 1272, his Cosmati monument was evidently not ready, and his body was placed temporarily in the empty tomb where Edward the Confessor had lain, before being reinterred in the shrine pedestal in 1269. Henry’s remains were not transferred to his own tomb until 1290. No wholly convincing explanation for this extraordinarily long delay has ever been offered. Indeed, given the length of his reign, and the fact that he had decided by 1246 to be interred in Westminster Abbey, it is remarkable that Henry had not caused the tomb to be constructed in readiness, during his lifetime. It has, however, been generally assumed by scholars that he had earmarked the location. No sooner had Henry finally been laid to rest, than Edward I’s queen, Eleanor of Castile, died very unexpectedly in Lincolnshire (1290). Not unnaturally in this instance, no burial place had been prepared for her, and so her body was tempo­ rarily placed in the recently vacated tomb. In 1293, she was reinterred in her own tomb on the north-east side of the apse. The Confessor was originally buried in front of the high altar in his Anglo-Saxon church, but the precise location of neither the altar nor the grave has been established. We cannot review here the complex and conflicting evidence relating to the various burial and translation sites, which has been usefully summarized by Sally Badham.44 Suffice it to say that somewhere in the sanctuary or shrine chapel there was a vacant tomb chamber that successively held two kings and a queen. No evidence for a chamber was reported when Scott laid the new pavement in front of the present high altar, although in 1866 he found two medieval burials on the site, one of which was in a tapered stone coffin, but with no means of identification.45 It had lost its lid. The other burial was that of a child, presumably of royal birth. These interments are irrelevant to the present enquiry. Yet when the area was scanned with ground-penetrating radar in 2005, it yielded a most curious result: an infilled chamber of trapezoidal plan was located directly in front of the altar. The radar scan indicated that the floor of the chamber could be c. 3.5 m below present pavement level.46 The location could hardly be of greater significance, but the plan is not reminiscent of a Romanesque or early Gothic crypt or burial vault. Consequently, the location of the thrice-used tomb remains uncertain, at least for the time being. Obviously, it had to be in a readily accessible location, which precludes its being beneath the great pavement where, moreover, the radar scans did not pick up an 170

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axial chamber, or any other potentially relevant feature. The issue is further compli­ cated by the discovery of a second infilled chamber, this time beneath the altar in the shrine chapel (see below). shrine pavement By comparison with the sanctuary pavement, the Cosmatesque floor in St Edward’s Chapel has received little study. A somewhat schematic plan was published by the RCHME in 1924,47 and the topography of the chapel, which includes several major intrusions into the pavement, has been discussed by Tim Tatton-Brown.48 A detailed study and record of the design and composition of the Cosmatesque mosaic was made by David Neal in 2012. The construction of this floor is utterly different from that in the sanctuary, not least in scale. Although the chapel gives the impression today of being a fairly small and cramped space, its Cosmati pavement is actually wider in the north–south dimension than that in the sanctuary. Its individual decorative com­ ponents are much smaller in scale, however, and are all mosaic work, mainly in stone, but also including much glass in the area north of the shrine. There are no undecorated stone bands or opus sectile in this pavement. The floor was initially laid as a plain pavement of Purbeck marble, but not of diagon­ ally laid squares of similar size. The slabs are mostly rectangular and vary considerably in size: there is no pattern to their layout. Two slabs, towards the south-west corner of the chapel, are markedly tapered in plan and appear to be recycled coffin lids. They are laid ‘head-to-toe’ and so, together, they effectively make up a rectangular slab. It is potentially significant that one rectangle of Purbeck marble is very much larger than all the others, and lies axially to the west of the shrine altar (Fig. 8). The paving was seem­ ingly laid at the same time as the shrine pedestal was constructed. As noted above, the structure was probably not finished when the shrine was dedicated in 1269, the inscrip­ tion on the frieze recording completion in 1279. Since the Purbeck marble matrices were cut on the bench, before the pedestal was assembled, it is possible that the Cosmati decoration was not inserted until nearer the latter date. It is also well to recall that there are very close similarities between the Cosmati work of the shine and that on Henry III’s tomb. It is logical that the mosaic floor should not have been laid until the masons had finished work on both the shrine and the tomb, since the risk of damage was overwhelming. That risk is emphasized, a fortiori, by the fact that the majority of the glass inlaid into the pavement is on the north side, that is between the shrine pedestal and the tomb. The random sizes of the Purbeck marble paving laid down in the 1260s provide a strong indication that there was, from the outset, an intention to decorate the floor in extenso. Moreover, there can be no doubt that the matrix for the Cosmati work was chased into the paving after it had been laid, the designs continuing seamlessly from slab to slab without any reference to the intervening joints. The floor decoration flanks the shrine and the site of its altar on the north, west and south; there was never a con­ tinuation of Cosmatesque work on the east. Nor was there any stone paving or mosaic work on the site of the shrine altar and its dais.49 The Cosmati design was laid out in three sections, or carpets, the junctions between them falling on a north–south line coincident with the western edge of the altar dais. The decoration takes the form of an all-over carpet-like design of interlinked circles, large and small. The fact that it was laid in three distinct sections is not immediately apparent: there are no borders or internal divisions.50 North of the shrine and altar, 171

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Fig. 8. Purbeck marble slabs with channels cut in situ to form the matrix for inlaying the Cosmati work of the Shrine pavement. The two principal areas of destruction were caused by the burials of Bishop Waltham and Thomas Woodstock. The location where the Coronation Chair was probably chained to the floor in the mid-1320s is also marked # David S. Neal

the motifs employed in the large circles are regularly disposed: each north–south row contains a different design, but every circle within that row is treated identically. The same applies to the second carpet, which runs transversely across the full width of the chapel, although it is truncated on the north by Edward I’s tomb and on the south by Richard II’s. The design-axis of this carpet lies at right-angles to the last, and hence the rows of identical motifs here run east–west (Fig. 9). Finally, in the southern carpet no attempt was made to follow the established format of filling each transverse row with similar motifs: the basic layout is the same, but the constituents are jumbled. The matrix cutters stopped just short of the lowest step to the shrine, the altar dais and the steps at the base of Henry III’s tomb, confirming that these structures were already in position when the Cosmati floor was created. To the east, the pattern simply peters out in both carpets, although on the south side of the shrine it continues for a further 0.3 m than it does on the north. No explanation can be offered for this asym­ metry. The east end of the chapel has only plain paving, much of it dating from c. 1440, when Henry V’s chantry chapel was erected on the site formerly occupied by the Holy Trinity altar (‘altar of the relics’). The western carpet is centred on the third bay of the presbytery, and two aspects deserve additional comment. First, although both ends have been truncated, it is clear that the pattern continued further to the north and south than it did on the two abutting carpets. In other words, the Cosmati work ran into the arcade bays for an unknown distance. The second feature concerns the western extremity of the pavement. As 172

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Fig. 9. Detail from the central part of the west side of the Shrine pavement, showing the Purbeck marble matrix and surviving tesserae. The western edge is worn and formed the arris of a step; the eastern edge was abutted by the altar dais # David S. Neal

elsewhere, the matrix cutters stopped just before they reached the edge of the Purbeck marble pavement. There is now a mixed band of infill material abutting the western edge, comprising late medieval ceramic tiles, variously sized slabs of Purbeck marble and other materials. This infill dates from 1441 and later, and is associated with the erection of the present altar screen. However, it is readily apparent that the physical condition of the western edge of the original pavement varies, and is not consistent from end to end: for a length of 2.2 m, centred across the axis of the chapel, the arris is rounded, having been worn away by foot traffic. To the north and south of this zone, the arris is still relatively sharp. The obvious explanation is that, prior to 1441, the central part of the pavement was not abutted by flooring, a screen or anything else, but served as a step down to the lower level of the sanctuary. The flanks of that step (or steps) on the north and south are potentially defined by pavers of Purbeck marble that are still in situ. The implications of this discovery are of the greatest interest for elucidating the 13th-century topography of the presbytery. There cannot have been a permanent screen dividing the sanctuary from the shrine, at least not behind the high altar, a conclusion indirectly supported by the retable.51 This oak altarpiece measures 3.33 m long by 0.955 m high, and it is reasonable to assume that the altar with which it was associated 173

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was of similar length. On the back of the retable are eleven equally spaced, vertical oak battens, the primary function of which was to hold the component boards together and to stiffen the whole structure. Three of those battens originally continued downwards, as ‘legs’, but they have since been sawn off.52 These legs must have been required to support the retable, there being no screen to which it could be attached. Most plausibly, the legs were secured to the back of the high altar. The fact that the rear face of the retable, although plain, is well finished and decorated in imitation of purple porphyry, confirms that it was intended to be visible. The possibility that there was a light timber or metal screen cannot be ruled out, although at floor level physical demarcation between the sanctuary and St Edward’s Chapel would have been provided by steps. Also, there may have been a transverse beam at a high level, supporting images and relics above the high altar. The drawing of the altar in Abbot Islip’s funerary roll (1532) shows high-level features in this location, including a beam surmounted by a Crucifixion and a row of images (Fig. 2). The issue of general access to the shrine may next be considered. The evidence just discussed shows that access was possible from the sanctuary, certainly from behind the high altar, and perhaps also to either flank: since 1441 doorways in the stone screen, north and south of the altar, have provided intercommunication. However, there can have been no question of medieval pilgrims to the shrine being permitted to tramp through the sanctuary; there had to be another form of entry from the ambulatory, and the western Cosmati carpet would appear to provide the clue. As already noted, it extended for an unknown distance into the arcade bays on the north and south, and I suggest that flights of steps were constructed in both ambulatories, not only for access, but also to provide a circulatory route through the chapel for pilgrims (Fig. 10).53 Between eight and ten steps would have been needed to rise from ambulatory to shrine floor level. These may have been entirely outside the chapel, or several could have been incorporated within the depth of the arcade. It cannot be doubted from the amount of wear by foot traffic on the pavement that significant numbers of pilgrims, and later tourists, gained entry to the chapel. The dif­ ference in condition between the sanctuary and shrine pavements is most striking. The former exhibits little sign of wear, while the latter is very seriously worn. Although Purbeck marble is a relatively hard stone, the average amount of loss throughout the pavement is c. 5 mm. This has left the even harder porphyry tesserae standing proud and vulnerable, with the result that large numbers have simply fallen out and been lost. The posited access from the north ambulatory could not have lasted for more than thirty or forty years, before the tomb of Edward I was constructed on its site in 1307. The corresponding entrance from the south ambulatory was similarly obstructed when the tomb of Richard II was erected in 1395–97. All the arcade bays were now filled by royal tombs, except the eastern cant of the apse, and that was occupied by the altar to the Holy Trinity and the Abbey’s collection of relics. Consequently, we may wonder how pilgrims obtained access to the shrine thereafter. Perhaps a new entrance was created from the east, beside the Holy Trinity altar? But that would have been blocked in c. 1440, when Henry V’s chantry chapel was erected. Otherwise, the only possible point of entry was the narrow gap between the east end of Edward I’s tomb and the adjacent arcade pier, which is still the current means of access for visitors, and has been so used at least since the 16th century (Fig. 1, ‘c’).54 The floor of St Edward’s Chapel has suffered many interventions: graves were cut through it for Bishop John Waltham (1395); Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester 174

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Fig. 10. Reconstruction of the layout of the Chapel of St Edward in the early 14th century. The possible original extent of the Cosmati pavement is shown with a light-grey tone. Areas of undecorated Purbeck marble paving, and steps, are indicated in buff tone. The northern access to the chapel was soon blocked by the monumental tomb of Edward I (d. 1307) Matrix drawing of the pavement courtesy of David S. Neal

(1397); and Bishop Richard Courtenay (1415). The first two were marked by Purbeck marble indents containing brasses. The degree of wear suffered by the slabs confirms that very large numbers of pilgrims and tourists have tramped around the chapel since the end of the 14th century. Close study of the floor in the south-east corner of the chapel demonstrated that when Woodstock’s tomb was cut through the pavement several pieces of displaced Purbeck marble, with their Cosmati work still in situ, were reset in front of the tomb of Edward III. It has been possible to identify the original positions from which three of these pieces came, and hence to reconstruct the destroyed south-east angle of the pavement. 175

