The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 11. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1800.
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History of the cathedral
THE ORIGIN of a Christian church on the scite of the present cathedral, is supposed to have taken place as early as the Roman empire in Britain, for the use of the antient faithful and believing soldiers of their garrison here; and that Augustine found such a one standing here, adjoining to king Ethelbert's palace, which was included in the king's gift to him.
This supposition is founded on the records of the priory of Christ-church, (fn. 1) concurring with the common opinion of almost all our historians, who tell us of a church in Canterbury, which Augustine found standing in the east part of the city, which he had of king Ethelbert's gift, which after his consecration at Arles, in France, he commended by special dedication to the patronage of our blessed Saviour. (fn. 2)
According to others, the foundations only of an old church formerly built by the believing Romans, were left here, on which Augustine erected that, which he afterwards dedicated to out Saviour; (fn. 3) and indeed it is not probable that king Ethelbert should have suffered the unsightly ruins of a Christian church, which, being a Pagan, must have been very obnoxious to him, so close to his palace, and supposing these ruins had been here, would he not have suffered them to be repaired, rather than have obliged his Christian queen to travel daily to such a distance as St. Martin's church, or St. Pancrace's chapel, for the performance of her devotions.
Some indeed have conjectured that the church found by St. Augustine, in the east part of the city, was that of St.Martin, truly so situated; and urge in favor of it, that there have not been at any time any remains of British or Roman bricks discovered scattered in or about this church of our Saviour, those infallible, as Mr. Somner stiles them, signs of antiquity, and so generally found in buildings, which have been erected on, or close to the spot where more antient ones have stood. But to proceed, king Ethelbert's donation to Augustine was made in the year 596, who immediately afterwards went over to France, and was consecrated a bishop at Arles, and after his return, as soon as he had sufficiently finished a church here, whether built out of ruins or anew, it matters not, he exercised his episcopal function in the dedication of it, says the register of Christ-church, to the honor of Christ our Saviour; whence it afterwards obtained the name of Christ-church. (fn. 4)
From the time of Augustine for the space of upwards of three hundred years, there is not found in any printed or manuscript chronicle, the least mention of the fabric of this church, so that it is probable nothing befell it worthy of being recorded; however it should be mentioned, that during that period the revenues of it were much increased, for in the leiger books of it there are registered more than fifty donations of manors, lands, &c. so large and bountiful, as became the munificence of kings and nobles to confer. (fn. 5)
It is supposed, especially as we find no mention made of any thing to the contrary, that the fabric of this church for two hundred years after Augustine's time, met with no considerable molestations; but afterwards, the frequent invasions of the Danes involved both the civil and ecclesiastical state of this country in continual troubles and dangers; in the confusion of which, this church appears to have run into a state of decay; for when Odo was promoted to the archbishopric, in the year 938, the roof of it was in a ruinous condition; age had impaired it, and neglect had made it extremely dangerous; the walls of it were of an uneven height, according as it had been more or less decayed, and the roof of the church seemed ready to fall down on the heads of those underneath. All this the archbishop undertook to repair, and then covered the whole church with lead; to finish which, it took three years, as Osbern tells us, in the life of Odo; (fn. 6) and further, that there was not to be found a church of so large a size, capable of containing so great a multitude of people, and thus, perhaps, it continued without any material change happening to it, till the year 1011; a dismal and fatal year to this church and city; a time of unspeakable confusion and calamities; for in the month of September that year, the Danes, after a siege of twenty days, entered this city by force, burnt the houses, made a lamentable slaughter of the inhabitants, rifled this church, and then set it on fire, insomuch, that the lead with which archbishop Odo had covered it, being melted, ran down on those who were underneath. The sull story of this calamity is given by Osbern, in the life of archbishop Odo, an abridgement of which the reader will find below. (fn. 7)
The church now lay in ruins, without a roof, the bare walls only standing, and in this desolate condition it remained as long as the fury of the Danes prevailed, who after they had burnt the church, carried away archbishop Alphage with them, kept him in prison seven months, and then put him to death, in the year 1012, the year after which Living, or Livingus, succeeded him as archbishop, though it was rather in his calamities than in his seat of dignity, for he too was chained up by the Danes in a loathsome dungeon for seven months, before he was set free, but he so sensibly felt the deplorable state of this country, which he foresaw was every day growing worse and worse, that by a voluntary exile, he withdrew himself out of the nation, to find some solitary retirement, where he might bewail those desolations of his country, to which he was not able to bring any relief, but by his continual prayers. (fn. 8) He just outlived this storm, returned into England, and before he died saw peace and quientness restored to this land by king Canute, who gaining to himself the sole sovereignty over the nation, made it his first business to repair the injuries which had been done to the churches and monasteries in this kingdom, by his father's and his own wars. (fn. 9)
As for this church, archbishop Ægelnoth, who presided over it from the year 1020 to the year 1038, began and finished the repair, or rather the rebuilding of it, assisted in it by the royal munificence of the king, (fn. 10) who in 1023 presented his crown of gold to this church, and restored to it the port of Sandwich, with its liberties. (fn. 11) Notwithstanding this, in less than forty years afterwards, when Lanfranc soon after the Norman conquest came to the see, he found this church reduced almost to nothing by fire, and dilapidations; for Eadmer says, it had been consumed by a third conflagration, prior to the year of his advancement to it, in which fire almost all the antient records of the privileges of it had perished. (fn. 12)
The same writer has given us a description of this old church, as it was before Lanfranc came to the see; by which we learn, that at the east end there was an altar adjoining to the wall of the church, of rough unhewn stone, cemented with mortar, erected by archbishop Odo, for a repository of the body of Wilfrid, archbishop of York, which Odo had translated from Rippon hither, giving it here the highest place; at a convenient distance from this, westward, there was another altar, dedicated to Christ our Saviour, at which divine service was daily celebrated. In this altar was inclosed the head of St. Swithin, with many other relics, which archbishop Alphage brought with him from Winchester. Passing from this altar westward, many steps led down to the choir and nave, which were both even, or upon the same level. At the bottom of the steps, there was a passage into the undercroft, under all the east part of the church. (fn. 13) At the east end of which, was an altar, in which was inclosed, according to old tradition, the head of St. Furseus. From hence by a winding passage, at the west end of it, was the tomb of St. Dunstan, (fn. 14) but separated from the undercroft by a strong stone wall; over the tomb was erected a monument, pyramid wife, and at the head of it an altar, (fn. 15) for the mattin service. Between these steps, or passage into the undercroft and the nave, was the choir, (fn. 16) which was separated from the nave by a fair and decent partition, to keep off the crowds of people that usually were in the body of the church, so that the singing of the chanters in the choir might not be disturbed. About the middle of the length of the nave, were two towers or steeples, built without the walls; one on the south, and the other on the north side. In the former was the altar of St. Gregory, where was an entrance into the church by the south door, and where law controversies and pleas concerning secular matters were exercised. (fn. 17) In the latter, or north tower, was a passage for the monks into the church, from the monastery; here were the cloysters, where the novices were instructed in their religious rules and offices, and where the monks conversed together. In this tower was the altar of St. Martin. At the west end of the church was a chapel, dedicated to the blessed Virgin Mary, to which there was an ascent by steps, and at the east end of it an altar, dedicated to her, in which was inclosed the head of St. Astroburta the Virgin; and at the western part of it was the archbishop's pontifical chair, made of large stones, compacted together with mortar; a fair piece of work, and placed at a convenient distance from the altar, close to the wall of the church. (fn. 18)
To return now to archbishop Lanfranc, who was sent for from Normandy in 1073, being the fourth year of the Conqueror's reign, to fill this see, a time, when a man of a noble spirit, equal to the laborious task he was to undertake, was wanting especially for this church; and that he was such, the several great works which were performed by him, were incontestable proofs, as well as of his great and generous mind. At the first sight of the ruinous condition of this church, says the historian, the archbishop was struck with astonishment, and almost despaired of seeing that and the monastery re edified; but his care and perseverance raised both in all its parts anew, and that in a novel and more magnificent kind and form of structure, than had been hardly in any place before made use of in this kingdom, which made it a precedent and pattern to succeeding structures of this kind; (fn. 19) and new monasteries and churches were built after the example of it; for it should be observed, that before the coming of the Normans most of the churches and monasteries in this kingdom were of wood; (all the monasteries in my realm, says king Edgar, in his charter to the abbey of Malmesbury, dated anno 974, to the outward sight are nothing but worm-eaten and rotten timber and boards) but after the Norman conquest, such timber fabrics grew out of use, and gave place to stone buildings raised upon arches; a form of structure introduced into general use by that nation, and in these parts surnished with stone from Caen, in Normandy. (fn. 20) After this fashion archbishop Lanfranc rebuilt the whole church from the foundation, with the palace and monastery, the wall which encompassed the court, and all the offices belonging to the monastery within the wall, finishing the whole nearly within the compass of seven years; (fn. 21) besides which, he furnished the church with ornaments and rich vestments; after which, the whole being perfected, he altered the name of it, by a dedication of it to the Holy Trinity; whereas, before it was called the church of our Saviour, or Christ-church, and from the above time it bore (as by Domesday book appears) the name of the church of the Holy Trinity; this new church being built on the same spot on which the antient one stood, though on a far different model.
After Lanfranc's death, archbishop Anselm succeeded in the year 1093, to the see of Canterbury, and must be esteemed a principal benefactor to this church; for though his time was perplexed with a continued series of troubles, of which both banishment and poverty made no small part, which in a great measure prevented him from bestowing that cost on his church, which he would otherwise have done, yet it was through his patronage and protection, and through his care and persuasions, that the fabric of it, begun and perfected by his predecessor, became enlarged and rose to still greater splendor. (fn. 22)
In order to carry this forward, upon the vacancy of the priory, he constituted Ernulph and Conrad, the first in 1104, the latter in 1108, priors of this church; to whose care, being men of generous and noble minds, and of singular skill in these matters, he, during his troubles, not only committed the management of this work, but of all his other concerns during his absence.
