Old and New London: Volume 1. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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London's chief Sanctuary of Religion—The Site of St. Paul's—The Earliest authenticated Church there—The Shrine of Erkenwald—St. Paul's Burnt and Rebuilt—It becomes the Scene of a Strange Incident—Important Political Meeting within its Walls—The Great Charter published there—St. Paul's and Papal Power in England—Turmoils around the Grand Cathedral—Relics and Chantry Chapels in St. Paul's— Royal Visits to St. Paul's—Richard, Duke of York, and Henry VI.—A Fruitless Reconciliation—Jane Shore's Penance—A Tragedy of the Lollards' Tower—A Royal Marriage—Henry VIII. and Cardinal Wolsey at St. Paul's—"Peter of Westminster"—A Bonfire of Bibles—The Cathedral Clergy Fined—A Miraculous Rood—St. Paul's under Edward VI. and Bishop Ridley—A Protestant Tumult at Paul's Cross— Strange Ceremonials—Queen Elizabeth's Munificence—The Burning of the Spire—Desecration of the Nave—Elizabeth and Dean Nowell— Thanksgiving for the Armada—The "Children of Paul's"—Government Lotteries—Executions in the Churchyard—Inigo Jones's Restorations and the Puritan Parliament—The Great Fire of 1666—Burning of Old St. Paul's, and Destruction of its Monuments—Evelyn's Description of the Fire—Sir Christopher Wren called in.
Stooping under the flat iron bar that lies like a bone in the mouth of Ludgate Hill, we pass up the gentle ascent between shops hung with gold chains, brimming with wealth, or crowded with all the luxuries that civilisation has turned into necessities; and once past the impertinent black spire of St. Martin's, we come full-butt upon the great grey dome. The finest building in London, with the worst approach; the shrine of heroes; the model of grace; the chef-d'æuvre of a great genius, rises before us, and between its sable Corinthian pillars we have now to thread our way in search of the old legends of St. Paul's.
The old associations rise around us as we pass across the paved area that surrounds Queen Anne's mean and sooty statue. From the times of the Saxons to the present day, London's chief sanctuary of religion has stood here above the river, a landmark to the ships of all nations that have floated on the welcoming waters of the Thames. That great dome, circled with its coronet of gold, is the first object the pilgrim traveller sees, whether he approach by river or by land; the sparkle of that golden cross is seen from many a distant hill and plain. St. Paul's is the central object—the very palladium—of modern London.
Camden, the Elizabethan historian, revived an old tradition that a Roman temple to Diana once stood where St. Paul's was afterwards built; and he asserts that in the reign of Edward III. an incredible quantity of ox-skulls, stag-horns, and boars' tusks, together with some sacrificial vessels, were exhumed on this site. Selden, a better Orientalist than Celtic scholar (Charles I.), derived the name of London from two Welsh words, "Llan-den"— church of Diana. Dugdale, to confirm these traditions, drags a legend out of an obscure monkish chronicle, to the effect that during the Diocletian persecution, in which St. Alban, a centurion, was martyred, the Romans demolished a church standing on the site of St. Paul's, and raised a temple to Diana on its ruins, while in Thorny Island, Westminster, St. Peter, in the like manner, gave way to Apollo. These myths are, however, more than doubtful.
Sir Christopher Wren's excavations for the foundation of modern St. Paul's entirely refuted these confused stories. to which the learned and the credulous had paid too much deference. He dug down to the river-level, and found neither oxbone nor stag-horn. What he did find, however, was curious. It was this:—1. Below the mediæval graves Saxon stone coffins and Saxon tombs, lined with slabs of chalk. 2. Lower still, British graves, and in the earth around the ivory and box-wood skewers that had fastened the Saxons' woollen shrouds. 3. At the same level with the Saxon graves, and also deeper, Roman funeral urns. These were discovered as deep as eighteen feet. Roman lamps, tear vessels, and fragments of sacrificial vessels of Samian ware were met with chiefly towards the Cheapside corner of the churchyard.