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The chapel floor was scanned with ground-penetrating radar in 2005, with interest­ ing results. A series of anomalies was encountered beneath the plain paving, east of the shrine; these could be the unmarked graves of royal children.55 Of more immediate interest in the present context was the revelation that there is a chamber beneath the altar (perhaps extending under the shrine pedestal as well): the radar signals imply that it has a curved (that is, vaulted) roof with a span of c. 2 m and a depth of c. 1.75 m below pavement level. Adjoining it on the west — beneath the exceptionally large matrix slab of Purbeck marble — is another chamber of rectangular plan, apparently filled with rubble.56 The evidence is consistent with interpretation as a roofed or vaulted tomb with a slab-topped access chamber to the west. Could this be the place where the bodies of Edward the Confessor, Henry III, and Eleanor of Castile succes­ sively rested? Once the Cosmati work had been inlaid in the large slab sealing the access chamber, any attempt to lift it would have caused significant damage to the decoration. The chronology of the pavement is therefore of paramount importance in considering this hypothesis. Opinions differ: Carpenter argued for a pre-1268 date;57 Tatton-Brown assumed the contemporaneity of the two pavements;58 Binski considered it could be as late as 1279/80;59 and Badham proposed a date in the early or mid-1290s.60 There is, however, a significant piece of evidence that militates against this being the primary burial site of the Confessor: the chamber is too far east to have been in front of the high altar in his church. Indeed, there is a strong likelihood that it was cut through the foundation of the 11th-century apse, which is known to pass under the extant shrine pedestal. On balance, it seems more plausible that the construction of the chamber was associated with the erection of Henry III’s shrine, or possibly with its predecessor of 1161 (if that was on the same site). Hence, this chamber, although not being the Confessor’s primary burial place, could be regarded as ‘associated’ with him, and it could have been the temporary resting place for the bodies of Henry III and Eleanor. The evidence and the options will be debated elsewhere. One further intrusion into the chapel pavement merits comment: it is on the perim­ eter, due south of St Edward’s altar. Here, a neat square of pavement, measuring c. 0.75 by 0.75 m, has been destroyed. It would appear that one of the Cosmati-inlaid slabs has been completely removed. In its place are now two irregularly shaped and decayed pieces of Purbeck marble, some fragments of medieval peg-tile, lime mortar and modern cement. Clearly, something has been set into the floor here, and I have argued elsewhere that this is the place where St Edward’s Chair stood when it served as a cathedra for medieval mass priests.61 Under normal circumstances, the Chair would simply have stood on the pavement, but in the mid-1320s, when there was a very real threat that the Stone of Scone would be seized from the custody of the abbot and convent, and returned to Scotland for political gain, it was chained to the floor. Iron rings were fitted to both ends of the Stone, and these would have been attached to anchors that were embedded in the ground beneath the pavement. Archaeological investigation of this damaged area of flooring would be of considerable interest.


I am greatly indebted to Vanessa Simeoni and her team of conservators who worked on the sanctuary pavement, and who shared with me their observations both on that and on the shrine pavement. I am equally indebted to David S. Neal for generously offering to draw and paint both pavements in minute detail, in the process of which much fresh information on their design and


The Cosmati Pavements construction has emerged. His astute observations, arising from a lifetime’s study of Roman mosaic pavements, have been of inestimable value. I am very grateful to Erica Utsi, who conducted the painstaking ground-penetrating radar surveys and devoted much time to discussing the evidence with me. As always, Christine Reynolds has been most helpful in sourcing relevant material in the Westminster Abbey Muniments. Finally, for the benefit of discussion I am indebted to many other colleagues, particularly Sally Badham, Paul Binski, Richard Foster, Richard Gem, Christopher Norton and Tim Tatton-Brown. Additionally, Paul Binski, Richard Gem and Tim Tatton-Brown very kindly read and commented on earlier drafts of this paper.

NOTES 1. There is a related and slightly earlier pavement of opus Alexandrinum in front of the Thomas Becket shrine at Canterbury Cathedral: T. Tatton-Brown, ‘The Two Great Marble Pavements in the Sanctuary and Shrine Areas of Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey’, in Historic Floors: Their Care and Conser­ vation, ed. J. Fawcett (Oxford 2001, 2nd edn), 53–62. 2. The principal works on the Cosmati pavements are R. Foster, Patterns of Thought: The Hidden Mean­ ing of the Great Pavement of Westminster Abbey (London 1991); P. Binski, ‘The Cosmati at Westminster and the English Court Style’, Art Bull., 72 (1990), 6–34; T. Tatton-Brown, ‘The Pavement in the Chapel of St Edward The Confessor, Westminster Abbey’, JBAA, 153 (2000), 71–84; L. Grant and R. Mortimer ed., Westminster Abbey: The Cosmati Pavements, Courtauld Research Papers No. 3 (Aldershot 2002); S. Badham, ‘Edward the Confessor’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey: The Origins of the Royal Mausoleum and its Cosmat­ esque Pavement’, Antiq. J., 87 (2007), 197–219. 3. The inscription on the pedestal records the date as 1279/80, which may reflect its completion. For the date of the shrine, see P. Binski, Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets: Kingship and the Representation of Power, 1200–1400 (New Haven CT/London 1995), 99–100. 4. J. G. O’Neilly and L. E. Tanner, ‘The Shrine of Edward the Confessor’, Archaeologia, C (1966), 129–54. 5. Although it has often been remarked that this small tomb approximates to the size of the altar that must once have been attached to the shrine, it is certainly not an altar. An investigation behind the tomb established that Cosmati inlay is present on all four edges of the lid, confirming that this was originally a free-standing structure. 6. This tomb has engendered much discussion: S. Badham, ‘Whose Body? Monuments Displaced from St Edward the Confessor’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey’, JBAA, 160 (2007), 129–46; S. Badham and S. Ooster­ wijk, ‘The Tomb Monument of Katherine, Daughter of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence (1253–7)’, Antiq. J., 92 (2012), 169–96. 7. G. G. Scott, Gleanings from Westminster Abbey (Oxford/London 1863, 2nd edn), 58. 8. Badham, ‘Monuments Displaced’ (as n. 6), 140–43. 9. P. Binski and A. Massing with M. L. Sauerberg ed., The Westminster Retable: History, Technique, Conservation (Cambridge/London/Turnhout 2009). 10. W. Rodwell, The Coronation Chair and Stone of Scone: History, Archaeology and Conservation (Oxford/Oakville CT 2013), fig. 159. 11. M. L. Sauerberg et al., ‘The Westminster Abbey Sedilia: Examination and Treatment Report, October 2009’, unpublished report held in Westminster Abbey Library. This followed the publication of an initial assessment: L. Wrapson, ‘The Materials and Techniques of the c. 1307 Westminster Abbey Sedilia’, in Tech­ niques, Analysis, Art History: Studies in Commemoration of the 70th Birthday of Unn Plahter, ed. J. Nadolny, K. Kollandsrud, M. L. Sauerberg and T. Frøysaker (London 2006), 114–36. For the sedilia, see also Paul Binski and Emily Guerry in this volume, 180–204. 12. Namely Aveline de Forz, countess of Lancaster (d. 1273); her husband Edmund ‘Crouchback’, earl of Lancaster (d. 1296); and Aymer de Valence (d. 1324). 13. Early plans and views confirm that there were three steps up to the crossing and quire from the transepts and nave, but they variously show one or two at the entrance to the sanctuary. 14. H. Poole, ‘Westminster Abbey: Annals of the Masonry Carried out’, RIBA Journal, n.s., 5 (1890), 169–71. See also Steven Brindle in this volume, 325–52. 15. T. Cocke, 900 Years: The Restorations of Westminster Abbey (London 1995), 40–41 and fig. 22. The altarpiece was demolished in 1821, re-exposing the medieval stone screen to view. Presumably the floor of this bay had to be repaired in consequence. 16. W. H. St J. Hope, ‘The Obituary Roll of John Islip, Abbot of Westminster, 1500–32, with Notes on other English Obituary Rolls’, SAL, Vetusta Monumenta, VII/4 (London 1906), 11.


warwick rodwell 17. The step stands 0.20–0.24 m high, and the bench rises a further 0.35 m. Hence, at least 1.0 m of retaining wall would have been required on top of the bench, to reach chapel floor level. 18. Binski and Guerry in this volume, 199. The material from which the screen was constructed is described in one medieval source as ‘strong plaster’, which could imply timber framing clad with lath-and-plaster. 19. However, parts of the tomb canopy are physically integrated with that wall. The relationship between the architectural fac¸ade of the tomb and sanctuary floor level is also problematic. This is the earliest of the sanctuary tombs, erected some five years after the Cosmati pavement was laid, but floor level is too high for the plinth, which is almost concealed from view. Has the tomb been moved? 20. Tatton-Brown, ‘Marble pavements’ (as n. 1). 21. Although superficially unlikely, it is possible that clean loam was imported to raise ground level in the sanctuary. The failure of the cores to reveal a horizon that could be identified with Anglo-Saxon floor level is perplexing, even though that should have been intercepted. Unfortunately, the cores could not be taken to a deeper level. 22. Cited in Tatton-Brown, ‘Chapel of St Edward’ (as n. 2), 79. For a detailed record of Scott’s and Lethaby’s discoveries beneath the presbytery, see K. Blockley, ‘Westminster Abbey: Anglo-Saxon Masonry below the Cosmati Pavement’, Archaeol. J., 161 (2004), 223–33. 23. Pre-Construct Archaeology, ‘Poets’ Corner Yard, Westminster Abbey: An Archaeological Evaluation’, PCA Report No. R11323 (November 2012). See also my other article in this volume, 46. 24. A plan of the hypothetical crypt and photographs of drilling taking place are in Westminster Abbey Library. Regrettably, the stratigraphic evidence revealed in this operation was not recorded. 25. Information from Paul Binski. He will discuss this in detail in the Westminster Cosmati monograph that is currently in preparation. 26. Henry III’s monument incorporates a pair of rectangular panels of purple porphyry, the largest pieces known in Britain. 27. The chapter-house was sufficiently complete in 1250 for Matthew Paris to describe it as ‘beyond com­ pare’, and the glazing was installed in or soon after 1253. The structure must have been complete by c. 1255, and it is hardly credible that work on this and the east cloister could have run a decade or more in advance of that on the sanctuary. See generally, W. Rodwell and R. Mortimer ed., Westminster Abbey Chapter House: the history, art and architecture of a ‘chapter house beyond compare’ (London 2010). 28. The usual types of Purbeck paver were 12- and 18-in. squares, laid diagonally. 29. For two of the inscriptions individual letter-matrices were cut, but in the case of the third a continuous channel was formed and the metal letters set in a bed of resin. 30. Binksi and Guerry in this volume, 203, n. 37. 31. Recorded in a sketch by Scott, 1866: Westminster Abbey Library, W.4.69. 32. E. Utsi, ‘Ground Penetrating Radar Survey of the Cosmati Pavement’, unpublished reports held in Westminster Abbey Library (24 August, 3 September and 20 September 2004). 33. A. P. Stanley, ‘On the Examination of the Tombs of Richard II and Henry III in Westminster Abbey’, Archaeologia, XLV (1880), 309–27. 34. The rings were later used as an aid to lifting the Stone in and out of the Chair: Rodwell, Coronation Chair and Stone of Scone (as n. 10), 111–16. 35. Stonemason Henry Poole charged £100 for the new Purbeck marble flooring in 1868 (WAM). 36. J. Dart, Westmonasterium. Or the History and Antiquities of the Abbey Church of St Peter’s West­ minster, 2 vols (London 1723, 2nd edn 1742), II, 22–23. For the altarpiece, see Cocke, 900 Years (as n. 15), 40–42. 37. Victoria & Albert Museum, Print Room, 92.D.60, reproduced in Foster, Great Pavement (as n. 2), figs 64–67. 38. R. Ackermann, The History of the Abbey Church of St Peter’s, Westminster, its Antiquities and Monu­ ments, 2 vols (London 1812), II, pl. A, facing 18. 39. Examples of Ancient Pavements, Tiles and Mosaic. Vol. II. Maw and Co., unpublished folio volume of watercoloured tracings, including the sanctuary pavement (1862), held at Ironbridge Gorge Museum, D/MAW/9/86. 40. Scott, Gleanings (as n. 7), pl. 19. 41. Talman and Maw both meticulously recorded the visible traces of the original roundels. Stonemason Henry Poole was paid £350 for making the new Cosmatesque components in 1867 (WAM). 42. As previously observed by Foster, Great Pavement (as n. 2), 67–69 and figs 64–67. 43. Dart, Westmonasterium (as n. 36), 22. 44. Badham, ‘Royal Mausoleum’ (as n. 2), 199–200. 45. Plan in the library of the SAL: Westminster Abbey Red Portfolio. It was evidently an abbatial burial, since the coffin contained a mortuary chalice and paten, and fragments of a crozier. It has been posited that