Probably archbishop Anselm, on being recalled from banishment on king Henry's accession to the throne, had pulled down that part of the church built by Lanfranc, from the great tower in the middle of it to the east end, intending to rebuild it upon a still larger and more magnificent plan; when being borne down by the king's displeasure, he intrusted prior Ernulph with the work, who raised up the building with such splendor, says Malmesbury, that the like was not to be seen in all England; (fn. 23) but the short time Ernulph continued in this office did not permit him to see his undertaking finished. (fn. 24) This was left to his successor Conrad, who, as the obituary of Christ church informs us, by his great industry, magnificently perfected the choir, which his predecessor had left unfinished, (fn. 25) adorning it with curious pictures, and enriching it with many precious ornaments. (fn. 26)
This great undertaking was not entirely compleated at the death of archbishop Anselm, which happened in 1109, anno 9 Henry I. nor indeed for the space of five years afterwards, during which the see of Canterbury continued vacant; when being finished, in honour of its builder, and on account of its more than ordinary beauty, it gained the name of the glorious choir of Conrad. (fn. 27)
After the see of Canterbury had continued thus vacant for five years, Ralph, or as some call him, Rodulph, bishop of Rochester, was translated to it in the year 1114, at whose coming to it, the church was dedicated anew to the Holy Trinity, the name which had been before given to it by Lanfranc. (fn. 28) The only particular description we have of this church when thus finished, is from Gervas, the monk of this monastery, and that proves imperfect, as to the choir of Lanfranc, which had been taken down soon after his death; (fn. 29) the following is his account of the nave, or western part of it below the choir, being that which had been erected by archbishop Lanfranc, as has been before mentioned. From him we learn, that the west end, where the chapel of the Virgin Mary stood before, was now adorned with two stately towers, on the top of which were gilded pinnacles. The nave or body was supported by eight pair of pillars. At the east end of the nave, on the north side, was an oratory, dedicated in honor to the blessed Virgin, in lieu, I suppose, of the chapel, that had in the former church been dedicated to her at the west end. Between the nave and the choir there was built a great tower or steeple, as it were in the centre of the whole fabric; (fn. 30) under this tower was erected the altar of the Holy Cross; over a partition, which separated this tower from the nave, a beam was laid across from one side to the other of the church; upon the middle of this beam was fixed a great cross, between the images of the Virgin Mary and St. John, and between two cherubims. The pinnacle on the top of this tower, was a gilded cherub, and hence it was called the angel steeple; a name it is frequently called by at this day. (fn. 31)
This great tower had on each side a cross isle, called the north and south wings, which were uniform, of the same model and dimensions; each of them had a strong pillar in the middle for a support to the roof, and each of them had two doors or passages, by which an entrance was open to the east parts of the church. At one of these doors there was a descent by a few steps into the undercroft; at the other, there was an ascent by many steps into the upper parts of the church, that is, the choir, and the isles on each side of it. Near every one of these doors or passages, an altar was erected; at the upper door in the south wing, there was an altar in honour of All Saints; and at the lower door there was one of St. Michael; and before this altar on the south side was buried archbishop Fleologild; and on the north side, the holy Virgin Siburgis, whom St. Dunstan highly admired for her sanctity. In the north isle, by the upper door, was the altar of St. Blaze; and by the lower door, that of St. Benedict. In this wing had been interred four archbishops, Adelm and Ceolnoth, behind the altar, and Egelnoth and Wlfelm before it. At the entrance into this wing, Rodulph and his successor William Corboil, both archbishops, were buried. (fn. 32)
Hence, he continues, we go up by some steps into the great tower, and before us there is a door and steps leading down into the south wing, and on the right hand a pair of folding doors, with stairs going down into the nave of the church; but without turning to any of these, let us ascend eastward, till by several more steps we come to the west end of Conrad's choir; being now at the entrance of the choir, Gervas tells us, that he neither saw the choir built by Lanfranc, nor found it described by any one; that Eadmer had made mention of it, without giving any account of it, as he had done of the old church, the reason of which appears to be, that Lanfranc's choir did not long survive its founder, being pulled down as before-mentioned, by archbishop Anselm; so that it could not stand more than twenty years; therefore the want of a particular description of it will appear no great defect in the history of this church, especially as the deficiency is here supplied by Gervas's full relation of the new choir of Conrad, built instead of it; of which, whoever desires to know the whole architecture and model observed in the fabric, the order, number, height and form of the pillars and windows, may know the whole of it from him. The roof of it, he tells us, (fn. 33) was beautified with curious paintings representing heaven; (fn. 34) in several respects it was agreeable to the present choir, the stalls were large and framed of carved wood. In the middle of it, there hung a gilded crown, on which were placed four and twenty tapers of wax. From the choir an ascent of three steps led to the presbiterium, or place for the presbiters; here, he says, it would be proper to stop a little and take notice of the high altar, which was dedicated to the name of CHRIST. It was placed between two other altars, the one of St. Dunstan, the other of St. Alphage; at the east corners of the high altar were fixed two pillars of wood, beautified with silver and gold; upon these pillars was placed a beam, adorned with gold, which reached across the church, upon it there were placed the glory, (fn. 35) the images of St. Dunstan and St. Alphage, and seven chests or coffers overlaid with gold, full of the relics of many saints. Between those pillars was a cross gilded all over, and upon the upper beam of the cross were set sixty bright crystals.
Beyond this, by an ascent of eight steps towards the east, behind the altar, was the archiepiscopal throne, which Gervas calls the patriarchal chair, made of one stone; in this chair, according to the custom of the church, the archbishop used to sit, upon principal festivals, in his pontifical ornaments, whilst the solemn offices of religion were celebrated, until the consecration of the host, when he came down to the high altar, and there performed the solemnity of consecration. Still further, eastward, behind the patriarchal chair, (fn. 36) was a chapel in the front of the whole church, in which was an altar, dedicated to the Holy Trinity; behind which were laid the bones of two archbishops, Odo of Canterbury, and Wilfrid of York; by this chapel on the south side near the wall of the church, was laid the body of archbishop Lanfranc, and on the north side, the body of archbishop Theobald. Here it is to be observed, that under the whole east part of the church, from the angel steeple, there was an undercrost or crypt, (fn. 37) in which were several altars, chapels and sepulchres; under the chapel of the Trinity before-mentioned, were two altars, on the south side, the altar of St. Augustine, the apostle of the English nation, by which archbishop Athelred was interred. On the north side was the altar of St. John Baptist, by which was laid the body of archbishop Eadsin; under the high altar was the chapel and altar of the blessed Virgin Mary, to whom the whole undercroft was dedicated.
To return now, he continues, to the place where the bresbyterium and choir meet, where on each side there was a cross isle (as was to be seen in his time) which might be called the upper south and north wings; on the east side of each of these wings were two half circular recesses or nooks in the wall, arched over after the form of porticoes. Each of them had an altar, and there was the like number of altars under them in the crost. In the north wing, the north portico had the altar of St. Martin, by which were interred the bodies of two archbishops, Wlfred on the right, and Living on the left hand; under it in the croft, was the altar of St. Mary Magdalen. The other portico in this wing, had the altar of St. Stephen, and by it were buried two archbishops, Athelard on the left hand, and Cuthbert on the right; in the croft under it, was the altar of St. Nicholas. In the south wing, the north portico had the altar of St. John the Evangelist, and by it the bodies of Æthelgar and Aluric, archbishops, were laid. In the croft under it was the altar of St. Paulinus, by which the body of archbishop Siricius was interred. In the south portico was the altar of St. Gregory, by which were laid the corps of the two archbishops Bregwin and Plegmund. In the croft under it was the altar of St. Owen, archbishop of Roan, and underneath in the croft, not far from it the altar of St. Catherine.
Passing from these cross isles eastward there were two towers, one on the north, the other on the south side of the church. In the tower on the north side was the altar of St. Andrew, which gave name to the tower; under it, in the croft, was the altar of the Holy Innocents; the tower on the south side had the altar of St. Peter and St. Paul, behind which the body of St. Anselm was interred, which afterwards gave name both to the altar and tower (fn. 38) (now called St. Anselm's). The wings or isles on each side of the choir had nothing in particular to be taken notice of.— Thus far Gervas, from whose description we in particular learn, where several of the bodies of the old archbishops were deposited, and probably the ashes of some of them remain in the same places to this day.
As this building, deservedly called the glorious choir of Conrad, was a magnificent work, so the undertaking of it at that time will appear almost beyond example, especially when the several circumstances of it are considered; but that it was carried forward at the archbishop's cost, exceeds all belief. It was in the discouraging reign of king William Rufus, a prince notorious in the records of history, for all manner of sacrilegious rapine, that archbishop Anselm was promoted to this see; when he found the lands and revenues of this church so miserably wasted and spoiled, that there was hardly enough left for his bare subsistence; who, in the first years that he sat in the archiepiscopal chair, struggled with poverty, wants and continual vexations through the king's displeasure, (fn. 39) and whose three next years were spent in banishment, during all which time he borrowed money for his present maintenance; who being called home by king Henry I. at his coming to the crown, laboured to pay the debts he had contracted during the time of his banishment, and instead of enjoying that tranquility and ease he hoped for, was, within two years afterwards, again sent into banishment upon a fresh displeasure conceived against him by the king, who then seized upon all the revenues of the archbishopric, (fn. 40) which he retained in his own hands for no less than four years.
Under these hard circumstances, it would have been surprizing indeed, that the archbishop should have been able to carry on so great a work, and yet we are told it, as a truth, by the testimonies of history; but this must surely be understood with the interpretation of his having been the patron, protector and encourager, rather than the builder of this work, which he entrusted to the care and management of the priors Ernulph and Conrad, and sanctioned their employing, as Lanfranc had done before, the revenues and stock of the church to this use. (fn. 41)
In this state as above-mentioned, without any thing material happening to it, this church continued till about the year 1130, anno 30 Henry I. when it seems to have suffered some damage by a fire; (fn. 42) but how much, there is no record left to inform us; however it could not be of any great account, for it was sufficiently repaired, and that mostly at the cost of archbishop Corboil, who then sat in the chair of this see, (fn. 43) before the 4th of May that year, on which day, being Rogation Sunday, the bishops performed the dedication of it with great splendor and magnificence, such, says Gervas, col. 1664, as had not been heard of since the dedication of the temple of Solomon; the king, the queen, David, king of Scots, all the archbishops, and the nobility of both kingdoms being present at it, when this church's former name was restored again, being henceforward commonly called Christ-church. (fn. 44)
Among the manuscripts of Trinity college library, in Cambridge, in a very curious triple psalter of St. Jerome, in Latin, written by the monk Eadwyn, whose picture is at the beginning of it, is a plan or drawing made by him, being an attempt towards a representation of this church and monastery, as they stood between the years 1130 and 1174; which makes it probable, that he was one of the monks of it, and the more so, as the drawing has not any kind of relation to the plalter or sacred hymns contained in the manuscript.