There had evidently been a Roman cemetery outside this Prætorian camp, and beyond the ancient walls of London, the wise nation, by the laws of the Twelve Tables, forbidding the interment of the dead within the walls of a city. There may have been a British or a Saxon temple here; for the Church tried hard to conquer and consecrate places where idolatry had once triumphed. But the Temple of Diana was moonshine from the beginning, and moonshine it will ever remain. The antiquaries were, however, angry with Wren for the logical refutation of their belief. Dr. Woodward (the "Martinus Scriblerus" of Pope and his set) was especially vehement at the slaying of his hobby, and produced a small brass votive image of Diana, that had been found between the Deanery and Blackfriars. Wren, who could be contemptuous, disdained a reply, and so the matter remained till 1830, when the discovery of a rude stone altar, with an image of Diana, under the foundation of the new Goldsmith's Hall, Foster Lane, Cheapside, revived the old dispute, yet did not help a whit to prove the existence of the supposed temple to the goddess of moonshine.
The earliest authenticated church of St. Paul's was built and endowed by Ethelbert, King of East Kent, with the sanction of Sebert, King of the East Angles; and the first bishop who preached within its walls was Mellitus, the companion of St. Augustine, the first Christian missionary who visited the heathen Saxons. The visit of St. Paul to England in the time of Boadicea's war, and that of Joseph of Arimathea, are mere monkish legends. The Londoners again became pagan, and for thirty-eight years there was no bishop at St. Paul's, till a brother of St. Chad of Lichfield came and set his foot on the images of Thor and Wodin. With the fourth successor of Mellitus, Saint Erkenwald, wealth and splendour returned to St. Paul's. This zealous man worked miracles both before and after his death. He used to be driven about in a cart, and one legend says that he often preached to the woodmen in the wild forests that lay to the north of London. On a certain day one of the cart-wheels came off in a slough. The worthy confessor was in a dilemma. The congregation under the oaks might have waited for ever, but the one wheel left was equal to the occasion, for it suddenly grew invested with special powers of balancing, and went on as steadily as a velocipede with the smiling saint. This was pretty well, but still nothing to what happened after the good man's death.
St. Erkenwald departed at last in the odour of sanctity at his sister's convent at Barking. Eager to get hold of so valuable a body, the Chertsey monks instantly made a dash for it, pursued by the equally eager clergy of St. Paul's, who were fully alive to the value of their dead bishop, whose shrine would become a money-box for pilgrim's offerings. The London priests, by a forced march, got first to Barking and bore off the body; but the monks of Chertsey and the nuns of Barking followed, wringing their hands and loudly protesting against the theft. The river Lea, sympathising with their prayers, rose in a flood. There was no boat, no bridge, and a fight for the body seemed imminent. A pious man present, however, exhorted the monks to peace, and begged them to leave the matter to heavenly decision. The clergy of St. Paul's then broke forth into a litany. The Lea at once subsided, the cavalcade crossed at Stratford, the sun cast down its benediction, and the clergy passed on to St. Paul's with their holy spoil. From that time the shrine of Erkenwald became a source of wealth and power to the cathedral.
The Saxon kings, according to Dean Milman, were munificent to St. Paul's. The clergy claimed Tillingham, in Essex, as a grant from King Ethelbert, and that place still contributes to the maintenance of the cathedral. The charters of Athelstane are questionable, but the places mentioned in them certainly belonged to St. Paul's till the Ecclesiastical Commissioners broke in upon that wealth; and the charter of Canute, still preserved, and no doubt authentic, ratifies the donations of his Saxon predecessors.
William the Conqueror's Norman Bishop of
London was a good, peace-loving man, who interceded with the stern monarch, and recovered the
forfeited privileges of the refractory London citizens.
For centuries—indeed, even up to the end of
Queen Mary's reign—the mayor, aldermen, and
crafts used to make an annual procession to St.
Paul's, to visit the tomb of good Bishop William
in the nave. In 1622 the Lord Mayor, Edward
Barkham, caused these quaint lines to be carved
on the bishop's tomb:—
"Walkers, whosoe'er ye bee,
If it prove you chance to see,
Upon a solemn scarlet day,
The City senate pass this way,
Their grateful memory for to show,
Which they the reverent ashes owe
Of Bishop Norman here inhumed,
By whom this city has assumed
Large privileges; those obtained
By him when Conqueror William reigned.