The Cosmati Pavements this was Abbot Richard de Crokesley (d. 1246), which, given the date, is most unlikely, unless the coffin was moved to this location long after the abbot’s death; A. P. Stanley, Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey (London 1896, 8th edn), 332, n. 2. 46. For a brief account, see S. Davy, ‘Sanctuary Pavement Reveals its Secrets, including a Mystery Vault beneath the Steps’, The Westminster Abbey Chorister, 40 (2005), 2–6. 47. RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in London, I: Westminster Abbey (London 1924), 32, 33. 48. Tatton-Brown, ‘Pavement in the Chapel’ (as n. 2). 49. The present altar and dais were installed in 1902. Prior to that the area was paved with plain ceramic tiles of large dimension; these were probably laid down in the mid-16th century, following the removal of the original altar dais. 50. Each large circle is ringed by six smaller satellites, creating a heptacunx design. The whole composition is interwoven with guilloche. 51. This was pointed out by Binski, who indicated why a substantial screen was unlikely and probably unnecessary: Binski, Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets (as n. 3), 153. The lack of a robust division helps to explain why early references to the eastern arm of the church are imprecise, often referring to the high altar as though it were in the shrine chapel. 52. W. Rodwell, ‘Later Medieval Interventions’, in The Westminster Retable (as n. 9), 153 and fig. 4.1. 53. Unfortunately, surviving records tell us little about the level of pilgrim activity at the Abbey in the Middle Ages. Several types of pilgrim badge in gilt bronze and lead, dating from the 14th and 15th centuries, have been associated with the shrine of St Edward, indicating that it was a focus of pilgrimage. 54. The early-18th-century stairway here is well illustrated in Dart, Westmonasterium (as n. 36), II, pl. 84. That superseded an Elizabethan stair and oak gate. The gate was reinstated in 1869, but subsequently lost again: Poole, ‘Annals’ (as n. 14), 218. 55. Badham, ‘Royal Mausoleum’ (as n. 2), 201–08. 56. E. Utsi, ‘Ground Penetrating Radar Survey of the High Altar Steps and the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor’, unpublished report held in Westminster Abbey Library (26 September 2005). 57. D. Carpenter, ‘Westminster Abbey and the Cosmati Pavements in Politics, 1258–1269’, in Grant and Mortimer, Cosmati Pavements (as n. 2), 37. 58. Tatton-Brown, ‘Pavement in the Chapel’ (as n. 2), 71. 59. P. Binski, ‘The Cosmati and Romanitas in England: An Overview’, in Grant and Mortimer, Cosmati Pavements (as n. 2), 129. 60. Badham, ‘Royal Mausoleum’ (as n. 2), 208–13. 61. Rodwell, Coronation Chair and Stone of Scone (as n. 10), 39–42.


Seats, Relics and the Rationale of Images in Westminster Abbey, Henry III to Edward II PAUL BINSKI and EMILY GUERRY

The aim of this paper is to illuminate the wall- and panel paintings in the sanctuary and south transept of Westminster Abbey by considering their relationship to the ways these spaces were furnished and used. The study of liturgy, inferring behaviour from texts, tends to idealization and does not always take into account human contingencies, that is, what actually happened. In cases such as Westminster’s, the well-documented unruli­ ness of courts reminds us of brute reality. The sedilia in the sanctuary were made in a context that witnessed conditions of actual riot during court ritual. The south transept paintings adorned a complex space used or viewed by monks and layfolk. The murals amplified the relic cults of the church and were part of a viewing situation whose agency depended in part upon access routes and seating of uncertain nature. We take these cases in turn, beginning with seating and images in the south transept. Our contributions are initialled separately. the muniment room (PB) Henry III was an ardent participant at mass, as Louis IX noticed, and had numerous chapels at Westminster in which to attend it privately, including the small chapel behind his bed in his Great Chamber in the Palace. His interest in the priestly attributes of the anointing was widely known and not always welcome.1 When attending mass in the Abbey he will have sat in the royal seat by the high altar both before 1259 (when it was in the nave) and after 1269.2 The public visibility of the king mattered politically, as did his physical proximity to the relics of St Edward, and also to the Eucharist. Considerations of proximity should be borne in mind in assessing the idea, proposed by W. R. Lethaby and Robert Branner and further developed in recent literature, that the mezzanine gallery in the west aisle of the south transept, the Muniment Room (Fig. 1), was intended to be a royal pew.3 This idea reminds us of an essay on the Cappella Palatina in Palermo by Ernst Kitzinger in which he examined the layout of its sanctuary mosaics, suggesting that they ‘may have something to do with the role of the Chapel as a palace church’: their layout was determined by a ‘particular viewpoint’ and ‘particular spectator’, designed to ‘gratify’ a royal person.4 Kitzinger posited a raised royal box connecting to the royal apartments. He assumed a certain sort of royal attention, that of the physically detached private spectator. The entrance and exit passages to what is now the Muni­ ment Room — one running from the transept door in the south-east corner of the transept, up through the south transept wall passage and over the night stairway (Fig. 2), and one running down within a turret into the cloister near the chapter-house entrance — undoubtedly indicate possible access to and from the Palace and the 180

BAA Trans., vol. xxxix, part i (2015), 180–204 # British Archaeological Association 2015

Seats, Relics and the Rational of Images in Westminster Abbey

Fig. 1. Westminster Abbey: south transept looking north-west, with the Muniment

Room to the left

Photograph by A. F. Kersting # Conway Library, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London


paul binski and emily guerry

possibility of an alternative private route through the conventual buildings. It should be noted that the passages and steps are part of a system of internal walkways derived from Reims Cathedral, the purpose of which is unknown. The view from the gallery across the transept and crossing is good, if obstructed, since the shrine cannot be seen. It is large enough for an entourage overlooking the coronation and altar arena, without the hazards posed by the lofty unfenced triforium above. It has, however, been objected that the known access routes (Fig. 2) are precipitously narrow, that the view afforded of the high altar is partial, and that the presence in this space of the Abbey’s oldest chests is not inconsistent with the retention here from an early date of muniments.5 Part of the problem is that this is not self-evidently a private space, and nor is its tone functionalist. The finish of the room is eloquent. It has a tiled pavement including the arms of England, France and de Clare. The three bosses of men contending with monsters in the narrow vaulted lobby at its south end are some of the finest ever carved. On the terminal wall of the transept St Edward and St John appear beneath the rose window. The remaining vault bosses show (from south to north) one unidentifiable figure, Abraham holding up the cloth of souls with angels, and a Virgin and Child with censing angels — the child is the lively sort often encountered in the 13th century (Fig. 3) — with a further Marian boss (the Annunciation) and King David in the corre­ sponding west aisle of the north transept.6 The bosses across the transept west sides comprise an orderly Davidic-Marian scheme. The diapered lobby arches at the south end are adorned with several attractive corbel heads of young men and women, including a queen, and one window capital in the central bay has carved hawks. Before

Fig. 2.

Westminster Abbey: south transept wall passage Paul Binski


Seats, Relics and the Rational of Images in Westminster Abbey

Fig. 3. Westminster Abbey: Muniment Room, boss of the Virgin and Child Paul Binski

1399, the vigorous painting of Richard II’s white hart was added to the partition between the room’s southernmost bays, again a court as much as a personal emblem, though possibly one indicating the presence of a cupboard of documents concerning Richard II’s foundation.7 Yet none of these images is in itself indicative of intended function. The fact is that the design of the church in 1245 by default established a space that subsequently evolved in a way not commensurate with a rigidly adhered-to initial plan. Raising the possibility that its function was that of a general purpose gallery might help to free us from modern, categorical notions of function, privacy and intention. The Abbey was subject to communal monastic regulation as well as to the personal wishes of its main patron. For instance, the gallery may have solved one particular ‘problem’ not discussed in the literature: that of the court women. It is reasonable to assume that the highest-status court women were allowed into the sanctuary. But the court con­ sisted, too, of an entourage of mostly young people of both sexes, the orderly accom­ modation of which will have needed thought. Lethaby’s interest in Byzantine art perhaps prompted the idea that the space was a royal pew, an analogy being supplied by the early records that the galleries of Hagia Sophia in Byzantium were for the empress and the court women, a comparison made since, but omitting the issue of gender discipline.8 The route from the Palace served the queen’s as well as the king’s chambers and their entourages, and the mixture of the two in the Abbey will have posed conventional problems of order and morality. It may be for this reason that the threshold of this space is vaulted with the three otherwise inexplicable if splendid bosses of men contending with monsters, a metaphor perhaps for the snares, sexual and ethical, of court life.9 Francis Woodman has recently emphasized the issue of control­ ling eligible women at court, as expressed in domestic building.10 In a monastic church 183

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Fig. 4. Westminster Abbey: altar of St Faith Paul Binski


Seats, Relics and the Rational of Images in Westminster Abbey

this will have been no less important. The tone of Westminster’s regulations regarding women in the cloister may be assessed from Richard of Ware’s customary.11 The gallery offered a view of the crossing, transept, altars and images, but it also (in theory) provided a cordon sanitaire, enabling women to attend offices and masses without being heard or seen by the monks below. Philip Dixon has demonstrated the lengths the monks of Ely, disciplined by episcopal injunction, went to segregate the lay and monastic passages to the Lady Chapel begun in 1321.12 Westminster’s routes seem to distinguish the transept access passage from the night stairway, to which access was gained by a staircase (the presence of which is revealed by features of the stonework of the transept’s west wall arcading), though it is unclear whether at other times this staircase itself also originally provided access to the gallery above: the transept passage itself is very narrow, but it may not have been the only means of access to this space. The central difficulty with all such discussions is categorical thinking. The evidence understood very generally suggests only that the south transept and gallery were together the principal ‘court’ space. From the gallery the offices and masses could have been heard, with the court attending mass at the transept altars below. At the south end of the transept was the altar of St Blaise, one of the Holy Helpers, who assisted ailments of the throat. On the reverse of the sedilia (Fig. 13) were images of key saints, St John, St Edward, and the Virgin Mary. By about 1270, the altars in the transept will have been furnished with retables and canopies whose arrangements and Parisian detailing are reflected by the later St Faith mural in the adjoining chapel (Fig. 4).13 One sign that the Abbey’s relic cults mattered particularly is provided by the large paintings of St Thomas and St Christopher on the transept’s south wall. the south transept paintings and westminster’s relics under henry III (EG) The murals of St Thomas and St Christopher (Figs 5 and 6) were found in 1934–36 behind the monuments of two Romantic poets.14 In addition to many studies of their style and possible workshop affiliation, conservators have recently examined the tech­ nical make-up of these large-format oil paintings, which measure over 15 ft in height. Their unusual iconography is also in particular need of further investigation. In each instance, the mural design displays iconographic invention in an attempt to emphasize the physical contact between Christ and His saint. Such points of divine contact with the saints’ bodies correspond to a specific corporeal relic enshrined in the Abbey: the arm of St Thomas, which Christ forcefully inserts into His bleeding wound (Fig. 6), was given to the Abbey by St Edward the Confessor. Henry III ordered that a jewelled ring with an inscription from St John the Evangelist’s account of the Incredulity should be added to the Apostle’s arm reliquary that contained it. Henry also donated portions of St Christopher’s head, which the Divine Child tenderly embraces. In the light of the potential connection between relic and image at Westminster, this section discusses the devotional context of the Gothic murals in the south transept, arguing that the paintings performed a site-specific cult function. To the left of the entrance to the Chapel of St Faith, the visitor encounters an empa­ thetic portrayal of Christopher Carrying the Christ Child. The figures are set against a green background with stamped rosettes and the subject-matter constitutes a standard conflation of Christopher’s hagiography, converted into a dramatic representation of his most famous miracle. We watch as the saint transports a young boy, who revealed Himself to be Christ, in an increasingly burdensome journey across a rushing river. The 185

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Fig. 5. Westminster Abbey: south transept wall-paintings of St Thomas and St Christopher # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Westminster painting portrays the moment when Christopher becomes aware that he carries Christ. The Child’s heaviness is implied as Christopher anchors the weight by clinging to his straight staff with a tightened fist. Christopher looks towards Christ with his almond eyes alight, directed by sympathetically slanting brows. The saint’s gaze is fixed somewhere between the river’s end in the distance and the orbis mundi, the 186

Seats, Relics and the Rational of Images in Westminster Abbey

Fig. 6. Westminster Abbey: south transept, St Thomas, detail # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

heavenly universe He created and saved, which is held directly in front of the saint’s face. From the angle of Christ’s head, now effaced, one can discern that he was looking intently into the eyes of Christopher. As they share their journey across the river, Christ maintains both a physical and visual connection to Christopher. Next to Christopher’s head is an inscription in white Gothic majuscule letters: Christoforum quia fert Christum sic concipe dictum crescere quem portat hunc facit omnipotens (‘Imagine thus the one called ‘Christopher’ because he is carrying Christ: the all-powerful One, whom Christopher carries, makes him grow [in stature]’)

Beneath his striding feet, the text reads: Sancti Christophori speciem quicumque tuetur illa nempe die nullo languore tenetur (‘Whoever beholds the image of St Christopher, for sure that day will be not bound by weariness’)