His plan, if so it may be called, for it is neither such, nor an upright, nor a prospect, and yet something of all together; but notwithstanding this rudeness of the draftsman, it shews very plain that it was intended for this church and priory, and gives us a very clear knowledge, more than we have been able to learn from any description we have besides, of what both were at the above period of time. (fn. 45)
Forty-four years after this dedication, on the 5th of September, anno 1174, being the 20th year of king Henry II.'s reign, a fire happened, which consumed great part of this stately edifice, namely, the whole choir, from the angel steeple to the east end of the church, together with the prior's lodgings, the chapel of the Virgin Mary, the infirmary, and some other offices belonging to the monastery; but the angel steeple, the lower cross isles, and the nave appear to have received no material injury from the flames. (fn. 46) The narrative of this accident is told by Gervas, the monk of Canterbury, so often quoted before, who was an eye witness of this calamity, as follows:
Three small houses in the city near the old gate of the monastery took fire by accident, a strong south wind carried the flakes of fire to the top of the church, and lodged them between the joints of the lead, driving them to the timbers under it; this kindled a fire there, which was not discerned till the melted lead gave a free passage for the flames to appear above the church, and the wind gaining by this means a further power of increasing them, drove them inwardly, insomuch that the danger became immediately past all possibility of relief. The timber of the roof being all of it on fire, fell down into the choir, where the stalls of the manks, made of large pieces of carved wood, afforded plenty of fuel to the flames, and great part of the stone work, through the vehement heat of the fire, was so weakened, as to be brought to irreparable ruin, and besides the fabric itself, the many rich ornaments in the church were devoured by the flames.
The choir being thus laid in ashes, the monks removed from amidst the ruins, the bodies of the two saints, whom they called patrons of the church, the archbishops Dunstan and Alphage, and deposited them by the altar of the great cross, in the nave of the church; (fn. 47) and from this time they celebrated the daily religious offices in the oratory of the blessed Virgin Mary in the nave, and continued to do so for more than five years, when the choir being re edified, they returned to it again. (fn. 48)
Upon this destruction of the church, the prior and convent, without any delay, consulted on the most speedy and effectual method of rebuilding it, resolving to finish it in such a manner, as should surpass all the former choirs of it, as well in beauty as size and magnificence. To effect this, they sent for the most skilful architects that could be found either in France or England. These surveyed the walls and pillars, which remained standing, but they found great part of them so weakened by the fire, that they could no ways be built upon with any safety; and it was accordingly resolved, that such of them should be taken down; a whole year was spent in doing this, and in providing materials for the new building, for which they sent abroad for the best stone that could be procured; Gervas has given a large account, (fn. 49) how far this work advanced year by year; what methods and rules of architecture were observed, and other particulars relating to the rebuilding of this church; all which the curious reader may consult at his leisure; it will be sufficient to observe here, that the new building was larger in height and length, and more beautiful in every respect, than the choir of Conrad; for the roof was considerably advanced above what it was before, and was arched over with stone; whereas before it was composed of timber and boards. The capitals of the pillars were now beautified with different sculptures of carvework; whereas, they were before plain, and six pillars more were added than there were before. The former choir had but one triforium, or inner gallery, but now there were two made round it, and one in each side isle and three in the cross isles; before, there were no marble pillars, but such were now added to it in abundance. In forwarding this great work, the monks had spent eight years, when they could proceed no further for want of money; but a fresh supply coming in from the offerings at St. Thomas's tomb, so much more than was necessary for perfecting the repair they were engaged in, as encouraged them to set about a more grand design, which was to pull down the eastern extremity of the church, with the small chapel of the Holy Trinity adjoining to it, and to erect upon a stately undercroft, a most magnificent one instead of it, equally lofty with the roof of the church, and making a part of it, which the former one did not, except by a door into it; but this new chapel, which was dedicated likewise to the Holy Trinity, was not finished till some time after the rest of the church; at the east end of this chapel another handsome one, though small, was afterwards erected at the extremity of the whole building, since called Becket's crown, on purpose for an altar and the reception of some part of his relics; (fn. 50) further mention of which will be made hereafter.
The eastern parts of this church, as Mr. Gostling observes, have the appearance of much greater antiquity than what is generally allowed to them; and indeed if we examine the outside walls and the cross wings on each side of the choir, it will appear, that the whole of them was not rebuilt at the time the choir was, and that great part of them was suffered to remain, though altered, added to, and adapted as far as could be, to the new building erected at that time; the traces of several circular windows and other openings, which were then stopped up, removed, or altered, still appearing on the walls both of the isles and the cross wings, through the white-wash with which they are covered; and on the south side of the south isle, the vaulting of the roof as well as the triforium, which could not be contrived so as to be adjusted to the places of the upper windows, plainly shew it. To which may be added, that the base or foot of one of the westernmost large pillars of the choir on the north side, is strengthened with a strong iron band round it, by which it should seem to have been one of those pillars which had been weakened by the fire, but was judged of sufficient firmness, with this precaution, to remain for the use of the new fabric.
The outside of this part of the church is a corroborating proof of what has been mentioned above, as well in the method, as in the ornaments of the building.— The outside of it towards the south, from St. Michael's chapel eastward, is adorned with a range of small pillars, about six inches diameter, and about three feet high, some with santastic shasts and capitals, others with plain ones; these support little arches, which intersect each other; and this chain or girdle of pillars is continued round the small tower, the eastern cross isle and the chapel of St. Anselm, to the buildings added in honour of the Holy Trinity, and St. Thomas Becket, where they leave off. The casing of St. Michael's chapel has none of them, but the chapel of the Virgin Mary, answering to it on the north side of the church, not being fitted to the wall, shews some of them behind it; which seems as if they had been continued before, quite round the eastern parts of the church.
These pillars, which rise from about the level of the pavement, within the walls above them, are remarkably plain and bare of ornaments; but the tower above mentioned and its opposite, as soon as they rise clear of the building, are enriched with stories of this colonade, one above another, up to the platform from whence their spires rise; and the remains of the two larger towers eastward, called St. Anselm's, and that answering to it on the north side of the church, called St. Andrew's are decorated much after the same manner, as high as they remain at present.
The vaulting of the undercrost, on which the floor of the choir and eastern parts of the church is raised, is supported by pillars, whose capitals are as various and fantastical as those of the smaller ones described before, and so are their shafts, some being round, others canted, twisted, or carved, so that hardly any two of them are alike, except such as are quite plain.
These, I suppose, may be concluded to be of the same age, and if buildings in the same stile may be conjectured to be so from thence, the antiquity of this part of the church may be judged, though historians have left us in the dark in relation to it.
In Leland's Collectanea, there is an account and description of a vault under the chancel of the antient church of St. Peter, in Oxford, called Grymbald's crypt, being allowed by all, to have been built by him; (fn. 51) Grymbald was one of those great and accomplished men, whom king Alfred invited into England about the year 885, to assist him in restoring Christianity, learning and the liberal arts. (fn. 52) Those who compare the vaults or undercrost of the church of Canterbury, with the description and prints given of Grymbald's crypt, (fn. 53) will easily perceive, that two buildings could hardly have been erected more strongly resembling each other, except that this at Canterbury is larger, and more pro fusely decorated with variety of fancied ornaments, the shafts of several of the pillars here being twisted, or otherwise varied, and many of the captials exactly in the same grotesque taste as those in Grymbald's crypt. (fn. 54) Hence it may be supposed, that those whom archbishop Lanfranc employed as architects and designers of his building at Canterbury, took their model of it, at least of this part of it, from that crypt, and this undercrost now remaining is the same, as was originally built by him, as far eastward, as to that part which begins under the chapel of the Holy Trinity, where it appears to be of a later date, erected at the same time as the chapel. The part built by Lanfranc continues at this time as firm and entire, as it was at the very building of it, though upwards of seven hundred years old. (fn. 55)
But to return to the new building; though the church was not compleatly finished till the end of the year 1184, yet it was so far advanced towards it, that, in 1180, on April 19, being Easter eve, (fn. 56) the archbishop, prior and monks entered the new choir, with a solemn procession, singing Te Deum, for their happy return to it. Three days before which they had privately, by night, carried the bodies of St. Dunstan and St. Alphage to the places prepared for them near the high altar. The body likewise of queen Edive (which after the fire had been removed from the north cross isle, where it lay before, under a stately gilded shrine) to the altar of the great cross, was taken up, carried into the vestry, and thence to the altar of St. Martin, where it was placed under the coffin of archbishop Livinge. In the month of July following the altar of the Holy Trinity was demolished, and the bodies of those archbishops, which had been laid in that part of the church, were removed to other places. Odo's body was laid under St. Dunstan's and Wilfrid's under St. Alphage's; Lanfranc's was deposited nigh the altar of St. Martin, and Theobald's at that of the blessed Virgin, in the nave of the church, (fn. 57) under a marble tomb; and soon afterwards the two archbishops, on the right and left hand of archbishop Becket in the undercrost, were taken up and placed under the altar of St. Mary there. (fn. 58)
After a warning so terrible, as had lately been given, it seemed most necessary to provide against the danger of fire for the time to come; the flames, which had so lately destroyed a considerable part of the church and monastery, were caused by some small houses, which had taken fire at a small distance from the church.— There still remained some other houses near it, which belonged to the abbot and convent of St. Augustine; for these the monks of Christ-church created, by an exchange, which could not be effected till the king interposed, and by his royal authority, in a manner, compelled the abbot and convent to a composition for this purpose, which was dated in the year 1177, that was three years after the late fire of this church. (fn. 59)
These houses were immediately pulled down, and it proved a providential and an effectual means of preserving the church from the like calamity; for in the year 1180, on May 22, this new choir, being not then compleated, though it had been used the month be fore, as has been already mentioned, there happened a fire in the city, which burnt down many houses, and the flames bent their course towards the church, which was again in great danger; but the houses near it being taken away, the fire was stopped, and the church escaped being burnt again. (fn. 60)
Although there is no mention of a new dedication of the church at this time, yet the change made in the name of it has been thought by some to imply a formal solemnity of this kind, as it appears to have been from henceforth usually called the church of St. Thomas the Martyr, and to have continued so for above 350 years afterwards.