This being by Barkham's thankful mind renewed,
Call it the monument of gratitude."
The ruthless Conqueror granted valuable privileges to St. Paul's. He freed the church from the payment of Danegeld, and all services to the Crown. His words (if they are authentic) are—"Some lands I give to God and the church of St. Paul's, in London, and special franchises, because I wish that this church may be free in all things, as I wish my soul to be on the day of judgment." In this same reign the Primate Lanfranc held a great council at St. Paul's—a council which Milman calls "the first full Ecclesiastical Parliament of England." Twelve years after (1087), the year the Conqueror died, fire, that persistent enemy of St. Paul's, almost entirely consumed the cathedral.
Bishop Maurice set to work to erect a more splendid building, with a vast crypt, in which the valuable remains of St. Erkenwald were enshrined. William of Malmesbury ranked it among the great buildings of his time. One of the last acts of the Conqueror was to give the stone of a Palatine tower (on the subsequent site of Blackfriars) for the building. The next bishop, De Balmeis, is said to have devoted the whole of his revenues for twenty years to this pious work. Fierce Rufus— no friend of monks—did little; but the milder monarch, Henry I., granted exemption of toll to all vessels, laden with stone for St. Paul's, that entered the Fleet.
To enlarge the area of the church, King Henry gave part of the Palatine Tower estate, which was turned into a churchyard and encircled with a wall, which ran along Carter Lane to Creed Lane, and was freed of buildings. The bishop, on his part, contributed to the service of the altar the rents of Paul's Wharf, and for a school gave the house of Durandus, at the corner of Bell Court. On the bishop's death, the Crown seized his wealth, and the bishop's boots were carried to the Exchequer full of gold and silver. St. Bernard, however, praises him, and says: "It was not wonderful that Master Gilbert should be a bishop; but that the Bishop of London should live like a poor man, that was magnificent."
In the reign of Stephen a dreadful fire broke out and raged from London Bridge to St. Clement Danes. In this fire St. Paul's was partially destroyed. The Bishop, in his appeals for contributions to the church, pleaded that this was the only London church specially dedicated to St. Paul. The citizens of London were staunch advocates of King Stephen against the Empress Maud, and at their folkmote, held at the Cheapside end of St. Paul's, claimed the privilege of naming a monarch.
In the reign of Henry II. St. Paul's was the scene of a strange incident connected with the quarrel between the King and that ambitious Churchman, the Primate Becket. Gilbert Foliot, the learned and austere Bishop of London, had sided with the King and provoked the bitter hatred of Becket. During the celebration of mass a daring emissary of Becket had the boldness to thrust a roll, bearing the dreaded sentence of excommunication against Foliot, into the hands of the officiating priest, and at the same time to cry aloud—"Know all men that Gilbert, Bishop of London, is excommunicated by Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury!" Foliot for a time defied the interdict, but at last bowed to his enemy's authority, and refrained from entering the Church of St. Paul's.
The reign of Richard I. was an eventful one to St. Paul's. In 1191, when Cœur de Lion was in Palestine, Prince John and all the bishops met in the nave of St. Paul's to arraign William de Longchamp, one of the King's regents, of many acts of tyranny. In the reign of their absentee monarch the Londoners grew mutinous, and their leader, William Fitzosbert, or Longbeard, denounced their oppressors from Paul's Cross. These disturbances ended in the siege of Bow Church, where Fitzosbert had fortified himself, and by the burning alive of him and other ringleaders. It was at this period that Dean Radulph de Diceto, a monkish chronicler of learning, built the Deanery, "inhabited," says Milman, "after him, by many men of letters;" before the Reformation, by the admirable Colet; after the Reformation by Alexander Nowell, Donne, Sancroft (who rebuilt the mansion after the Great Fire), Stillingfleet, Tillotson, W. Sherlock, Butler, Secker, Newton, Van Mildert, Copleston, and Milman.
St. Paul's was also the scene of one of those great meetings of prelates, abbots, deans, priors, and barons that finally led to King John's concession of Magna Charta. On this solemn occasion—so important for the progress of England—the Primate Langton displayed the old charter of Henry I. to the chief barons, and made them sacredly pledge themselves to stand up for Magna Charta and the liberties of England.