The inscriptions, in classical elegaic couplets, reinforce Christopher’s long-standing role as a special protector and a healer: he guards the faithful against sickness, suffer­ ing, even sudden death. As the patron saint of travellers, Christopher’s help is invoked for protection in all aspects of transportation, pilgrimage and daily errands. Many English parish churches with medieval murals include an image of Christopher on walls opposite entrances. But the painting in Westminster Abbey is almost certainly the earliest extant large-scale example of Christopher Carrying the Christ Child. Another similar cult image appears in an elegantly rendered version in the Westminster Psalter, dating to the c. 1250s (BL, Royal MS 2 A XXII, fol. 220v) (Fig. 7); this elegant tinted drawing might be the first known representation of the Christopher miracle in English art.15 After the 13th century, the popular depiction of Christopher Carrying the Christ Child in English church murals testifies to the spread of the saints’ cult throughout the kingdom. The reappearance of the second inscription in parish-church paintings of a 187

paul binski and emily guerry

Fig. 7. St Christopher, c. 1250 (BL, Royal MS 2 A XXII, fol. 220v) http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/ ILLUMIN.ASP?Size=mid&IllID=48015

later date adds evidence to the suggestion that the Westminster mural is both early and authoritative.16 Situated in the busy south transept, Christopher offers constant protec­ tion to any courtly member ascending to the upper gallery, any monk using the nearby night stairway, and any visitor who entered from the south-eastern transept doorway. In hagiography, Christopher is often described as hideous in appearance. According to Jacobus de Voragine, for example, Christopher is a ‘Canaanite of prodigious size and fearsome visage’.17 Despite the Herculean proportions of the saint, who is swathed in a voluminous hooded robe of red and yellow, we also see evidence of his tenderness. The saint twists his long body towards the Christ to support his precious cargo. Christ appears comfortable as he tucks his left leg underneath his right knee, relaxing into the saint’s protective arms. Wrapping his left arm around the giant’s head, Christ hugs Christopher, pulling the saint’s head closer to the orbis mundi. Christopher, in turn, delicately cups the exposed underside of Christ’s right foot as the infant’s toes curl over the saint’s fingers. Using a physical dialogue of caring gestures, the mural conveys the transference of divine power exchanged between the two figures. This exquisite detail might reflect the mural’s inheritance of a specific visual tradition, one that appears fre­ quently in Eleousa icons.18 The complex arrangement of Christ’s lower body resembles the embrace of Christ in images of Marian love, such as the position of the Divine Child in the arms of the Madonna of the renowned Vladimir icon.19 This formula of com­ passionate gestures also appears in locally produced paintings. For example, the Virgin 188

Seats, Relics and the Rational of Images in Westminster Abbey

holds Christ in the same gentle manner in a full-page miniature from the Robert de Lisle Psalter (BL, Arundel MS 83, II, fol. 131v), of c. 1310: here the posture of the Christ Child in Mary’s lap reverses that of Christ with Christopher.20 In its careful display of strength and tenderness, the representation of Christopher in the Abbey is intended to offer viewers protection and inspire an emotional connection to the saint. According to John Flete, Henry III donated portions of Christopher’s head relic to the Abbey: ‘Rex Henricus tertius dedit [. . .] plures crustas de capite sancti Christ­ ophori’.21 It is unclear precisely when this donation took place, but there is evidence that Henry III was personally invested to the cult of St Christopher via his acts of patronage as early as 1240, when he commissioned an image of Christopher to be painted in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London. In 1248, Henry ordered another image of Christopher for the Queen’s Chapel in Winchester Castle.22 Unfortunately, these paintings are lost. Despite their clear similarities in subject matter and tone, the iconography of Christopher Carrying the Christ Child preserved in the south transept constitutes a departure from the earlier representation in the West­ minster Psalter noted earlier. When compared with the Gothic drawing, the position of Christ in the mural is elevated enough to allow the child to cling to the saint, and wrap his arm around Christopher’s head. This iconographic adjustment places significant emphasis on a relic contained in the Abbey’s collection, and this monumental and protective image could be the driving force behind the invention and diffusion of the Christopher cult in England. As Pamela Tudor-Craig first recognized, the south transept paintings are directly related to the cult of the saints at Westminster.23 By portraying the likeness of two saints with in situ corporeal remains, the murals reveal the active presence of St Christopher and St Thomas inside the Abbey. Standing in the south transept, we witness the climactic moment when both saints recognized the divinity of Christ. Moreover, the figures’ gestures explicitly indicate that Christ touched the head of Christopher and the arm of Thomas. The desire for and design of these unique cult images appears linked to the religious imagination of King Henry III, who often expressed his piety through his devotion to relics. The primary focus of his contributions to the Gothic Abbey was a shrine for his patron saint, Edward the Confessor, whom Henry imitated in life as a model ruler.24 As a collector of relics and a celebrant of their power, Henry followed in the steps of Edward and endorsed the veneration of the Abbey’s religious cults as a patron of art. As the supreme benefactor of the Abbey’s reconstruction, Henry’s per­ sonal piety was omnipresent in the Gothic artistic agenda. The paintings in the south transept show how two saints achieved their extraordinary faith through a physical encounter with Christ. As such, the murals confirm the superlative status of specific relics at Westminster and demonstrate, simultaneously, how devotion is a transforma­ tive experience. Through touch and faith, St Christopher and St Thomas conceded to Christ’s omnipotence and became holy men. In the remainder of this section, we will examine the Doubting Thomas mural and I will argue that the south transept paintings embody a devotional programme formu­ lated under the aegis of King Henry III. Fitted into the easternmost arch of the blind dado arcade, Christ looms over the kneeling Apostle Thomas. The Saviour takes his Apostle by the wrist, forcing his hand into the bleeding wound of His resurrected flesh. Matching the colour of the Holy Blood issuing from the body of Christ, this unusually tactile portrayal of Doubting Thomas is cast against a vermilion background with floating fleur-de-lis decoration. Beneath the scene, the damage to the wall surface has removed any record of the lower decoration: it remains possible that inscriptions also 189

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accompanied the mural of Thomas. Like a pilgrim kneeling before a shrine, Thomas falls to his knees with nervous body language. The saint appears conflicted: while his right hand is stiff and parallel to Christ’s body, his left hand is pulled into the bleeding wound. Standing triumphant with His vexillum in His left hand, the Resurrected Christ vigorously twists his entire side into a Gothicized contrapposto as he directs the Apostle’s limp arm into his side. His muscular right arm juts out strikingly akimbo to delineate a triangle of negative space that seems to point directly to an oozing red wound. From a distance, these two figures appear joined together, forming a cascading silhouette that falls from Christ’s haloed head down to Thomas’s bare feet. The captivating axial lines created by the intersection of the two figures lead the viewer’s eye directly to the opened wound, where the gaze of Christ and His follower is focused. This image of Doubting Thomas accentuates the experience of touch shared between Thomas and Christ, the human and divine. Of all the Apostles, Thomas is perhaps the most enigmatic, and his discordant motion in the mural echoes his nature as both a sceptic and a believer. In scripture, hagiography and art, Thomas is defined by the extraordinary circumstances of his Incredulity; he did not believe in the Resurrection, Christ offered his body to be touched, and then Thomas believed. After Christ presented his wounds, Thomas cries out, ‘My Lord and my God!’ (John 20, 28). To those concerned with the nature of Christ’s Resurrected body, it would be problematic to assume that Thomas definitively touched Christ because of what He first said to Mary Magdalene. In the Gospel of John, Christ reveals Himself to her and rejects her emotional advances with specific instructions: ‘Do not touch me for I have not yet ascended to my Father’ (John 20, 17). The event of the Incredulity presents the artist (and viewer) with the rare opportunity to understand (and interpret) the Apostle’s dilemma as a symbol for the faith in the Resurrection.25 The Doubting Thomas mural in Westminster displays an assertive choice in its icon­ ography, one that deviates from conventional representations of the subject matter. Most artists only allude to the experience of touch.26 Early in Christian art history, the Apostle is often seen gesticulating towards the wound. Over time, the distance between Thomas and Christ eventually begins to shrink. The depictions of the Incredulity in vari­ ous High Medieval illuminations produced in England show Thomas merely approach­ ing Christ’s wound with the tip of his finger. In the majority of these images, Thomas’s gesture is voluntary, the presence of blood is minimal, and there is a considerable distance between his hand and the wound. In numerous examples, such as the 12th­ century St Alban’s Psalter (Hildesheim, Dombibliothek, MS Sankt Godehard 1, p. 52) and the Hunterian Psalter (Glasgow, Hunterian Museum, MS U. 3. 2, fol. 13v) as well as the 13th-century Carrow Psalter (Baltimore, Walters Art Museum, MS W. 34 fol. 29r) we see Thomas hesitating, allowing his hand to hover just in front of the opening in Christ’s side. The painting in Westminster constitutes an extraordinary exception: the Apostle’s hand is wedged so deeply into Christ’s flesh that the viewer no longer sees his fingertips, which are engulfed in Holy Blood. The painter takes literally Christ’s demand to ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe’ (John 20, 27). Moreover, we see that Christ is forcing Thomas to touch Him, directing the Apostle’s arm with His crooked and muscular grasp. Thomas touches the divine in not one but in two ways; Christ takes Thomas’s hand in His, and the wound in his side then receives the touch. Both of these points of contact are established in Christ’s blood; blood from wound of the Holy Nail emanates from His hand, while His side remains torn open from the pierce of the Holy Lance. With a tremendous amount of design effort, the artist has indicated that 190

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Thomas not only touched Christ: the Apostle was ordered to do so and he was stained by the blood of his Saviour. The south transept mural effectively reimagines the moment when Thomas started to believe. According to John Flete, St Edward delivered the arms of the Apostles Bartholomew and Thomas to Westminster Abbey.27 In 1244, Henry III paid for a special addition to the arm reliquary of Thomas; a golden ring with a sapphire would be fitted around one of the reliquary’s fingers. The ring would be fashioned with a remarkable inscrip­ tion composed in Latin verse by Master Henry the Versificator (Henry of Avranches), the content of which was specified as being ‘Is bene benedictionem dare debet qui omnibus benedictionem adquisivit dum ei dicebatur ‘‘Beati qui non viderunt’’’ (‘He who gained blessing for all when it was said to him ‘‘Blessed are those who have not seen’’ must surely give blessing’).28 The biblical passage referenced reflects Christ’s climatic response to Thomas: ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe’ (John 20, 29). The roles of sight and touch in relation to faith are epitomized in some of Christ’s final words before the Ascension. The verses would have encouraged devotion to Thomas by inferring that the Apostle had ‘gained blessings for all’ because of his exceptional faith. It is as if, though intrinsically linked to the arm reliquary, this inscription also reflects the subject matter of the nearby wall-painting, which imagines the precise moment when Christ offered them his blessing. The Versificator’s text thus added meaning to the reliquary, situating the Apostles’ arm in salvation history and enabling the cult of St Thomas at Westminster to take on a site-specific significance. After the ring was attached to the reliquary, the monks carried the arm of St Thomas in a procession to honour of the Apostle’s feast day on 21 December 1244. An image of the reliquary, complete with ring, survives in the 14th-century Litlyngton Missal (West­ minster Abbey Library, MS 37, fol. 254r), which was produced for Abbot Nicholas Litlyngton of Westminster. In the luxurious historiated initial that corresponds with the local feast of relics (Fig. 8), celebrated on 17 July, an attendant stands behind an

Fig. 8. The Litlyngton Missal, fol. 254r (Westminster Abbey, MS 37) # Dean and Chapter of Westminster