New names to churches, it is true. have been usually attended by formal consecrations of them; and had there been any such solemnity here, undoubtedly the same would not have passed by unnoticed by every historian, the circumstance of it must have been notorious, and the magnificence equal at least to the other dedications of this church, which have been constantly mentioned by them; but here was no need of any such ceremony, for although the general voice then burst forth to honour this church with the name of St. Thomas, the universal object of praise and adoration, then stiled the glorious martyr, yet it reached no further, for the name it had received at the former dedication, notwithstanding this common appellation of it, still remained in reality, and it still retained invariably in all records and writings, the name of Christ church only, as appears by many such remaining among the archives of the dean and chapter; and though on the seal of this church, which was changed about this time; the counter side of it had a representation of Becket's martyrdom, yet on the front of it was continued that of the church, and round it an inscription with the former name of Christ church; which seal remained in force till the dissolution of the priory.
It may not be improper to mention here some transactions, worthy of observation, relating to this favorite saint, which passed from the time of his being murdered, to that of his translation to the splendid shrine prepared for his relics.
Archbishop Thomas Becket was barbarously murdered in this church on Dec. 29, 1170, being the 16th year of king Henry II. and his body was privately buried towards the east end of the undercrost. The monks tell us, that about the Easter following, miracles began to be wrought by him, first at his tomb, then in the undercrost, and in every part of the whole fabric of the church; afterwards throughout England, and lastly, throughout the rest of the world. (fn. 61) The same of these miracles procured him the honour of a formal canonization from pope Alexander III. whose bull for that purpose is dated March 13, in the year 1172. (fn. 62) This declaration of the pope was soon known in all places, and the reports of his miracles were every where sounded abroad. (fn. 63)
Hereupon crowds of zealots, led on by a phrenzy of devotion, hastened to kneel at his tomb. In 1177, Philip, earl of Flanders, came hither for that purpose, when king Henry met and had a conference with him at Canterbury. (fn. 64) In June 1178, king Henry returning from Normandy, visited the sepulchre of this new saint; and in July following, William, archbishop of Rhemes, came from France, with a large retinue, to perform his vows to St. Thomas of Canterbury, where the king met him and received him honourably. In the year 1179, Lewis, king of France, came into England; before which neither he nor any of his predecessors had ever set foot in this kingdom. (fn. 65) He landed at Dover, where king Henry waited his arrival, and on August 23, the two kings came to Canterbury, with a great train of nobility of both nations, and were received with due honour and great joy, by the archbishop, with his com-provincial bishops, and the prior and the whole convent. (fn. 66)
King Lewis came in the manner and habit of a pilgrim, and was conducted to the tomb of St. Thomas by a solemn procession; he there offered his cup of gold and a royal precious stone, (fn. 67) and gave the convent a yearly rent for ever, of a hundred muids of wine, to be paid by himself and his successors; which grant was confirmed by his royal charter, under his seal, and delivered next day to the convent; (fn. 68) after he had staid here two, (fn. 69) or as others say, three days, (fn. 70) during which the oblations of gold and silver made were so great, that the relation of them almost exceeded credibility. (fn. 71) In 1181, king Henry, in his return from Normandy, again paid his devotions at this tomb. These visits were the early fruits of the adoration of the new sainted martyr, and these royal examples of kings and great persons were followed by multitudes, who crowded to present with full hands their oblations at his tomb.— Hence the convent was enabled to carry forward the building of the new choir, and they applied all this vast income to the fabric of the church, as the present case instantly required, for which they had the leave and consent of the archbishop, confirmed by the bulls of several succeeding popes. (fn. 72)
From the liberal oblations of these royal and noble personages at the tomb of St. Thomas, the expences of rebuilding the choir appear to have been in a great measure supplied, nor did their devotion and offerings to the new saint, after it was compleated, any ways abate, but, on the contrary, they daily increased; for in the year 1184, Philip, archbishop of Cologne, and Philip, earl of Flanders, came together to pay their vows at this tomb, and were met here by king Henry, who gave them an invitation to London. (fn. 73) In 1194, John, archbishop of Lions; in the year afterwards, John, archbishop of York; and in the year 1199, king John, performed their devotions at the foot of this tomb. (fn. 74) King Richard I. likewise, on his release from captivity in Germany, landing on the 30th of March at Sandwich, proceeded from thence, as an humble stranger on foot, towards Canterbury, to return his grateful thanks to God and St. Thomas for his release. (fn. 75) All these by name, with many nobles and multitudes of others, of all sorts and descriptions, visited the saint with humble adoration and rich oblations, whilst his body lay in the undercrost. In the mean time the chapel and altar at the upper part of the east end of the church, which had been formerly consecrated to the Holy Trinity, were demolished, and again prepared with great splendor, for the reception of this saint, who being now placed there, implanted his name not only on the chapel and altar, but on the whole church, which was from thenceforth known only by that of the church of St. Thomas the martyr.
On July 7, anno 1220, the remains of St. Thomas were translated from his tomb to his new shrine, with the greatest solemnity and rejoicings. Pandulph, the pope's legate, the archbishops of Canterbury and Rheims, and many bishops and abbots, carried the coffin on their shoulders, and placed it on the new shrine, and the king graced these solemnities with his royal presence. (fn. 76) The archbishop of Canterbury provided forage along all the road, between London and Canterbury, for the horses of all such as should come to them, and he caused several pipes and conduits to run with wine in different parts of the city. This, with the other expences arising during the time, was so great, that he left a debt on the see, which archbishop Boniface, his fourth successor in it, was hardly enabled to discharge.
The saint being now placed in his new repository, became the vain object of adoration to the deluded people, and afterwards numbers of licences were granted to strangers by the king, to visit this shrine. (fn. 77) The titles of glorious, of saint and martyr, were among those given to him; (fn. 78) such veneration had all people for his relics, that the religious of several cathedral churches and monasteries, used all their endeavours to obtain some of them, and thought themselves happy and rich in the possession of the smallest portion of them. (fn. 79) Besides this, there were erected and dedicated to his honour, many churches, chapels, altars and hospitals in different places, both in this kingdom and abroad. (fn. 80) Thus this saint, even whilst he lay in his obscure tomb in the undercroft, brought such large and constant supplies of money, as enabled the monks to finish this beautiful choir, and the eastern parts of the church; and when he was translated to the most exalted and honourable place in it, a still larger abundance of gain filled their coffers, which continued as a plentiful supply to them, from year to year, to the time of the reformation, and the final abolition of the priory itself. (fn. 81)
To return now again to the building of the fabric of this church; about the year 1304, or soon afterwards, the whole choir was repaired and beautified and three new doors made, and the pulpitum was new made, as were the flight of steps and the fine skreen of stone work so curiously carved, and still remaining at the west end of the choir, being made at the charge of prior Hen. de Estria, who repaired likewise the new long belfry towards the north, the vestry and the treasury, with the new turret beyond it, the new great borologe in the church, and caused to be made several new bells, for different parts of it, as will be further mentioned. The two wings or cross isles, on each side of the middle tower or Angel steeple, as it was called, which had continued in the same state that Lanfranc had left them, except that the middle pillar in each of them had been taken down soon after the murder of archbishop Thomas Becket, to give a fuller sight of that in the north wing, at the foot of which he yielded up the ghost, were, for the most part, rebuilt from the foundations, by archbishop Sudbury, (who came to this see in the year 1376) at his own proper costs and charges, (fn. 82) and probably the chapel of St. Michael too, on the east side of the south wing, which may be esteemed as part of it, in the same state they remain at this time.
These being finished in the year 1379, anno 2 Richard II. the same archbishop, a prelate of a public and generous spirit, directly afterwards took down the old nave of the church, which Lanfranc had erected, as being too mean and greatly inferior to the new choir, and which probably had by this time fallen into decay, purposing to rebuild it again at his own cost, (fn. 83) to a state and beauty proportionable to the rest of the church. But in the next year, anno 1381, before he had laid one stone for the foundation of it, he fell into the hands of that mutinous rabble, headed by Wat Tiler, who cut off his head on Tower-hill. (fn. 84) The monks having thus lost their good benefactor, were under the necessity of undertaking this work at their own charge. The two succeeding archbishops, Courtney and Arundel, were as generous and honourable in their contributions towards this building as became the noble quality of their births, and the eminent dignity of their stations. (fn. 85) In the obituary of Christ-church, it is recorded, that archbishop Courtney, in whose time this building was begun, contributed towards it one thousand marcs, (fn. 86) and archbishop Arundel, in whose time it was finished, gave a like sum of one thousand marcs to this work. (fn. 87) During the time of the building of it, the two parsonages of Godmersham and Westwell were appropriated, with the king's and pope's licence, to the priory, to enable them the better to carry it on; and at the time of the appropriation of the latter, which was in the year 1401, (fn. 88) the convent had expended on this work up wards of eight thousand marcs; (fn. 89) about nine years after which, as near as can be computed, this fabric was finished; that is, before the death of prior Chillenden, for he is recorded in the obituary to have fully compleated, with the help of archbishop Arundel, the rebuilding of the nave, with the chapel of the blessed Virgin Mary, situated in the same. It was thirty years in building, and the whole of it continues at this time firm and entire. (fn. 90)
At the time of archbishop Sudbury's death, the west front of the church, with the two adjoining towers, had not in the progress of taking down the nave, been demolished; probably the monks terrified at the great expence which they then found they must be subject to, determined to leave this part standing, and to add such alterations as would make it, as far as possible, suitable to their new building; to effect which, they formed new windows in each tower, with pillars and arches similar to those in the rest of the nave; a large window was put in the centre of the front between them, (fn. 91) and a new porch underneath, and the whole, excepting the two towers, was new cased with stone.
On the north tower, archbishop Arundel built a high leaden spire, and furnished the Angel steeple with five bells, afterwards called the Arundel ring, in process of time removed into this tower, (fn. 92) which afterwards bore the name of the Arundel steeple.
The tower on the south side, being 130 feet high, usually called St. Dunstan's steeple, from a great bell hung in it, which was dedicated to that saint, given by prior Molash, was after this pulled down by archbishop Chicheley, who came to this see in 1413, anno I Henry V. and was founder of All Souls college, in Oxford. He made a great progress in the rebuilding of it, whence, in his honour, it had the name of both the Oxford and the Chicheley steeple, but dying before it was compleated, it was finished by prior Tho. Goldstone, who was not elected to that office till six years after the archbishop's death. (fn. 93) This prior built likewise the elegant and beautiful chapel on the east side of the martyrdom, which he dedicated to the blessed Virgin Mary, (fn. 94) now commonly called the Dean's chapel, from several of the deans having been buried in it.