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altar with five gilded shrines. The artist has taken the liberty of depicting an assort­ ment of sacred items. Flanking the collection, we see two arm reliquaries; in the centre, from left to right, we see an oval-shaped vial, a polygonal casket with a cross, and a crowned head reliquary. In her discussion of the missal’s relationship to the Abbey’s decoration, Pamela Tudor-Craig also alluded to the connection between this particular illustration and the cult of relics at Westminster.29 The arm reliquary to the left has two extended fingers, while the object on the far right has only one. This discrepancy is significant upon closer inspection. First of all, a thick ring noticeably encircles the middle finger of reliquary to the left. Secondly, it is evident that the illustration of the other arm has been altered: scratches to the burnished surface indicate a correction to the original disposition of the hand, and traces of the original position of the middle finger remain. In this instance, the artists of the Litlyngton Missal differentiated between the appearances of two arm reliquaries. Given the particular shape of one of these reliquaries, the designer elected to include the arm of St Thomas complete with his Gothic ring in his illumination for the feast of relics at Westminster. While the relic cults of both Thomas and Christopher were important to Henry III, the king felt particular admiration for his patron saint, Edward the Confessor. In this vein, the gift of a ring to the arm of Thomas seems reminiscent of an episode from the Life of St Edward, who gave a ring to St John in the guise of a pilgrim. In the Estoire de Saint Edward le Rei (Cambridge, University Library, MS Ee.3.59, fol. 30r), we see a pair of free-standing figures, John and Edward, affixed to columns placed at each end of the shrine (Fig. 9).30 To the right, Edward extends his arm to offer an oversized ring to John. The king is bearded and crowned, while the identity of the evangelist remains concealed by his costume, complete with traveller’s hat and walking stick. This event is enacted in the architectural sculpture of the triforium spandrels supporting the south rose window. Here, two censing angels witness the miraculous exchange of the ring between the central figures of Edward and John. Traces of polychromy still cling to each of the four sculptures. The entire scene, which hovers above the other mani­ festations of miracles in the south transept murals, is visible from the nearby gallery, where the king and his corte`ge could see this special selection of saints performing their greatest miracles. By commissioning a ring for the reliquary of St Thomas with verses inspired by the Gospel of John, King Henry used his royal patronage to intensify the symbolic interrelationship between the saints who occupied privileged places within his personal hierarchy. Thus, the gift of the ring effectively aligned King Henry with St Edward and St Thomas with St John. As a patron and worshipper, King Henry III did not shy away from the adoration of physical objects imbued with Christ’s physical presence. He also donated a thorn from Christ’s Crown, the Ascension Stone and the Holy Blood relic to Westminster Abbey.31 These high-status relics had encountered (or emanated from) Christ’s body during the Passion or after the Resurrection. The touch of Christ increased the power and prestige of a relic. Henry’s devotion to Thomas may have also intersected with his sponsorship of the Westminster cult of the Holy Blood. He acquired the relic as a gift from the Patriarch of Jerusalem and carried it through the streets of London from St Paul’s to the Abbey in a public procession on 13 October 1247 (Fig. 10).32 Matthew Paris includes a marginal drawing of the event in the Chronica Majora. Walking barefoot beneath a canopy, Henry lifts up the Holy Blood, which is represented as an oval reliquary not unlike the item in the Litlyngton Missal initial. Given Henry’s affinity for interlinking the cults of saints, it cannot be coincidence that this procession took place on the feast day of St Edward. Although welcomed with great expectation, the king’s Holy Blood 192

Seats, Relics and the Rational of Images in Westminster Abbey

Fig. 9. The tomb of St Edward (Cambridge University Library, MS Ee.3.59, fol. 30r, detail) By permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library

relic encountered scepticism. Doubts were immediately cast over its authenticity and its dogmatic repercussions. In the same year as its arrival, Matthew Paris summarizes the public perception of Henry’s latest cult by quoting Luke 24, 25 because ‘some slow to believe still doubted’.33 In addition to indicating that the arm of St Thomas is also a contact relic, the painting of Doubting Thomas effectively validates the power of the Holy Blood relic and encourages faith with miraculous existence. The painting’s composition may have been a calculated response, positioned in a prominent place, to convince sceptics. Just as the local cult of St Thomas would benefit from the iconographic invention of the mural composition, the Holy Blood appears to play an instrumental role in this saint’s acceptance of the Resurrection. The essence of the relic covers the Apostle’s fingertips. Doubting Thomas, with its background covered in blood-red paint and the bleeding wound of the Holy Nail placed at the centre of the composition, offers an authoritative answer to those who doubted the potency of the Holy Blood. By overtly emphasizing Thomas’s tactility and Christ’s bloodshed, Doubting Thomas alerts its viewers to 193

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Fig. 10.

Henry III processes the Holy Blood (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College,

MS 16 II, fol. 215r)

The Master and Fellows of Corpus Christi College

Christ’s sacrifice and confirms the righteousness of faith. It is when Thomas touches Christ’s blood that he becomes a believer. This emphatically haptic representation of the Apostles’ defeat of doubt enhances the arm relic cult of St Thomas while sanction­ ing the potency of the Holy Blood through its bold iconography. In so doing, Doubting Thomas endeavours to convert its viewers into believers. The redesign of Westminster Abbey constituted one of the most lengthy, lavish and personal projects of Henry III’s life. While Henry III was not the singular and exclusive mastermind of the south transept paintings, their imagery matched the desires of this devout king. Ernest William Tristram attributed the creation of the Thomas and Christopher murals to the ‘latter years’ of Henry’s reign, suggesting that both images were part of a last-minute push to finish interior decoration about year and a half before the consecration on 13 October 1269 — again, the Confessor’s feast day.34 Tristram cited passages from the chancellor’s rolls for 1269–70 that mention certain ‘paintings of figures’ (imagines) and suggested that these documents, which show that no expense was spared for the cost of painting materials, might refer to the monu­ mental paintings executed in the south transept.35 The intensity and specificity of what we know about Henry’s personal piety appears directly linked to the execution of these murals showing miracles. The Thomas and Christopher paintings were most likely the product of an intensely active group of court painters that completed an integrated decorative programme in the south transept, the principal space for the court, shortly before or after the consecration in 1269. A programme of wall-painting may have extended beyond these two examples: there is perhaps enough physical evidence behind the monuments in Poet’s Corner to launch into a more comprehensive study. Taken together even as it stands, the extant 13th­ century figural imagery in the south transept reflects an integrated, personal vision of Henry’s saintly role models. The arcade murals explicate the miraculous power of the 194

Seats, Relics and the Rational of Images in Westminster Abbey

cults at Westminster through a novel pictorial scheme. To convey the special status of the Abbey’s relics, the composition of Christopher Carrying the Christ Child helped to ignite a popular image cult, while the portrayal of Doubting Thomas dramatically breaks with iconographic tradition to insist that Thomas overcame his doubt when he touched Christ. These calculated design decisions contributed to a devotional agenda, approved by an authoritative overseer, devised by an imaginative team of planners, and executed by a talented Gothic master. As a pair, the murals cohesively confront issues of faith and reinforce the importance of devotion to relics as a transformative experi­ ence. For this reason, the representations of Christopher Carrying the Christ Child and Doubting Thomas in Westminster Abbey appear suited to a visual strategy sup­ ported by a zealous patron. Tristram originally attributed the production of the Thomas and Christopher murals to Henry III. This section has added evidence to his initial claim. It has also attempted to explain how these imaginative Gothic wall paint­ ings serve a site-specific cult function. the sanctuary and sedilia (PB) The sedilia (Fig. 11) raise problems similar to those encountered with the Muniment Room in regard to the way we attribute intention to space. The style of their wood­ work and painting belongs to the decade around or after 1300. They cannot have been provided for the dedication of the church in 1269, which saw the furnishing of the sanctuary with floor mosaics and a painted altarpiece.36 Sedilia, seats for the celebrant at mass, deacon and sub-deacon, were not an innovation of the 13th century: why, then, was the present set provided so late? The honorific north side of the sanctuary was reserved for curial burials: Abbot Richard Ware was buried on the north side of the Cosmati pavement in 1283, Aveline de Forz (d. 1274) was entombed in the 1290s, and Edmund, earl of Lancaster, by the altar after 1296. Of the south side, the traditional place for seats for the clergy, less is known in the early period. Abbot Walter de Wenlock (d. 1307) was buried to the south of the high altar.37 In 1307, the remains of King Sebert were translated to the new church. The Coronation Chair was in place to the south side of the shrine by the early 1300s.38 Almost certainly, no screen was intruded between the high altar and feretory. Into this somewhat under-determined space the sedilia were raised no earlier than c. 1300. Establishing why this happened obliges us first to look again at the images on the two faces of the sedilia, and especially that looking into the sanctuary.39 We are familiar with the four panels: the first from the left shows a venerable bearded king bearing a sceptre in his right hand and raising his left hand in a gesture of authority; he turns to the next panel, which preserves the lowest part of an ecclesiastical in pontifical or abbatial vestments with a staff, standing frontally; third is a beardless and presum­ ably junior king, also holding a sceptre, who turns and indicates to this ecclesiastic with his left hand; and the fourth compartment, which held a figure, also was presumably an ecclesiastical saint, now almost wholly planed away. Rows of figures of this type were not unusual. But one contrasting comparison helps us to understand the relationship of these figures, forming a connected tableau: the inside entrance wall of the chapterhouse of York Minster bore a set of wall-paintings of very similar date (late 1280s?) showing alternating kings and churchmen.40 These in contrast were turned frontally and did not engage with one another. The rather different dynamic of the sedilia matters, because it affects our under­ standing of who these people might be. Since at least the 19th century, the idea has been 195

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Fig. 11.

Westminster Abbey: sedilia, sanctuary side showing masonry substructure # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

floated periodically that the kings were of recent memory: perhaps Henry III and Edward I, or Edward II. The difficulty with this is that it provides no rationale what­ soever for the relationship of the figures. Whom, in that case, would the lost figures, presumably ecclesiastical saints offensive to Reformation thought, represent; and why is the one in the second panel turned to by both kings? One might question the method of digging up texts and narratives that retrospec­ tively ‘fit’, but that a detailed match can be found within the Abbey’s foundation myths is certain. The older king who leads this apparent exchange gestures like King Offa at the building of St Albans Abbey in BL, MS Cotton Nero D I (fol. 23v): this is a motion of patronage.41 The continuous history of the Abbey’s foundation began with King Ethelbert of Kent, his bishop Mellitus, and his nephew King Sebert of the East Saxons, and it is conveyed in various sources, some assembled by John Flete, others known to Matthew Paris.42 These deserve scrutiny because the issue of patronage and foundation was important in the 1300s in London. In the courtly version of the foundation legend in the Life of St Edward composed by Matthew Paris for Eleanor of Provence not long 196

Seats, Relics and the Rational of Images in Westminster Abbey

after 1236, we learn that King Sebert, the actual founder of the Abbey, acted with the consent of his uncle Ethelbert and of Mellitus (l. 2060, ‘par assen sun uncle Aedelbert/ E par Seint Mellit’).43 It is reasonable to identify the first three figures reading from the left as Ethelbert and Mellitus giving their mandate to Sebert to found the church; the fourth erased figure would be Westminster’s own patron, St Peter, to whom Sebert was devoted.44 St Peter, shortly to dedicate the church before Mellitus could get there, is Sebert’s patron. Sebert’s background, sown with lions statant, is a paraphrase of the Plantagenet arms of the sort found in Matthew Paris’s illustrations of King Offa (Dublin, Trinity College, MS 177, fols 55v, 56r) where King Offa and his men anachro­ nistically display lions passant.45 The history of the church’s origin and dedication is thus epitomized next to the high altar dedicated by the Apostle, as is the power relation to its diocesan authority of an exempt abbey under papal authority. King Ethelbert’s role mattered because he was the founder of St Paul’s Cathedral, the cult activities of which in the early 14th century interested Westminster owing to the promotion there of St Erkenwald, like Mellitus an early bishop of London; his shrine in St Paul’s was renewed before 1326.46 Westminster, always alert to the claims of its eastern competitor, therefore had a particular incentive to show Ethelbert, Sebert’s senior. Their power relationship is expressed, arguably, by a subtle change to the gesture of the Sebert figure, whose hand was originally raised slightly higher than at present. In Flete’s compilation the section based on Goscelin’s Life of Mellitus states that Sebert ‘sub ejusdem Ethelberti potestate positus regnabat’, that is, reigned under the autho­ rity of Ethelbert: the lowering of the gesture deliberately establishes his subject status, Ethelbert remaining the dominant figure in virtue of his more demonstrative gesture.47 Westminster is here asserting its apostolic status. One small piece of new evidence strengthens these identifications: that of candle-burns probably made by lights, three for ‘Ethelbert’, three for ‘St Mellitus’, seventeen for ‘Sebert’ and seven for ‘St Peter’. This distribution makes sense because Sebert and Peter were the more important figures, Sebert receiving an indulgence of 120 days.48 This identification has been made inferentially, without reference to the transla­ tion of the remains of Sebert to the new building at the instigation of the monks in 1307.49 Sebert’s arm was found to be semi-intact. At St Paul’s the relics of Mellitus and Erkenwald had been placed at the high altar.50 The positive evidence locating Sebert south of the high altar in the niche underneath the sedilia is negligible. All that can be said is that the parallel cults at Canterbury (St Dunstan) and St Paul’s favoured a trans­ lation to the high-altar area, and that Westminster’s tomb-lists suggest some tradition that Sebert was buried near the high altar under the presbytery.51 The monks would also have known the record that Sebert was buried with his wife in the church he himself built, by the altar of St Peter (‘in praefata ecclesia quam ipse construxerat juxta altare quod sanctus Petrus dedicaverat cum conjuge sua tumulatur’).52 The example of Dagobert, commemorated by an elaborate canopied cenotaph to the south of the high altar at Saint-Denis, of which he was the founder, may also have come to mind.53 The tradition that Sebert’s tomb was accompanied by an old painting of St Peter addressing the dead Sebert is surely a post-Reformation confusion, first apparent in the writing of Camden, in which the images on the sedilia’s reverse (Fig. 12) were confused with the first dedicator and founder.54 The sedilia depict the essence of the Abbey’s foundation, but not necessarily as a consequence of the relocation of Sebert’s body, though the fact of his translation in 1307 may have mattered in having prompted thoughts about founders. 197

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Fig. 12.

Westminster Abbey: sedilia, ambulatory side with tomb niche # Dean and Chapter of Westminster


Seats, Relics and the Rational of Images in Westminster Abbey

Some other evidence can be brought to bear on this question, though, like Sebert’s translation, it is circumstantial. Rishanger’s chronicle claims that the Coronation Chair was made for use as the chair of the celebrant at mass.55 If this is to be taken literally, it would imply that there were, in fact, no sedilia as late as the later 1290s, since sedilia are precisely intended to house the celebrant. This evidence suggests (if it does not prove) that the south side of the sanctuary had more informal seating arrangements than might be expected of strict liturgical furnishing. On the other hand, Rishanger may simply have been wrong. However, disastrous events in the Abbey in 1306 and 1308 further illuminate this problem, and show why idealizing the liturgy of a palace chapel may be a mistake. In 1306, Edward II was knighted by his father in a ceremony that led from the Palace to the sanctuary of the Abbey. Westminster’s Flores historiarum states that the ritual in the Abbey turned into a lethal rout: such was the press of the court within the sanctuary itself that knights were crushed, the crowd including the Prince of Wales surging not just up to, but actually onto, the high altar itself. So great was the danger that war horses had to be unleashed to hem in the crowd and clear the way: ‘princeps quippe propter turbam comprimentem non secus sed super magnum altare divisa turba per destrarios bellicosos socios suos cinxit’.56 The occasional presence of armed riders in the Abbey is proved by a memorandum written in or after 1311 describing the height of the pulpitum raised for the coronation in the Abbey’s crossing as being high enough for men at arms, that is, earls, barons, knights and other nobles, to ride underneath it, presumably from north to south, into the transept space.57 That this actually happened is substantiated by the account of the rowdiness of the coronation of Edward II in 1308, for which the 1306 knighting was in a sense a warning in terms of provision for crown control. The Flores states that Edward II and Isabella devoutly received the anointing and regalia despite the fact that at this solemn moment a tremendous clamour was heard from the blare of trumpets, the murmur of the assembled crowd, and the neighing of horses (fremitus equorum).58 Another local chronicle, the Annales Paulini, adds a further specific detail to this picture of noise and disorder at Edward II’s coronation. It says that at some point ‘a wall between the high altar and the royal pulpitum collapsed to the ground, even though it was made of strong plaster’.59 Other sources show that a knight, a known enemy of the Abbey called John of Bakewell, was killed by the wall toppling onto him.60 The Annales Paulini apparently describe a wall running east–west between the high altar and the crossing with its raised pulpitum, which can most readily envisaged as a curtain wall on the perimeter of the two bays on the south side of the sanctuary, the fall of which outwards into the lower ambulatory might well occasion a fatality. That the sanctuary was once framed by walling, possibly of plaster, may be suggested by the ashlar masonry backing the tomb of Aveline on the north side, the earliest of the free­ standing tombs to be sited in the sanctuary, showing that at this point enclosure of the space was still an option. But no tombs were yet present on the less honorific south side and its enclosure presumably remained in place. The fall of this wall during the 1308 coronation should most probably be attributed to crowd-control problems within the arena, as occurred during the 1306 knighting. What light does this shed on the sedilia? The case for linking the sedilia to Sebert’s trans­ lation in 1307 is circumstantial. The tomb niche attributed to Sebert requires further examination (Fig. 12). Originally it faced both the ambulatory and the presbytery since, as Abbot Islip’s roll shows, the floor level around the high altar was originally lower than now (Fig. 11 shows the topmost part of the masonry substructure): the ultimate 199

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type is the sort of niche-grave used for monastic benefactors or founders such as Ogier the Dane formerly at Saint-Faron at Meaux, or Dagobert.61 Its ambulatory face (Fig. 12) consists of a framed segmental arch, the keeled mouldings of which, painted to resemble green and red marble, are continued east and west along the top of the ashlar substructure of the sedilia. These mouldings were cut into the ashlar base. The niche itself is backed by 15th-century tracery and has a black marble coffin lid inserted rather bluntly. The signs are that the niche had been reworked before the sedilia above were raised; we note, for instance, the presence on the west wall of the niche of the head and torso of a small painted figure of a crowned female perhaps kneeling and directly facing a circular object, now lost but traceable by incision lines (Fig. 13, top right corner); a Katherine wheel with spikes is painted on the east side opposite. The images, accom­ panied by scrollwork on the soffit and dating to the second half of the 13th century, are not inconsistent with a Life of St Katherine.62 It is very hard to see why Sebert’s tomb would be adorned with the image of a princess martyr. This at least raises the possi­ bility that the niche originally housed the tomb of Henry III’s much-lamented daughter Katherine (1253–57), Henry’s only child to die in his lifetime, born on the feast of that

Fig. 13. Westminster Abbey: tomb niche beneath the sedilia, showing fragmentary crowned female figure (top right corner) # Dean and Chapter of Westminster


Seats, Relics and the Rational of Images in Westminster Abbey

saint. Katherine’s tomb, finally set up in 1258, had some sort of metalwork image on it, probably of enamel. Since this part of the church was then still a building site, the making of a secure loculus for a tomb honorifically near the high altar and stillincomplete main shrine, is understandable.63 Was Katherine’s tomb eventually dis­ placed by a decision taken in 1307 to bury the remains of someone else, perhaps Sebert, here; and was it the first of such child burials to undergo the sort of relocation more apparent in the next century, when such tombs were pushed out of the southern circuit of the high altar and shrine platform to make way for more senior burials? The conventional story linking the raising of the sedilia to the working (or more probably reworking) of this niche may be correct in its outlines. It is possible that they were run up quickly by a team of painters in time for the coronation in 1308, since we know that painters were summoned in numbers for the redecoration of the Palace at that time. If so, the wall that fell during the rite must have been in the first bay from the crossing, to the west of the sedilia. Alternatively, the sedilia may have been provided not before, but after, the 1308 coronation and the curtain-wall debacle, as part of a postritual clear up, during which it was decided that, given the recent and manifest issues of crowd control and wreckage in the sanctuary, it might be sensible to shed any remaining curtain walling of which a prior set of sedilia seats may have been a part, and instead erect wooden, lightweight, sedilia with painted surfaces. A date around 1308 for the sedilia remains undisturbed. It might be that a formal royal enclosure was established in the south-west bay of the sanctuary soon after. It is a matter of presumption only that it is to such an enclosure that the term cawagium was applied when the striped multi­ coloured cloth covering it was noted in the 1388 inventory.64 In such cases, organized seating in the form of one- or two-tier canopied wooden and painted enclosures would have had the effect of containing and controlling the wilder uses of space hereabouts. This area, like the chamber now known as the Muniment Room, was not necessarily shaped by a single clear initial intention that could account for all eventualities: against intention, we must balance the unforeseen problem-to-be-managed. It was evolving, but in a way that reminds us as much of a modern football stadium as a Catholic church.


We extend our thanks to Warwick Rodwell, the staff of the Muniment Room, Richard Mortimer, Marie-Louise Sauerberg and Vanessa Simeoni.

NOTES 1. For the Palace apartments, see P. Binski, The Painted Chamber at Westminster, Society of Antiquaries London, Occasional Papers, n.s., 9 (London 1986), 9–15, 33–40; for Henry III, the Eucharist and relics, P. Binski, Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets: Kingship and the Representation of Power 1200–1400 (New Haven CT/London 1995), 141–48, and N. Vincent, The Holy Blood: King Henry III and the West­ minster Blood Relic (Cambridge 2001). 2. CR 1256–59, 390; H. M. Colvin ed., Building Accounts of King Henry III (Oxford 1971), 196; CLR 1267–72, 143. 3. W. R. Lethaby, Westminster Abbey Re-Examined (London 1925), 61–62; R. Branner, ‘Westminster Abbey and the French Court Style’, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 23/1 (1964), 3–18, at 15, ‘Henry [. . .] wanted to witness the services himself and to look down upon Edward’s tomb from the privacy of his own loge’; the fullest discussion is C. Wilson, ‘Calling the Tune? The Involvement of King Henry III in the Design of the Abbey Church at Westminster’, JBAA, 161 (2008), 59–93; and for a reply, R. Mortimer, Guide to the Muniments of Westminster Abbey (Woodbridge 2012), 2–4.


paul binski and emily guerry 4. E. Kitzinger, ‘The mosaics of the Cappella Palatina in Palermo: an essay on the choice and arrangement of subjects’, Art Bull., 31/4 (1949), 269–92, 279–86, at 280, 283, 286. 5. Mortimer, Guide to the Muniments (as n. 3), 3. 6. Wilson (‘Calling the tune’ (as n. 3), 65) says however ‘none of the sculpture [. . .] is explicitly religious in its iconography’. For the lobby bosses, see Binski, Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets (as n. 1), figs 109–11. The pair of figures on the choir aisle boss adjacent to the room (ibid., fig. 104) superficially resembles a coronation, but the female figure is to the left, and both rest their feet upon a crowned male; their gestures suggest dialogue. 7. E. W. Tristram, English Wall Painting of the Fourteenth Century (London 1955), 201; J. Harvey, ‘The Wilton Diptych — a re-examination’, Archaeologia, XCVIII (1961), 1–28, at 6–8; Mortimer, Guide to the Muniments (as n. 3), 2, 3, 4. 8. Wilson, ‘Calling the tune’ (as n. 3), 64 and n. 20. 9. For an analogy, see T. A. Heslop, ‘The Iconography of the Angel Choir at Lincoln Cathedral’, in Medieval Architecture and its Intellectual Context: Studies in Honour of Peter Kidson, ed. E. Fernie and P. Crossley (London 1990), 151–58, at 156–57. 10. F. Woodman, ‘Women behaving badly. Warkworth Castle: protection or paranoia?’, in Newcastle and Northumberland: Roman and Medieval Architecture and Art, ed. J. Ashbee and J. Luxford, BAA Trans., xxxvi (Leeds 2013), 266–78. 11. See Customary of the Benedictine Monasteries of Saint Augustine, Canterbury, and Saint Peter, West­ minster, ed. E. M. Thompson, 2, Henry Bradshaw Society 28 (London 1904), 157–81 and 170–71 for women in the cloister. 12. P. Dixon, ‘Gateways to Heaven: the approaches to the Lady Chapel, Ely’, Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society, 91 (2002), 63–72. 13. C. Wilson, ‘The architecture and ornament of the Westminster Retable as evidence of dating and origin’, in The Westminster Retable: History, Technique, Conservation, ed. P. Binski and A. Massing with M. L. Sauerberg (Cambridge/London/Turnhout 2009), 79–96; also Binski, Westminster Abbey and the Plan­ tagenets (as n. 1), 148–74, 167–70 for St Faith. The use of crockets on the vertical surfaces of the two-light pinnacles of St Faith’s canopy may derive from the upper tower buttresses at the gallery stage of the west front, Notre-Dame. 14. E. W. Tristram, ‘A Recent Discovery of Wall-Paintings in Westminster Abbey’, The Burlington Magazine, 70 (1937), 228–33; E. W. Tristram, English Medieval Wall Painting: the thirteenth century, 2 vols (Oxford 1950), I, 121–27, 560–61; Binski, Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets (as n. 1), 170–71; E. Howe, ‘Painting and patronage at Westminster Abbey: the murals in the south transept and St Faith’s Chapel’, The Burlington Magazine, 148 (2006), 4–14. The paintings were waxed by Tristram in 1936; they underwent conservation in 2004. The inscriptions are given in full in C. Peers and L. Tanner, ‘On some recent discoveries in Westminster Abbey’, Archaeologia, XCIII (1949), 151–63, at 162–63. 15. N. J. Morgan, Early Gothic Manuscripts (II): 1250–1285, A survey of manuscripts illuminated in the British Isles 4 (London 1988), no. 95 and fig. 5. 16. See E. Pridgeon, ‘Saint Christopher Wall Paintings in English and Welsh Churches, c. 1250–1500’ (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Leicester, 2010), 96–97. In addition see The Golden Legend, trans. W. G. Ryan, 2 vols (Princeton 1995), II, 11. For English imagery, see P. C. Walwin, St. Christopher Today and Yesterday (Gloucester 1968), 4. Whaite reported that only thirty-eight murals of Christopher remained in English churches, the earliest of which dates to approximately the 14th century: H. C. Whaite, St. Christopher in English Mediaeval Wallpainting (London 1929), 9. See also the studies in C. Johnson, St. Christopher, the Patron Saint of Travellers (Edinburgh 1938), 17. 17. The Golden Legend (as n. 16), II, 11. 18. H. Belting, Likeness and Presence: a History of the Image before the Era of Art (Chicago 1994), 284. 19. A type widely copied and venerated since its creation in the mid-12th century. A number of other Virgin and Child Hodegetria types display the same body language of Christ, such as the Cyprian Virgin Arakiotissa (c. 1192) and the 13th-century Mount Sinai Hodegetria mosaic icon: Holy Image, Hallowed Ground: Icons from Sinai, ed. R. S. Nelson and K. M. Collins (Los Angeles 2006), 143. 20. L. F. Sandler, The Psalter of Robert de Lisle in the British Library (London 1999), 12; Binski, West­ minster Abbey and the Plantagenets (as n. 1), 171. 21. The History of Westminster Abbey by John Flete, Notes and Documents relating to Westminster Abbey 2, ed. J. A. Robinson (Cambridge 1909), 71. 22. CLR 1240–45, 14–15; CLR 1245–51, 177, stating that it should be ‘as he is painted elsewhere’. 23. See her contribution to C. Wilson et al., Westminster Abbey, The New Bell’s Cathedral Guides (London 1986), 113.