The great tower in the middle of the church, now usually called Bell Harry steeple, (fn. 95) but formerly, as has been mentioned before, the Angel steeple, being 235 feet in height, had continued without new building, or probably want of repair, as there is no mention of such in any record till the time of prior William Selling, who was elected in 1472, anno II Edward IV. and died in 1495, being the 10th year of Henry VII.'s reign. He is said to have begun to rebuild it, and his successor prior Thomas Goldstone, the second prior of that name, to have finished it before his death, which happened in 1517. This the obituary records, telling us that he erected and perfected the lofty tower in the middle of the church, between the choir and the nave, with excellent carved and gilded works, with windows and with both iron and glass work belonging to it, in which he was assisted by what his predecessor William Selling had done, and by cardinal archbishop Morton, who built great part of it at his own cost and charges. (fn. 96) For the strengthening of this losty tower, of most beautiful form, prior Goldstone caused two larger and four smaller arches of stone to be fixed underneath it, from pillar to pillar, as they now remain; on some of these his rebus and motto are carved in old English letters. His rebus was a gold stone, between these three capital letters T. P.G. so placed in general; and his motto, Non nobis Domine, non nobis sed nomini tuo sit gloria. (fn. 97) Archbishop Warham seems afterwards to have been a benefactor, by adding some additional ornaments at the top of it, as appears by his coat of arms at the top of the stone work. There was a ring of five bells remaining in this belfry at the dissolution of the priory, which was taken down anno 32 Henry VIII. and sold by the king's commissioners. (fn. 98)
Whatever alterations or improvements were made to this church before the dissolution of the priory, further than what has been already mentioned before, may be found in the account of the several priors and archbishops hereafter, by whose care and bounty they were respectively made. I shall therefore only take notice, (fn. 99) that a small elegant chapel was built in the north wall of the Trinity chapel, at the upper end of the church, over against the monument of Henry IV. and his queen, soon after his burial, about the year 1447, as a chantry for the repose of their souls; and another still smaller one, adjoining to archbishop Warham's tomb in the martyrdom, for a priest to serve in it for the like purpose of saying mass for the repose of his soul, &c. and that there was another small chapel or chantry of the Lady Joane Brenchesley, built on the outside, but adjoining the south wall of the nave, between the two buttresses of the fourth window, having a door opened to it in the wall of the church; in it was an altar dedicated to St. John Baptist. Sir William Brenchesley, chief justice of the king's bench, was buried near it, in the nave, in 1446, and his widow built this chapel next year, and erected an altar in it, with consent of the prior and convent. (fn. 100) After the dissolution of the priory it fell to decay and lay in ruins, till dean Nevil, about the beginning of queen Elizabeth's reign, repaired it for a burying place for himself and family; hence it acquired the name of dean Nevil's chapel, by which it continued to be called, till the whole of it, with the monuments in it, was a few years since pulled down, and the materials removed, as having an unsightly appearance to the rest of the church. Besides these, there have been only some few ornamental improvements made, but nothing in particular worthy of being noticed.
It was in the very beginning of the year 1641, as we reckon the year at present, when that dismal storm first arose, which afterwards shook and threatened with a final overthrow, the very foundations of this church. for upon the feast of the Epiphany, and the Sunday following, there was a riotous disturbance raised by some disorderly persons, in the time of divine service, in the choir of this church, and although by the care of the prebendaries, a stop was then put to these disorders for a time, yet afterwards the madness of the people raged, and prevailed beyond resistance; the dean and canons were turned out of their stalls; the beautiful and new erected font was pulled down; the inscriptions, figures, and coats of arms engraven upon brass, were torn off from the antient monuments; the graves were ransacked, and whatever there was of beauty or decency in it, was despoiled by the outrages of sacrilege and prophaneness; (fn. 101) in which forlorn state it remained until the abolition of deans and chapters, and the sequestration of their revenues, by ordinance of parliament in the year 1644, when the government committees, of which there were five in this county; those at Maidstone and Canterbury being the chief, took possession of those revenues, as well as of the precincts and church itself, (fn. 102) and Capt. Thomas Monins, of Dover, was appointed treasurer-general of them, for the use of the state; and it is certainly owing to him, who appears to have been a royalist in his heart, that this venerable building was preserved from destruction, for he caused it to be maintained and repaired constantly out of the revenues of it; but in 1649 his office ceased, the state having passed another ordinance for the sale of all lands and tenements belonging to dean and chapters, and of the several ca thedrals belonging to them; upon which, this of Canterbury was valued, as to all the materials of it, and the charge of taking it down. (fn. 103) However, it by some means remained untouched, and at the restoration of monarchy, and the re-establishment of the church of England in 1660, it was restored to the dean and chapter, the lawful possessors of it; at which time this church was found in so neglected a condition, that it was found necessary to expend no less a sum than 12,000l. to put it in a decent state for the celebration of religious service. (fn. 104)
THE CATHEDRAL OF CANTERBURY is a noble and magnificent pile of building, the sight of which imprints on the mind a religious awe and veneration; and notwithstanding the different ages in which the several parts of it have been built, and the various kinds of architecture, singular to each, no one part corresponding with that adjoining to it, yet there seems nothing unsightly or disagreeable in the view of it; on the contrary, the whole together has a most venerable and pleasing effect. The same observation may equally be applied to the inside of this church, where, on entering it, the mind is again impressed with awe and admiration at the fine perspective view of this vast and magnificent edifice, the work of many ages, and of incredible labour and cost to rear it to its present state, for the purpose of adoring the Almighty God of the universe, and of our Saviour Christ, as a sacred temple of holiness to his honour, praise and glory.
TO PROCEED now in the account of this fabric, with some particulars relating to the former and present state of the several parts of it, not mentioned before, and of the monuments and tombs which are, or have been within the walls of it. (fn. 105)
At the entrance of this church, at the west front of it, notice has been already taken, that there were on each side a tower; that on the south side, called the Chicheley tower, had formerly on the south side of it, over the porch, at the entrance into the church, (fn. 106) the figures cut in stone, of four armed men; the niches in which they were placed still remaining, representing those who murdered archbishop Becket. In this tower there is now a fine musical peal of eight bells, and a clock which strikes a solemn sound on a large bell, appropriated for this purpose, and for tolling at funerals, being placed on the platform on the summit of it. (fn. 107) On the vaulting of the porch are carved a number of coats of arms in stone, on the ribwork of it. The tower on the north side, called the Arundel tower, is very antient; it is in height one hundred seet, the form of it, and the materials with which it is built, plainly shew it to have been of a very early date; indeed, by all appearance, it may well be conjectured to be the same that was built by archbishop Lanfranc, with the rest of the church. It had formerly a lofty leaden spire, one hundred feet high, placed on it by archbishop Arundel, whence it was afterwards called by his name. This spire being much damaged in the great storm which happened in November, 1703, was taken down as low as the platform and balcony, which now make the top and finishing of it. This tower is now so weakened by age, and by the alterations made in the under part of it, to make it conformable to the rest of the nave on the inside, that it has been thought necessary to strengthen it with bands of many hundred pounds weight of iron. Underneath it, in the nave, is the archbishop's consistory court, lately fitted up in an elegant manner, by the present commissary of the diocese, Sir William Scott.
The nave has lately been new paved with white Portland stone, and has been much admired for its simplicity and neatness. On taking up the old pavement, the modern gravestones were all removed, but there was not that delicacy and decency used, as ought to have been to the remains of those antiently buried in it, by the workmen to whom it was intrusted, to make the ground firm and sure for the new pavement. At which time the beautiful font, the gift of Dr. Warner, bishop of Rochester, and prebendary of this church, not long before the great rebellion broke out, in the last century, which stood between two of the pillars on the north side, at the lower end of the nave, was removed without the church to the adjoining circular building, northward, close to the door of the library. (fn. 108)
At the upper part of the north isle of the nave near the place where Sir John Boys's monument now is, was once, in the old nave, though parted off, a kind of chapel, dedicated, as well as the altar in it, to the blessed Virgin Mary, called from thence our Lady's chapel. (fn. 109) In it were buried the archbishops Theobald, and Richard, the immediate successor to Thomas Becket, whose leaden inscription and pontifical relics, that is, his cope, crozier and chalice were found in 1632, in digging Dr. Anian's grave; but this old chapel has not been heard of since the present nave of the church has been built.
At the upper part of the nave are two cross isles or wings; that on the north being called the martyrdom, from St. Thomas Becket's murder in it. (fn. 110) In this wing stood an altar, by the wall where Dr. Chapman's monument now is, commonly called the altar of the martyrdom of St. Thomas, which, together with the place, Erasmus saw, and thus describes it. There is here to be seen an altar, built of wood, consecrated to the Blessed Virgin, small, and remarkable on no other respect, but as it is a monument of antiquity, and upbraids the luxury of these present times. At the foot of this altar, the holy martyr is said to have bade his last farewell to the Blessed Virgin, at the point of death. Upon this altar lies the part of the sword by which his head was cleft, and his brain being contused, it speedily hastened his death. We religiously, says Erasmus, kissed this piece of the sword, as rusty as it was, out of love and veneration to the martyr. (fn. 111)
This place was, no doubt, highly esteemed by our ancestors, the walls of which seemed to have been hanged with arras; and the veneration it was held in, seems to have been the reason of its being chosen for the solemnizing of the espousals of king Edward I. with his queen Margaret, daughter of the king of France, which were celebrated here on Sept. 9, 1299, by Robert, archbishop of Canterbury, near the door at the entrance from the cloister.
The fine painted window of this wing, given by king Edward IV. was in great part destroyed in the time of fanaticism, in the middle of the last century; but what is left is sufficient to convince us how beautiful it must have been, when in its perfect state.
In this window, before that destruction of it, there was, as we are told, the picture of God the Father, and of Christ, besides a large crucifix and the picture of the Holy Ghost, in the form of a dove, and of the twelve apostles; there were likewise seven large pictures of the Virgin Mary, in as many several glorious appearances, as of the angels lifting her up into Heaven, and the sun, moon and stars under her feet, each having an inscription under it, beginning with Gaude Maria, as Gaude, Maria sponsa Dei, &c. To these were added many figures of saints, as St. George, &c. but the favorite saint of this church, archbishop Becket, was more rarely pictured in this window in full proportion, with his cope, crochet, mitre, crozier, and other pontificals; and at the foot of the window was a legend, shewing that it was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. In laudem & honorem Beatissime Virginis Mariæ, Matris Dei, &c. (fn. 112)
To give some account of the present state of this window—it is in the gothic taste, with a multitude of lights or pannels of glazing; the three lower ranges of which are considerably large, and seven in each row. The middle one is almost all of coloured glass, the others plain, except some escutcheons of arms.