Seats, Relics and the Rational of Images in Westminster Abbey 24. For a particular emphasis on Henry III, see Wilson, ‘Calling the tune?’ (as n. 3). For St Edward and Henry III, see Binski, Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets (as n. 1), 52–89. 25. A. Grabar, Christian Iconography: A Study of Its Origins (Princeton 1961), 124. 26. For later instances, see G. W. Most, Doubting Thomas (Cambridge 2005), at 165–67. In general, see A. Murray, ‘Doubting Thomas in medieval exegesis and art’, Unione Internazionale degli Istituti di Arche­ ologia Storia e Storia dell’Arte in Roma, Conferenze 22 (Rome 2006). 27. History of Westminster Abbey by John Flete (as n. 21), 70. 28. See CR 1242–47, 270: ‘De pluribus faciendis per manum Edwarde de Westm’ [. . .] Mandatum est eidem quod in manu brachii illius quod rex fieri precepit in honore Beati Thome apostoli, apponi faciat anulum quendam aureum competentem, quem fieri faciet facticium cum pulcro saphiro, et in eodem anulo inscribatur versum quemdam quem faciet Magister Henricus versificator talem continentem sentenciam, ‘‘Is bene benedictionem dare debet qui omnibus benedictionem adquisivit, dum ei dicebatur, beati qui non viderunt’’ etc. et provideat omnibus modis quod bracium [sic] illud cum tali anulo promptum sit die Sancti Thome apostoli proximo instanti, ita quod monachi Westmonasterienses eo die solemniter illud deferre possint in pro­ cessione in capis de choro in venerationem eiusdem apostoli’. Discussed in Tristram, English Medieval Wall Painting (as n. 14), 123. The authors are grateful to Joseph Spooner for his observations on the inscriptions. 29. P. Tudor-Craig, ‘The ‘‘Large Letters’’ of the Litlington Missal and Westminster Abbey in 1383–1384’, in Illuminating the Book: Makers and Interpreters. Essays in Honour of Janet Backhouse, ed. J. Backhouse, M. P. Brown and S. McKendrick (London 1998), 102–19, at 107. 30. Fully discussed in Binski, Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets (as n. 1), 52–63 and fig. 77. 31. History of Westminster Abbey by John Flete (as n. 21), 69. 32. Vincent, The Holy Blood (as n. 1), 88; cf. Binski, Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets (as n. 1), 142–43 and fig. 189. 33. Vincent, The Holy Blood (as n. 1), 79. 34. Tristram, English Medieval Wall Painting (as n. 14), 85, 121–27, 560–61. This date differs from that proposed in Tristram, ‘A Recent Discovery of Wall-Paintings’ (as n. 14), c. 1300. 35. Tristram, English Medieval Wall Painting (as n. 14), 124, 576; published in full in Building Accounts of King Henry III (as n. 2), 428–29, 430–31. 36. The Westminster Retable (as n. 13). 37. History of Westminster Abbey by John Flete (as n. 21), at 119 and note: Flete states that Wenlok was buried ‘juxta magnum altare versus austrum’; Sporley adds ‘secus magnum altare extra hostium australe feretri sancti Edwardi, ante presbiterium ibidem sub plano pavimento et lapide marmoreo decenter ornato’ (‘by the high altar outside the south door of the shrine of St Edward beneath a plain slab decently adorned with a marble stone’). This is not consistent with the panel on the south side of the Cosmati pavement opposite Abbot Ware’s tomb. 38. W. Rodwell, The Coronation Chair and Stone of Scone: History, Archaeology and Conservation (Oxford/Oakville CT 2013). 39. For earlier summaries and opinions, see Binski, Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets (as n. 1), 123–26 and 214 n. 36; for conservation and further thoughts, L. Wrapson, ‘The materials and techniques of the c. 1307 Westminster Abbey sedilia’, in Medieval Painting in Northern Europe: Techniques, Analysis, Art History. Studies in commemoration of the 70th birthday of Unn Plahter, ed. J. Nadolny, K. Kollandsrud, M. L. Sauerberg and T. Frøysaker (London 2006), 114–36. 40. C. Norton, ‘The medieval paintings in the chapter house’, Friends of York Minster Annual Report, 67 (1996), 34–51, 34–38, fig. 2. 41. R. A. Brown, H. M. Colvin and A. J. Taylor, The History of the King’s Works: The Middle Ages, 2 vols (London 1963), I, pl. 1. 42. History of Westminster Abbey by John Flete (as n. 21), 34–68 and introduced at 1–11. 43. For the French, see Lives of Edward the Confessor, ed. H. R. Luard (Rolls Series, iii, London 1858), 83, 237; see also The History of Saint Edward the King by Matthew Paris, trans. T. S. Fenster and J. WoganBrowne, Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies 341 (Tempe 2008), 79–80. 44. History of Westminster Abbey by John Flete (as n. 21), at 36: ‘Sebertus [. . .] beato Petro devotus [. . .]’; also 77. 45. W. R. L. Lowe and E. F. Jacob with M. R. James, Illustrations to the Life of St Alban (Oxford 1924), figs 39–40. 46. D. Keene, A. Burns and A. Saint ed., St Paul’s, the Cathedral Church of London 604-2004 (New Haven CT/London 2004), 120. 47. Wrapson, ‘Materials and techniques’ (as n. 38), figs 22–23 for the reworking of the hand; History of Westminster Abbey by John Flete (as n. 21), 38.


paul binski and emily guerry 48. Wrapson, ‘Materials and techniques’ (as n. 38), 130–31; History of Westminster Abbey by John Flete (as n. 21), 75: ‘pro anima Seberti cxx dies’. 49. Thomæ Walsingham Quondam Monachi S. Albani: Historia Anglicana, ed. H. T. Riley (Rolls Series, xxviii, 2 vols, London 1863–64), I, 114: Sebert was translated from the old church to the new at the instigation of the monks; when his sarcophagus was opened the right forearm was found to be intact after 700 years. The translation occurred in the spring or summer of 1307, Sebert’s date of death being given as 31 July, which may point to the date of his translation. See History of Westminster Abbey by John Flete (as n. 21), at 11 and 83, for the translation of Ethelgotha, Sebert’s wife, to the chapter-house entrance under Henry III. 50. St Paul’s (as n. 45), 119. 51. WAM, 53318 (16th century): ‘Item in dextra parte magni altaris sub presbyterio corpus sancti Seberti confessoris regis’ (etc.); BL, Add. MS 38133 (16th century), fol. 98v: ‘under the presbytery lyeth Sebart [sic]’. 52. History of Westminster Abbey by John Flete (as n. 21), 45. 53. Dagobert was buried by the high altar itself: W. Sauerla¨nder, Gothic Sculpture in France 1140–1270 (London 1972), 491–92. For Saint-Denis and Westminster, see W. C. Jordan, A tale of two monasteries: Westminster and Saint-Denis in the thirteenth century (Princeton/Oxford 2009). 54. W. Camden, Reges, reginae, Nobiles (London 1603), sig. A3v: the tomb is to the south of the high altar, and next to it on the wall is painted an ancient work showing St Peter addressing the dead Sebert with the following verses: ‘Hic Rex Sebert pausas: mihi condita per te haec loca lustravi demum lustrando dicavi’ (perhaps ‘Here, King Sebert, you rest; I have purified these places founded for me by you [and] in purifying have consecrated them’). ‘Here you rest, Sebert: I have dedicated to myself, and by purifying finally conse­ crated this place, founded by you.’ The account in The Gentleman’s Magazine, XCV/2 (1825), 301–06 (at 301–02) is correct. 55. P. Binski, ‘A ‘‘Sign of Victory’’: the Coronation Chair, its Manufacture, Setting and Symbolism’, in The Stone of Destiny: Artefact and Icon, ed. R. Welander, D. Breeze and T. O. Clancy, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Monograph Series 22 (Edinburgh 2003), 207–22, at 216. 56. Flores historiarum, ed. H. R. Luard (Rolls Series, xcv, 3 vols, London 1890), III, 132. 57. King’s Works (as n. 40), II, 1044, no. 40: ‘de sede regali [. . .] & ita alta quod homines ad arma [videlicet comites Barones milites et alij nobiles] possent equitare subtus eandem’. Wilson (‘Calling the tune’ (as n. 3), 85 n. 12) objects that this ‘was surely intended to convey only a general idea of its height’: but if so, why is this memorandum qualified by the phrase in parentheses above, ‘namely earls, barons, knights and other nobles’? The King’s Works (as n. 40, I, 507) accepts the literal reading, as does Binski, Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets (as n. 1), 131. For the Liber Regalis specification, see English Coronation Records, ed. L. G. Wickham Legg (Westminster 1901), 81: ‘pulpitum aliquantulum eminens’. 58. Flores historiarum (as n. 55), 142. 59. Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II, ed. W. Stubbs (Rolls Series, lxxvi, 2 vols, London 1882–83), I, 261: ‘quidam murus etsi luteus fortis secus magnum altare et pulpitum regium solotenus corruit’. 60. Edward I and Edward II (as n. 58), 152–53: ‘[...] per ruinam cujusdam muri [...] fuit oppressus ad mortem’; see also Historia Anglicana (as n. 48), 121–22. 61. For Islip’s roll, see Binski, Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets (as n. 1), fig. 199; for the arched substructure of the sedilia from the presbytery, The Gentleman’s Magazine (as n. 53), 303, pl. II; for nicheburials, see Sauerla¨nder, Gothic Sculpture in France (as n. 52), 396–97, 491–92. 62. Unpublished, though W. R. Lethaby (Westminster Abbey and the King’s Craftsmen: A Study of Medi­ aeval Building (London 1906), 274 fig. 92) depicts the scroll-work on the soffit. It is unclear from the present state whether this figure had a halo. 63. The literature is growing but indecisive, and overlooks the niche: King’s Works (as n. 40), I, 478–79; J. D. Tanner, ‘Tombs of Royal Babies in Westminster Abbey’, JBAA, 3rd ser., 16 (1953), 25–40, at 26–27; S. Badham, ‘Whose Body? Monuments Displaced from St Edward the Confessor’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey’, JBAA, 160 (2007), 129–46; S. Badham and S. Oosterwijk, ‘The tomb and monument of Katherine, daughter of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence (1253–7)’, Antiq. J., 92 (2012), 169–96, at 173. The site identified is not inconsistent with the tradition that Katherine lies to the south side of the choir between the chapels of St Edward and St Benedict. The History of Westminster Abbey by John Flete ((as n. 21), 75) names the main altars of the church in such a way as to group those of Nicholas, Blaise and Benedict to the south side, followed by Katherine. Proximity both to the high altar and to an altar of Katherine would be understandable. In his review of The Westminster Retable (as n. 13) in Antiq. J. (92 (2012), at 491), David Carpenter suggests that the scene of the Raising of Jairus’s daughter on the high altar retable was of relevance to Henry III after Katherine’s death. 64. J. Wickham Legg, ‘On an inventory of the vestry in Westminster Abbey, taken in 1388’, Archaeologia, LII/1 (1890), 195–286, at 269: ‘Item alius pannus de diversis coloribus stragulat’ vocat’ kanope ad coperiendum Cawagium Regis iuxta magnum altare’. The Abbey’s refectory also had a cawagium; see B. Harvey, Living and Dying in England 1100–1540: The Monastic Experience (Oxford 1993), 41.