The coloured range has in its middle pannel, the arms of the church, under a canopy at present, but probably had once a crucifix or some other representation, held equally sacred, as all the figures on each side are kneeling to it. These are supposed to be those of king Edward IV. and his family, as large as their places would permit. The king is next in the centre pannel to the west; in those behind him are prince Edward, and Richard, duke of York; in that on the east side is the queen; in the next three princesses, and in the last two others: all have crowns or coronets, except these two. But these figures and descriptions under them, have been all much defaced and very badly repaired, by filling up those parts which had been demolished with glass brought from other places, and intended for other figures of different sorts. In the ranges of small lights at the upper part of the window, each capable of holding one small figure only, are those of different saints; their height and distance having preserved them from being broken.
Mr. Gostling has given, in his Walk, p. 328, from the observation of a friend, whom I suspect to be the late Dr. Beauvoir, a minute, and indeed a very curious and accurate description of this window in its present state, to which the reader is referred, as it is by far too long for the purpose of this work. By this account it appears, that most of the principal figures, and other parts of the window, which had been so maliciously destroyed, have been filled up by pieces of glass, taken, most probably, at the time of the restoration, from numbers of fragments scattered about in other parts of the church, no ways relating to the subjects here; and some most absurdly contrary to what they were, added to them; which fills the account above-mentioned full of probabilities and conjectures of the former state of it, when entire.
Adjoining to the north side of this isle or martyrdom, behind the tomb of archbishop Warham, though without the wall of the church, was the chapel or chantry, being a very small one, erected by him, for a priest to celebrate for his soul, &c. but this was pulled down at the time of the reformation. Contiguous to this martyrdom, on the east side, is the chapel, usually called the Dean's chapel, from several of the deans of this church having been buried in it. It has a most curious vaulted roof of carved stone-work; it was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, whence it was, till the reformation, called our Lady's chapel. By the work, it appears to be of the time of king Henry VI. and at the latter end of that reign to have been stiled the new chapel of the Blessed Mary, having been then lately built by prior Thomas Goldstone, the first of that name who lies buried in it.
The opposite or south wing is, almost the whole of it, now paved with the modern grave-stones, removed from the nave of the church, when that was new paved a few years since; on the sides are several mural monuments of marble; all which will be noticed in their proper place hereafter. The great window at the south end of it falling to decay, has been lately rebuilt, as it is said, at the cost of near 1000l. being filled with painted glass, taken from different parts of this church and the neighbourhood of it, and makes a very handsome appearance. (fn. 113)
On the east side of this wing is the chapel of St. Michael, built mostly on the scite of a former one, most probably, by the appearance of the architecture of it, about, or soon after the time these cross isles or wings and the nave of the church were taken down and rebuilt, but upon a smaller scale, as appears by archbishop Langton's tomb, who lived in Henry III.'s reign, which is at the east end of it, and remains one half within the chapel, and the other without, in the church-yard, the wall of the chapel being built across the middle of it. (fn. 114) Notice has already been taken that these cross isles or wings were not wholly taken down by archbishop Sudbury, and that what was left standing of them was almost all new cased with stone, to resemble the new parts, and that there is a projection over the entrance into St. Michael's chapel remaining, for the support of an organ, ubi organa solent esse; I shall therefore only observe further here, that it has the look of antiquity, being faced with wainscotting painted; on the two front pannels are the pictures of St. Augustine and St. Gregory, in their pontifical vestments, mitres, &c. done in stone colour. (fn. 115)
Over this chapel is a beautiful room in the same stile, being part of archbishop Sudbury's repairs; the roof is of ribbed arches, on the key-stones of which, are the faces, carved, of three members of this priory, whose names and degrees were in legends beside them, though now partly obliterated; the eastern one has remaining in old English letters, Thomas — prior; meaning, I suppose, Thomas Chillenden, who was chosen prior in 1390. The middle one seems to have been Johns Woodnesbergh, who succeeded him in 1411; the western one is Willms Molasch discipulus. (fn. 116)
From the martyrdom, above described, is a passage down several steps into the crypt or undercroft, the whole vaulted over with stone, and supported by different sized pillars, extending under the remaining part of this church eastward; a place which at its entrance strikes us with its awful and solemn appearance; a work seemingly of the age of archbishop Lanfranc, soon after the Norman conquest, and left entire, notwithstanding the misfortunes which destroyed the building over it at different times, and made use of by the architects as a part of the fabric which would have cost them great labour and time had they been obliged to rebuild it, and being no ways injured, was left as a substantial foundation fully sufficient for them to erect their future structure on it. That part of it under the choir and the side isles, has been for many years appropriated to the Walloons and French refugees for their place of worship. Under the upper south cross isle, or wing of the choir, was the chapel or chantry of Edward the black prince, with an altar in it, dedicated to St. Mary, founded by him in the year 1363, and endowed by licence of his father king Edward III. with the yearly revenue of forty marcs, to be paid by the prior and convent, to the suppott of two chaplains to pray for his soul, &c. This chantry being suppressed by the act of 37 Henry VIII. grew out of use and deserted, and is walled up from the rest of the undercroft. I shall only observe further, relating to it, that the roof is a piece of more new and curious work than the vaults about it, and yet the overbuilt structure is as old as any that stands within the adjoining vaults of elder fashioned work; to accomplish this, the former roof over the chapel was undoubtedly taken off, which might well be without endangering the church, that the chapel might in all parts the better correspond and suit with the dignity and rank of the founder, and was rebuilt in the neat and more costly manner in which it remains in at present. (fn. 117)
Eastward of the French church, in the undercroft, under the Trinity chapel, is a small oblong square place, inclosed with open gothic stone work, being once a chapel, commonly called our Lady Undercroft. This chapel consisted of a body and chancel, divided by a step in the middle; the altar at the east end is destroyed, but the niche over it for the statue of the Virgin still remains, as well as the pedestal on which it stood, adorned with small figures in relievo of the annunciation, and some other parts of her history, not quite defaced.
Mr. Somner says, the Blessed Virgin had a chapel in the crypt so early as the year 1242; if so, probably, that of which we see the remains at present was erected in the room of it, the former one extending farther eastward than the latter, insomuch, that archbishop Becket's tomb of burial was placed in the middle of it. The stone work, which incloses this chapel, is elegant, but is only at the sides and east end; towards the west it has none, being lest quite open; probably this was the work of prior Goldstone, the second who ruled this church at the time of archbishop Morton's death in 1500, and might erect it according to the archbishop's directions, who, Mr. Collyer tells us, was buried under the choir, in a fine chapel, built by himself. His gravestone still remains in the middle of it, and his monument at the south-west corner of the chapel, near which he had a chantry erected for a priest to celebrate for his soul, &c. This might be on the north side of the tomb, and join the west end of the Lady chapel, and being demolished at the reformation, accounts for that part of it being open, as we see it at present.
Since the dissolution of the priory and the reformation which followed, this chapel has been quite deserted, and has become despicable, though formerly so much celebrated, and of such high esteem, and so very rich, that the sight of it, debarred to the vulgar, was reserved to persons of great quality only. Erasmus, who by the especial favor of archbishop Warham's recommendation, was brought to the sight of it, describes it thus: "There, says he, the Virgin mother has an habitation, but somewhat dark, inclosed with a double sept or rail of iron, for fear of thieves, for indeed I never saw a thing more laden with riches; lights being brought we saw a more than royal spectacle; in beauty it far surpassed that of Walsingham. This chapel was not shewed but to noblemen and especial friends, &c." (fn. 118)
At some distance south-eastward from the above, under the chapel of St. Anselm, is another, now divided by a stone wall into two, with a pillar in the midst of each. No notice is taken of this part of the undercrost in Gervas's description above mentioned, though the altars, &c. in that on the opposite side are there given. There has been much painting on the walls, though now almost obliterated; much of it related to the nativity of St. John Baptist and his apocalypse; below these, in the north wall, on a kind of cornice, were these words, Hoc altare dedicatum est in honorem Sancti Gabrielis Archangeli; but they are hardly legible now. (fn. 119)
A few steps eastward from our Lady's chapel abovementioned, is Becket's tomb, so called from archbishop Becket's first interment there, whose dead body the assassins giving out that they would take and cast out into the open fields, to be a prey for beasts and birds, or otherwise abuse it, the monks immediately buried it here in a new tomb, (fn. 120) in the middle of the Virgin Mary's chapel, afterwards pulled down, where it rested till archbishop Stephen Langton translated it as before-mentioned, to the Trinity chapel, with great solemnity. Before this removal, it was to this place, where an altar was erected to the honor of the tomb of the blessed martyr St. Thomas, that Henry II. came with bare feet, to pray, in part of his pennance, and king Lewis VII. of France, came likewise to visit St. Thomas's tomb, and make his offerings to the saint.
This part of the undercroft, a vault of goodly architecture and scarcely to be paralleled, was, no doubt, in former time set much store by, and was highly celebrated. It was built under the magnificent chapel of the Holy Trinity, which the monks had erected after the fire of the church, instead of the small one at the east end of Lanfranc's church; and the architect took care that his work should be distinguishable enough from that, to which it was added, by the difference of taste, though by no means inferior to it in elegance and grandeur, and designed, as it should seem, to finish it in a circular form; at the east end there is an arch, over which there is remaining the figure of a crucifix, with a person standing on each side. This opens into the circular building, being the vault under Becket's crown, of about thirty feet diameter, the roof arched with ribs meeting in the centre. It is now the greatest part of it walled off and alJotted to the first prebendal house, for the houshold uses of it.
To return again to the upper part of the church, and ascend the steps from the nave to the skreen at the west door of the choir, a beautiful piece of gothic carve-work, built by prior Henry de Eastria in 1304; it is rich in slutings, pyramids and canopied niches, in which stand six statues, crowned; five of which hold globes in their hands; and the sixth, most probably meant for king Ethelbert, being an antient man, with a long beard, holding a church in his hand; (fn. 121) over this skreen is placed the most beautiful and harmonious organ perhaps at this time in England, built in 1784, by the celebrated Mr. Green, at the expence of more than 1500l. to the dean and chapter, in the room of the former one, which stood most unsightly on the north side of the choir. (fn. 122)
From hence eastward, before the reformation, the magnificence and glory of this church shone forth.— The stalls on each side, divided into the upper and lower choir, in the former of which, the prior, the principal officers of the convent and the senior monks sat, in the latter the junior monks, were composed of wood richly carved and ornamented in the gothic taste. At the upper end of the south side was the archbishop's stall, of the like sort, richly gilt; opposite to which, in the middle, on the uppermost of the two steps, was a beautiful eagle of brass, on which was laid the precentor's book, at which he sat during divine service, to perform his office, with a clerk on each side of him. Above this was the presbitery, where the choir was adorned on each side with costly hangings; those on the north side were the benefaction of Richard Dering, monk and cellarer of this convent, given, as the legend wrought at the bottom of them imported, in 1511. Those on the south side, by prior Thomas Goldstone, in the same year; the latter representing the birth, life and death of the blessed Virgin, as the obituary informs us, most beautifully and curiously embroidered in rare and excellent figures, on three pieces of arras; the former representing that of our blessed Saviour; and there was another set of hangings, probably still more rich and curious than these, as they were reserved for grand festivals and holidays only. (fn. 123) These hangings were all put away, when the sides of this part of the choir were new wainscotted, and fitted up in the present handsome and more modern fashion. By these hangings, on the north side between the tombs of the archbishops Chicheley and Bourchier, was the repository for the relics of saints. Erasmus tells us, that on the north side (of the presbytery) were kept, close under lock and key, such precious rarities as were not to be seen by every body; insomuch that we should wonder if he should tell us, what a number of bones were brought forth, sculls, jaw bones, teeth, hands, fingers, whole arms; most of which, out of devotion, he kissed; but the number was so infinite, that he found it impossible to stay to observe the whole of them. (fn. 124) Above this, raised on a flight of steps, stood the high altar, (fn. 125) ornamented as rich as gold, silver, jewellery and costly art could adorn it; and Erasmus tells us, we should think the richest monatchs mere beggars, in comparison of the abundance of silver and gold which belonged to the furniture of it. (fn. 126)
For the celebration of the divine rites in this church, with a pomp and solemnity equal to the rest of the splendor of it, (fn. 127) the vestry was filled with jewellery, with candlesticks, cups, pixes, and crosses of every size, made of silver and gold, many of them richly and curiously wrought with mitres, pastoral staves, with vestments and copes, almost without number, of all sorts and colours of damask and velvet, all richly embroidered and mixed with gold and silver, that the weight of many of them were almost too much for the wearer to support without the greatest fatigue; in short, the number and richness of them, as appears by the inventory taken at the dissolution of the priory, when they were carried away for the king's use, were almost beyond estimate. (fn. 128)
These were chiestly given at different times by the archbishops and priors of this church. The obitualies of it mention several particulars of such benefactions; among others, archbishop Stratford gave a most precious cope and his best mitre; archbishop Arundel gave a mitre of gold beset with many jewels, a rich vestment, twenty-one copes and one of cloth of gold; archbishop Morton gave eighty copes, embroidered with his name and arms; in short, the obituaries abound with instances of this kind; but all these rich ornaments were swept away at the time of the dissolution, and it may truly be affirmed, more for the sake of the rich plunder, than any real regard to reformation.
As to the present state of the choir of this church, it is said to be the most spacious of any in the kingdom, being about 180 feet in length, and 38 feet clear in breadth; the stalls for the dean and prebendaries are at the west end of it, six on each side the entrance, and are said to have been carved by Gibbons. They are of wainscot, divided by neat pillars and pilasters, fluted, with capitals of the Corinthian order, supporting arched canopies and a front elegantly carved with a rich foliage and other ornaments, of crowns, sceptres, mitres, &c. on them are the arms of England and France, of the archbishopric, and of the dean and chapter; this work was part of what was performed after the restoration, at a vast expence, among the repairs of those mischiefs done by the Puritans in the time of the preceding troubles.
The old monkish stalls, in two rows, on each side of the choir, remained till the year 1704, when the present new seats and wainscotting on each side, were put up in their room, being the design of Sir James Burrough, (fn. 129) and are of the Corinthian or composite order. This part was put up some years after the other, and though not so rich in ornaments, is intended to correspond in taste with them.
About this time anno 1706, archbishop Tenison gave the present throne, which is at the east end of these seats, on the south side, the expence of it being 244l. and upwards. The whole is of wainscot, the canopy and its ornaments raised very high on six sluted pillars of the Corinthian order, with proper imposts, and makes a very grand appearance; at the right hand of it is the seat or pew for the archdeacon. This seat, as well as the throne, is situated, as the former ones had been, in that part of the choir called the presbiterium, or chancel, which is distinguished from the lower part by the two steps above mentioned, reaching from side to side; the middle stone of the lower one, having a semicircular projection, in which is a square cavity, now filled up, in which the stand was formerly fixed, on which laid the precentor's book when he performed the service of the choir, before the reformation. (fn. 130)
Westward of these steps the pavement of the choir is of grey marble, in small squares; but eastward to the altar rail it is laid with large slabs of a very different kind of stone, a specimen of which, being a polished piece of this kind of marble laid as a tablet or shelf against the wall, appears near the northern entrance into the choir, perhaps placed there to lay a book on. This piece has so much the appearance of the grain of wood, that it has been judged by some to be a petrifaction; but when the new pavement of marble was laid at the altar, and many stones of this kind were taken up to make room for it, this notion appeared to be a mistaken one, and many of them were found capable of a polish, little inferior to agate, the edges in curious strata and the tops of them beautifully clouded. The connoisseurs have called them by different names; some, antique alabaster agate; others, the Sicilian, and the Egyptian agate, and Dr. Pocock, the oriental traveller, diaspro fiorito, the flowered jaspar.
In the middle space of the choir, for the illuminating of it on Sundays and festivals, there hang two handsome brass sconces, of twenty four lights each; that towards the west has on it the arms of Aucher, impaling Hewytt, being the gift of Sir Anthony Aucher, bart. of Bishopsborne, who died in 1692. The other has on it the arms of Tenison, and this inscription: the gift of Dr. Edward Tenison, archdeacon of Carmarthen, anno dom. MDCCXXVI. (fn. 131)
The present altar-piece was erected soon after the year 1729, from a design of Sir James Burrough before mentioned; it is of the Corinthian order, very lofty and well executed, and makes a very grand and magnificent appearance; the expence of it was defrayed out of a legacy of 500l. left in 1729, by the will of Dr. John Grandorge, to be laid out on the church, and was afterwards employed to this purpose. At the same time, a handsome wainscotting was carried on from the altar piece to the two side doors of the choir, in a taste designed to distinguish this part, being the presbyterium, or chancel, from the rest of the choir.
To this benesaction, another of 200l. was added in 1732, from which a new pavement of black and white marble, in a fancied pattern, was made, beginning at the altar-rail, which is of wainscot with balustrades handsomely carved; at six or seven feet from which was carried on the noble flight of steps of veined white marble, reaching the whole breadth of the place; above these the pavement is continued in a pattern suitable to that below them, over the whole flat space on which the altar stands, being of the breadth of near twenty feet.
On the front of the upper step, the memory of the donor of this pavement is recorded by this inscription, In bonorem DEI hoc pavimentum LEGAVIT DOROTHEA NIXON, 1732; to this her executor, Mr. Randolph, was a contributor. (fn. 132)
In the centre of the above skreen, between the pillars, is a circular arch in the wainscot, which was filled up as a blank space. This was afterwards ornamented with a large piece of crimson velvet, in a carved and gilt frame, placed in it over the altar, from a gift of archbishop Herring of 50l. to be laid out on the church; since which a still further improvement has been made to this skreen, which has a very beautiful effect, by laying open this part of it and filling it with plate glass, framed in copper, gilt; by which means there is a fine prospective view through it, quite from the western extremity of the church, of the eastern part of it, being the Trinity chapel, with the circular pillars round it, and the several tombs between them, terminated by Becket's crown, and the fine painted windows at the eastern extremity of the whole. The former altar-piece, which was in the gothic taste, richly carved and ornamented, of the colours of blue and gold, now forms the back part of the present new skreen. (fn. 133)
The altar itself is of wainscot, being, except when the sacrament is administered, very plain and undressed, having on it only a crimson velvet cloth and cushions, fringed with a gold border; a present made to the church, as was the furniture of the archbishop's throne, the dean's and the vice-dean's stalls, by queen Mary, wife of king William III. when she visited this church; but on a Sunday, when this altar is dressed up for the sacrament, and covered with its costly and splendid service of rich plate; (fn. 134) it has, though perhaps, and indeed most likely far inferior to its former state before-mentioned, before the reformation; an appearance of grandeur and magnificence that blots from the mind, as far as possible, a regret for its having been bereaved of its former ornaments.
Behind this skreen of the high altar, after the further ascent of several steps, is the chapel of the Trinity, where there is a circle of tombs of royal and illustrious persons; and adjoining the north wall over against the monument of king Henry IV. and his queen, is the small elegant chapel, built for a chantry for two priests to celebrate for his soul according to his will, soon after his burial, about the year 1412; in the centre of this chapel of the Trinity was once the most glorious sight throughout the whole church, namely, the shrine of St. Thomas the Martyr. According to Erasmus, it was a cover of wood, which inclosed a coffin of gold, which when drawn up by ropes and pullies, discovered an invaluable treasure, gold being the meanest thing to be seen there; all shined and glittered with the rarest and most precious jewels of an extraordinary bigness, some being larger than a goose's egg; when this sight was shewn, the prior, who was always present, touched every jewel with a white wand, one by one, telling the name, the value and the donor of it; (fn. 135) but this place, as well as the other parts of the church, was despoiled of all its riches and ornaments at the reformation, in king Henry VIII.'s reign. (fn. 136) Beyond this chapel is the vertex of the whole building, called Becket's crown, in which, says Erasmus, was to be seen the whole face of the blessed martyr, (fn. 137) set in gold and adorned with many jewels, which have all, as well as the altar on which it lay, been long since removed. This part of the building or chapel, as it might be called, was to the intent of the first founders of it compleat, when built as high as the vaulting over the first range of windows in it. The monks at the time of the dissolution were going on, in honour of St. Thomas, to advance this building still higher, and had compleated another story or range of windows above these, and the half way of those for another above them; (fn. 138) but their fall at that time put an end to their further progress in the work, in which unfinished state it continued till of very late years, when the upper imperfect part was taken down in 1748, the expence being paid out of part of a benefaction given by Captain Humphry Pudner, of this city, and a kind of battlements placed on the top of it, but of so uncouth a form, that it is now nearly as great a blemish and eyesore as it was before in its former unfinished state.