The Polychromy at Westminster Abbey, 1250–13501 HELEN HOWARD and MARIE LOUISE SAUERBERG

Although some technical examination has been undertaken of works at Westminster in the past,2 the recent detailed analytical information of a number of important painted schemes from the mid-13th to early 14th centuries at Westminster Abbey (Fig. 1) and Palace of Westminster has provided us for the first time with a body of detailed data from which technical comparisons can be drawn with contemporary work in England and northern Europe. Since 1995, technical studies have been undertaken on the Cosmati pavements (Rodwell, Fig. 1, 159); two fragments of ceiling panels from the Painted Chamber in the Palace; the Retable (Fig. 2); the tomb of Aveline de Forz (d. 1274); the tomb of Edmund Crouchback (d. 1296) (Fig. 3); the Coronation Chair (Fig. 4; see also Rodwell, Fig. 14, 55); the sedilia (Binski and Guerry, Figs 11 and 12, 196 and 198); and the wall-paintings in the Chapel of St Faith (Binski and Guerry, above, Fig. 4) and the south transept (Binski and Guerry, Fig. 5, 186).3 A number of these projects included non-invasive methods of examination and analysis, as well as employing a wide range of sample-based analytical techniques. This paper represents an overview of the current state of research within the context of an ongoing study at the Abbey, which is based on a close collaboration between conservators, conservation scientists, and art historians. It provides information on all recent investigations, focus­ ing on painting on both stone and wood (the only two substrates identified, although evidence for the use of canvas was found and will also be discussed). It also identifies some common denominators, as well as unusual traits, within this diverse group of objects, and contextualizes the findings by comparison with coeval works of art from within Britain and elsewhere in northern Europe. As a preamble to the detailed com­ parisons of technical data, however, it is important to consider the polychrome context within which many of these objects were meant to be seen. The Appendix provides a summary of analytical data to date. the polychromy of the abbey’s interior Several authors have commented on what they considered the rich medieval poly­ chromy of the main elevations of the Abbey’s interior.4 Yet its former overall appear­ ance and the chronology of the early painted schemes remain somewhat uncertain. There seems, for example, to be no physical evidence for the gilding of the diaper work of the arcade spandrels, as reported by G. G. Scott,5 and subsequently much quoted.6 Expected traces of polychromy are conspicuously absent from these areas, and further­ more the carving remains crisp, in the manner typical of unpolychromed stone rather than of stonework from which polychromy has been removed. BAA Trans., vol. xxxix, part i (2015), 205–261 # British Archaeological Association 2015


helen howard and marie louise sauerberg

Fig. 1. Westminster Abbey: the Sacrarium and apse, showing high altar and 19th-century screen # Dean and Chapter of Westminster


Chris Titmus, Hamilton Kerr Institute, University of Cambridge

Fig. 2. The Westminster Retable, c. 1269; polychrome wood, 0.9663.33 m

The Polychromy at Westminster Abbey


helen howard and marie louise sauerberg

Fig. 3. Tomb of Edmund Crouchback, earl of Lancaster (d. 1296); polychrome stone, c. 3.5066.00 m # Dean and Chapter of Westminster

The influence of the French on the Abbey building and its contents has long been established. In terms of its polychromy, however, the Abbey of the late 13th and early 14th centuries delivered a restrained English palette. This was an overall harmony of soft-coloured stone punctuated by polychrome details, much as suggested by Webb; in other words, it was quite different in impact from the Sainte-Chapelle, without which the Retable, for instance, could not have been imagined.7 The general impression was dominated by stone, mainly Reigate and Purbeck and white-washed walls with faux ashlar. Bright colour and gold only featured locally, in the stained glass, and on the cosmateque pavements and tombs, as well as an ever-growing number of polychrome works of art. Documentary sources provide some evidence regarding the early decoration of the new church. For example, payments were clearly made to artisans employed to polish the many tall and slender Purbeck marble columns.8 These would have been beautifully 208

The Polychromy at Westminster Abbey

Fig. 4. The Coronation Chair, c. 1300; polychrome oak, 2.04761.14260.725 m Chris Titmus, Hamilton Kerr Institute, University of Cambridge

offset by the pale Reigate stone, whether or not it was white-washed. Payments to Adam the plasterer or whitewasher (‘In stipendiis [. . .] Ade dealbatoris’)9 appear regu­ larly in the accounts of the 1250s, with further sums suggesting that the interior walls of the Abbey were also decorated.10 Physical evidence of faux ashlar on the lower walls was recorded by Scott and Lethaby (Fig. 5).11 While numerous examples of this type of decoration are found else­ where,12 none appears to survive in the Abbey.13 Yet, the finely painted masonry pattern on both the Crouchback tomb and the sedilia must surely reflect the original appearance of the Abbey’s lower interior walls (Fig. 6). The same might be said of the diaper work in the gable of the Crouchback tomb, which resembles that of the Abbey’s main elevations, and which is gilded; the physical evidence does not bear this out, 209

helen howard and marie louise sauerberg

Fig. 5 (left).

Faux ashlar work of the lower wall in Westminster Abbey, as seen and drawn to

scale by W. R. Lethaby

Lethaby, Westminster Abbey Re-examined (as n. 4), fig. 119

Fig. 6 (right).

Tomb of Edmund Crouchback, detail from the south side showing painted

faux ashlar work

Helen Howard

however. The polychromy found in St Benedict’s Chapel, the only area with paint and gilded diaper work, is of unknown date, and does not reflect an overall polychrome scheme of the early interior. The Exchequer pipe rolls of the period leading up to the reconsecration of the church in 1269 list ‘auro in folio. aimallis. diversis coloribus & aliis necessariis ad picturas voltarum ecclesie supradicte & magne camere Regis’, all for the handsome sum of £68 18s. 9½d.14 Of particular interest is the specific reference to the decoration of the vaults in the Abbey. However, it is clear that much of the material referred to here was destined for the Great Chamber in the Palace of Westminster,15 and it cannot be assumed that both interiors would have had equally lavish decoration. Unfortunately, most of the colour remaining in the Abbey itself is all but obscured by later whitewash, or has eroded away. Residues of paint and gilding do survive in situ, most prominently on the large stone sculptures, such as those in the transepts and on the chapter-house Annunciation doorway.16 The fine shields in the nave, particularly those of Henry III’s building, display high-quality painting, which may be original (Fig. 7A–B). Some details of the carving in the Abbey were painted and gilded, such as capitals and figures in spandrels, and a few examples can still be seen in situ protected by later monuments. Other fine, but fragmentary, examples of this can be seen in the Abbey Museum (Fig. 8A–B).17 It therefore seems likely that the sculptures in the spandrels and below the dado were once also decorated.18 210

The Polychromy at Westminster Abbey

Fig. 7.

Westminster Abbey, nave, south aisle, c. 1250, details of carved heads from shields, stone with remains of polychromy Marie Louise Sauerberg

Fig. 8. Westminster Abbey Museum. A: small carved head, c. 1250, 1746114 mm, stone with remains of polychromy. B: small carved foliate fragment, c. 1250, stone with remains of polychromy Marie Louise Sauerberg


helen howard and marie louise sauerberg

Westminster Abbey provides copious evidence for more expensive stones — such as those employed in the cosmatesque mosaic tombs and floors — being imitated in paint. This practice is well documented in contemporary sources.19 Thus, the plinth of Aymer de Valence’s tomb was skilfully painted as Purbeck marble with characteristic swirls of light-coloured paint representing shell inclusions, a technique also found on the Aveline and Crouchback tombs. For the lower band beneath St Christopher in the south tran­ sept, porphyry is imitated in paint by covering a dark green ground flecked with light spots with an emerald green glaze. Imitation of red porphyry is found, for example, on column bases of the Aveline and Crouchback tombs, on the reverse of the Retable, as well as on the great gable above the St Faith wall-painting. The same stone was imitated in many ways, and a few brushstrokes or dots suggesting the characteristic hallmarks were sufficient to make a particular type recognizable. Little survives of the original stained glass, and none of it is now in its original setting. The effect was purportedly mostly one of ornamented grisaille work with a few morsels of coloured glass decorated with figurative, geometric or heraldic images (Fig. 9).20 However, original 13th-century flooring, both cosmatesque and tiled, as in St Faith’s Chapel, the Pyx Chamber (Rodwell, Fig. 11, 50) and the chapter-house, survives.21 technical examination of the polychromy Support Stone Reigate and Caen were the major sources of freestone used by the masons of Henry III, and later by Edward I for the Abbey.22 Other sources are mentioned in the

Fig. 9. Westminster Abbey Museum: The Ascension, one of four 13th-century stained-glass panels to survive, ex situ # Dean and Chapter of Westminster


The Polychromy at Westminster Abbey

accounts,23 but preliminary examination indicates a predominance of Reigate wherever stone is used as a support for polychromy.24 Curiously, the sculptures of the Annunci­ ation doorway in the chapter-house were made from two different sources: Gabriel was carved in Caen stone while the Virgin was made of Reigate.25 This difference would not, of course, have been visible once the sculptures were painted. Both are finegrained, homogeneous freestone (that is, they can be worked in any direction) that can be worked with a sharp arris. As such, they were the stones of choice for the medieval masons in London.26 Indeed, the quarries of Reigate were considered so important that they were kept in the possession of the Crown.27 The wall-paintings in the south transept and St Faith’s Chapel were painted directly onto the regularly coursed ashlar blocks used for building the walls (Fig. 10). Their surfaces were no more finished than the adjacent unpainted walls and display the characteristic vertical striations of the two-inch chisel used both for off-site shaping and on-site snagging. The numerous so-called masons’ marks that can be discerned in many parts of the building are also found on the south transept paintings and the Aveline tomb.28 By contrast, the stone substrate for the friezes on the basements of the tombs of Eleanor of Castile and Crouchback were more finely finished and almost perfectly flat. The carved, polychromed, integral frame of the fictive panel painting on the basement of Eleanor’s tomb confirms that it was planned from the outset.29

Fig. 10.

Detail of The Incredulity of St Thomas, showing the tooling of the stone substrate

Emily Howe


helen howard and marie louise sauerberg

In the Middles Ages, Reigate and Caen stones were available in large blocks. For example, the larger than life-size sculptures of the Virgin Mary and the Angel Gabriel in the chapter-house doorway are each mostly carved from a single block, with the exception of Gabriel’s wings (now lost), which were carved as separate pieces (either in stone or perhaps, more likely, in wood) and inserted afterwards, as evidenced by vertical slots present in the angel’s back.30 Similarly, the main body of the sculptures of the upper walls of the south transept were also largely carved from single blocks. Like the fine sculptures of the bosses, gables and soffits in the Abbey and chapterhouse, the tombs on the north side of the Sacrarium (sanctuary) were made from many smaller, individually carved blocks. Common practice dictated that the stones were usually worked off site in a nearby mason’s yard, before being assembled like building blocks in situ. The blocks were closely fitted and fixed with lime mortar, and possibly held internally with joggles or carved keys. Some smoothing of the surface was done in situ after assembly.31 On the sculpted parts of the tombs finely measured tooling is visible, while the surface finish on the columns is combed (Fig. 11). Predictably, tool marks indicate the successively finer tools employed by the sculptor.32 Wood Only two types of wood have been identified as the substrates of polychrome objects from the period examined at Westminster. All are oak (Quercus species), with the exception of a small panel of heraldic shields painted on softwood, probably pine (Pinaceae family). Published accounts for Westminster detail the purchase of both types

Fig. 11. Tomb of Aveline de Forz (d. 1274), c. 1295, polychrome stone: detail of the south side, eastern columns, where the measured tooling of the stone shows through the painted decoration Marie Louise Sauerberg


The Polychromy at Westminster Abbey

of woods in the mid-13th century, where these boards are referred to as ‘de quercu’ and ‘de sape’ respectively.33 All polychrome oak objects at Westminster make use of boards that were extracted radially from the log. In the sole instance of softwood, a short fragment of a larger board was cut tangentially. The joinery in each of the carved and painted Westminster objects is very refined, using complex and sophisticated joints constructed to millimetre accuracy. Oak boards are joined either with overlapping edges (‘clinker-built’) on the reverse only (ceiling panels), or were butt-joined and dowelled, as in the Retable,34 Coronation Chair and sedilia. The mid-13th-century doors in the north transept and to the chapter-house undercroft (the latter not in its original position) are joined by V-shaped tongue and grooves.35 The wooden objects include pre-carved or turned elements that were pegged or pinned to the main body. Gluing of the interfaces is suggested by dry keying.36 On panels, the relief effect of the object was sometimes further enhanced by carving into the surface (as seen on both the Retable and Coronation Chair). The diameters of the drills or augers used for making peg and dowel holes vary according to site and func­ tion. Smaller-diameter (