THE ISLES on each side of the choir, with the buildings contingent to them, are all that remain undescribed of this church. The outside walls of these isles seem by all appearance to have been those which remained unhurt by the fire which destroyed this church in the year 1174, anno 20 Henry II. and to have been altered, as far as possible, to the purpose of the new building; in the middle of them are two cross isles, with two circular porticos on the eastern side of each; these have all been chapels, and have had altars in them; some appearance on the walls of their having been so, are still to be seen. In the north portico of the north wing, was the altar of St. Martin, and in the window over it there still remains his figure on horseback, cutting off part of his cloak to cover a naked beggar; at the end of this wing the range of small arches and marble pillars make a like number of stalls, like those in the chapter-house, only more diminutive, having a bench of stone covered with boards, to sit on, all along it; one of these stalls, being that at the east end, is distinguished from the rest, by being raised a step higher, and boarded at the back and sides, so as to form an armed chair; such a bench is also on the west side of this wing, answering that in the opposite cross isle. Above these cross isles are two towers, with pointed turrets, the one dedicated to St. Andrew, the other to St. Anselm; these have much ornamental carve work on them, with many small pillars and intersected arches over them, and are seemingly as antient as any part of the church.
Above the southern tower is a small chapel, called St. Anselm's chapel likewise, the monuments in all which, together with those in the other parts of the church, will be mentioned together hereaster. Before St. Anselm's burial in it, this chapel appears to have been known by the name of St. Peter and St. Paul; the great south window of which was new made in the year 1336, at the charge of 42l. 17s. 2d. (fn. 139)
Over this chapel is a room, a closet to which has a window looking into the choir with an iron grate; the only conjecture for the use of it seems to be, that it was made use of as a place of confinement for such monks as had committed irregularities; the grated window towards the choir, as there was a view of the high altar from it, seems to have been made that those confined here might be eye witnesses of those sacred solemnities, which they were excluded from joining in, and might from it have a view of the elevation of the host. (fn. 140)
At this chapel may be seen how the east end of the old church began to contract itself towards the circular from, in which it was finished, and especially at the ascent to the chapel of the Holy Trinity, which was added after the fire, and begins at a small distance eastward from hence.
At the upper end of the north isle, on the north side, is a new built room, called the audit room, to which the dean and chapter adjourn after having first begun their chapter annually in the antient chapter house of the priory, and where they hold their audits and transact their other occasional business; adjoining to this is an antient room built of stone and vaulted at top, now called the treasury, formerly the great armory, so called to distinguish it from the vault called the lesser armory, under the high altar; in the former all the antient charters and records of the church are kept, in large wooden lockers, made in the shape of copes, in which, as we may no doubt judge from thence, those sort of vestments were formerly kept. The adjoining room, of like construction, is now called the vestry. being made use of for such purposes when the dean and prebendaries meet to robe and unrobe before and after divine service, but formerly the sacristy. (fn. 141) Erasmus, on being led to this room exclaims, Good God! what an incredible number of rich embroidered vestments of silk and velvet, was to be seen there! How many candlesticks of gold! There we saw the pastoral staff of St. Thomas. It seemed to be a cane covered over with a thin plate of silver, very light, plain, and no longer than to reach from the ground to the girdle." (fn. 142)
There are very few parts of this church, in which the windows have not been adorned in the most costly and beautiful manner with painted glass; and as this art became more and more known, we may well suppose, the monks, who spared no expence in embellishing their church by all the means they could think of, embraced this opportunity likewise of adding from time to time to the richness and grandeur of it; and although many of these windows have been totally destroyed, and others much defaced, yet there are still sufficient remaining to make us regret those lost, and to convince us of the beautiful and grand appearance the whole must have made when in compleat preservation; those still remaining are not a few, and are deservedly admired for the richness and brilliancy of their colours, and the variety and elegance of the Mosaic grounds and borders of them.
The buildings on the north side of the church have, in some measure, preserved the windows there from that destruction which those on the south have suffered from a mischievous enmity to whatever could be come at, either beautiful or elegant, in this church, from an idea of its being the remnant of popery and superstition, and that the destruction of it was a meritorious service to Protestantism. The designers of these windows, to shew the luxuriance of their fancies, formed their historical pieces in small portions, fitted to the iron framings of such various patterns, that hardly any two windows were alike.
Mr. Somner has given us an account of the subjects and inscriptions round the pictures of twelve of them; the principal remains of which have been collected and put together in the two, near the door of the former organ lost in the north isle, making two beautiful compleat windows of the larger size. These appear to have been in the same stile of painting with those in Becket's chapel.
The choice of subjects for the painter was made, by collecting two or three histories in scripture, in which it was thought there was some typical resemblance; or by annexing some allegorical picture to some one historical; and accordingly the inscription under or about a picture, does not always belong to that, but in part or on the whole to those which correspond with it. (fn. 143)
The uppermost range of windows in that additional height, which was given to the eastern parts of this church after the fire in 1174, are in a different stile from those already mentioned; these contain two figures only in each of them, of a large size; in those the figures are small and the compartments numerous.— The range of these begins over the north side of the choir, and runs from the north-eastern corners of the great tower round the cross isles and the Trinity chapel, and back again to the great tower on its southeastern corner; the subject of them seems to be the genealogy of our blessed Saviour. The upper half of the first window, beginning at the north-west corner of the choir, is quite defaced; probably it had a figure representing the Almighty, which occasioned its demolition; the lower has the figure of Adam in his husbandry work, with his name to it. Several of the rest are without figures, and some with carpet patterns of most beautiful colours; but where any are remaining, the stile in which they are drawn, and the thrones on which they are placed, much resemble those of the kings, on the reverse of their earliest royal seals; they are in number forty-nine in the whole, including two large circular windows at the end of the two cross isles or wings. (fn. 144) The upper range of windows in the western part of both isles, having been entirely demolished, have been since filled up with fragments from other places, and however beautiful the colours may be, there is no making out what they are intended to represent; the lower range of windows in the cross isles have only borders round them, with some few coats of arms interspersed; among these in the north wing are two modern ones of dean Nevil, with its quarterings, and of archdeacon Kingsley.
The range of large windows in the Trinity chapel and in Becket's crown, appears by the remains of them to have been finely painted; they were designed to represent the passion of St. Thomas, with the story of his miracles. The figures are small, and so are the pannels that contain them, which with the iron work fitted to them, are contrived with a still greater variety of patterns than those hitherto mentioned, though much of the painted glass, especially on the north side of this chapel, is still remaining, yet great part has been destroyed; and though the windows in Becket's crown appear at a little distance entire, yet they have suffered in many places and have been but very aukwardly mended.
To proceed now to the windows in the western part of the church; the great window over the western entrance into the nave, was made in the latter part of the reign of king Richard II. anno 1400; it is in the gothic stile, quite different in taste from those abovementioned, being mitred at top and very large, with abundance of compartments in several stories or stages, one above another, divided by jambs of stone work, and each finished at top in form of the niches of that order.
The uppermost stage or compartment, which is close under the point of the mitred arch, contains the arms of king Richard II. who having chosen Edward the Confessor for his patron, impaled his coat. The second range contains six small figures between the arms of his first wife, on the north, and those of his second on the south. The third stage has ten saints. The fourth has twelve saints, with a youth kneeling and censing on the south side, and another kneeling figure on the north. Below these in the uppermost range of the large compartments, are seven large figures of our kings standing under gothic nitches, very highly wrought; they are bearded, have open crowns on their heads, and swords or sceptres in their right hands. They represented Canute, Edward the Consessor, Harold, William the Conqueror, William Rufus, king Henry I. and Stephen. They have suffered much, and have been patched up again; and each had his name under him in the old black letter, of which there are very little remains.
The tops of the canopies are all that are left of the fourteen niches, of which the two next stages consist. The workmanship of this window is much inferior to those which have been already mentioned, nor are the colours near so rich and beautiful.
The compartments of the windows in both ranges on the sides of the nave, have each a slender border, of no meaning and as little beauty; in the midst of each throughout the whole, is a shield of arms. The two large windows in the lower north and south wings have already been mentioned, the one being the costly gift of king Edward IV. the other a late collection of painted glass of various subjects, no ways relating one to the other, taken principally from different parts of the church.
The eastern window in the dean's chapel, besides some shields of arms of the family of Bourchier, is diapered with an oak leaf between two acorus, and Bourchier's knots; and in the upper part are impannelled in rounds a golden falcon, volant. In the eastern window of St. Michael's chapel, in the opposite wing, is in similar rounds, the devise of Margaret Holand, whose magnisicent monument, erected by herself, is in the middle of this chapel, being a white bind couchant, gorged with a golden coronet and chain, under a tree, the device of her grandmother Joan, countess of Kent, wife of Edward the black prince, and mother of king Richard II. Another device in the same window is a white greyhound, couchant, gorged with a golden coronet and chain, under a tree. The other parts of the window are filled with scrolls containing the words A fhu Mercy, in old English letters. These are all the windows worth notice throughout this church, the others having in them either small fragments of painted glass, or pieces put together by way of patchwork, without any relation to each other, and as such of no account.
THE NUMBER of altars in this church, as well above as in the undercrost, before the reformation, was very considerable, amounting at least to thirty-eight, in different parts of it. This appears to have originated from a custom which seems to have come from undefiled Christianity, of burying the remains of the bodies of eminent saints, especially martyrs, under those stones upon which the eucharist was celebrated; (fn. 145) the first and true intent of which was, to preserve a due reverence for the memories of the saints; even in this church it is to be remembered, that in early days the head of St. Swithin was inclosed in one altar; the head of St. Furscus in another, and the head of St. Austroberta in a third altar; that an alter was built as a repository for the body of St. Wilfred, and another alter was erected at the tomb of St. Dunstan; but superstition in process of time transgressed all bounds of honour and respect due to the memory and relics of holy persons, by framing litanies, supplications and prayers to the saints for the sake of their merits, and by erecting numbers of altars furnished with relics, which were strong invitations to every one to bring their oblations to those altars.
Hence a superfluity of altars abounded in great churches, but notwithstanding this, there still was a regard to unity, for there was one altar called the high or chief altar, to which the rest were subordinate; at this altar the public mass was daily celebrated, at the other altars private masses were occasionally performed. All these superfluous altars were abolished at the resormation, and according to the primitive rule, the high altar alone was lest, at which the sacred mysteries of religion have ever since, and are now celebrated free from all abuses of superstition.
Those which have been demolished, have been most of them mentioned in the description of this church, in the former pages of this book, as have the several places where they stood, and the respective saints to whom they were dedicated.