One of the first acts of King Henry III. was to hold a council in St. Paul's, and there publish the Great Charter. Twelve years after, when a Papal Legate enthroned himself in St. Paul's, he was there openly resisted by Cantelupe, Bishop of Worcester.
Papal power in this reign attained its greatest height in England. On the death of Bishop Roger, an opponent of these inroads, the King gave orders that out of the episcopal revenue 1,500 poor should be feasted on the day of the conversion of St. Paul, and 1,500 lights offered in the church. The country was filled with Italian prelates. An Italian Archbishop of Canterbury, coming to St. Paul's, with a cuirass under his robes, to demand first-fruits from the Bishop, found the doors closed in his face; and two canons of the Papal party, endeavouring to install themselves at St. Paul's, were in 1259 killed by the angry populace.
In the reign of this weak king several folkmotes of the London citizens were held at Paul's Cross, in the churchyard. On one occasion the king himself, and his brother, the King of Almayne, were present. All citizens, even to the age of twelve, were sworn to allegiance, for a great outbreak for liberty was then imminent. The inventory of the goods of Bishop Richard de Gravesend, Bishop of London for twenty-five years of this reign, is still preserved in the archives of St. Paul's. It is a roll twenty-eight feet long. The value of the whole property was nearly £3,000, and this sum (says Milman) must be multiplied by about fifteen to bring it to its present value.
When the citizens of London justly ranged themselves on the side of Simon de Montfort, who stood up for their liberties, the great bell of St. Paul's was the tocsin that summoned the burghers to arms, especially on that memorable occasion when Queen Eleanor tried to escape by water from the Tower to Windsor, where her husband was, and the people who detested her tried to sink her barge as it passed London Bridge.
In the equally troublous reign of Edward II. St. Paul's was again splashed with blood. The citizens, detesting the king's foreign favourites, rose against the Bishop of Exeter, Edward's regent in London. A letter from the queen, appealing to them, was affixed to the cross in Cheapside. The bishop demanded the City keys of the Lord Mayor, and the people sprang to arms, with cries of "Death to the queen's enemies!" They cut off the head of a servant of the De Spensers, burst open the gates of the Bishop of Exeter's palace (Essex Street, Strand), and plundered, sacked, and destroyed everything. The bishop, at the time riding in the Islington fields, hearing the danger, dashed home, and made straight for sanctuary in St. Paul's. At the north door, however, the mob thickening, tore him from his horse, and, hurrying him into Cheapside, proclaimed him a traitor, and beheaded him there, with two of his servants. They then dragged his body back to his palace, and flung the corpse into the river.
In the inglorious close of the glorious reign of Edward III., Courtenay, Bishop of London, an inflexible prelate, did his best to induce some of the London rabble to plunder the Florentines, at that time the great bankers and money-lenders of the metropolis, by reading at Paul's Cross the interdict Gregory XI. had launched against them; but on this occasion the Lord Mayor, leading the principal Florentine merchants into the presence of the aged king, obtained the royal protection for them.
Wycliffe and his adherents (amongst whom figured John of Gaunt— "old John of Gaunt, time-honoured Lancaster" —Chaucer's patron) soon brewed more trouble in St. Paul's for the proud bishop. The great reformer being summoned to an ecclesiastical council at St. Paul's, was accompanied by his friends, John of Gaunt and the Earl Marshal, Lord Percy. When in the lady chapel Percy demanded a soft seat for Wycliffe. The bishop said it was law and reason that a cited man should stand before the ordinary. Angry words ensued, and the Duke of Lancaster taunted Courtenay with his pride. The bishop answered, "I trust not in man, but in God alone, who will give me boldness to speak the truth." A rumour was spread that John of Gaunt had threatened to drag the bishop out of the church by the hair, and that he had vowed to abolish the title of Lord Mayor. A tumult began. All through the City the billmen and bowmen gathered. The Savoy, John of Gaunt's palace, would have been burned but for the intercession of the bishop. A priest mistaken for Percy was murdered. The duke fled to Kensington, and joined the Princess of Wales.
Richard II., that dissolute, rash, and unfortunate monarch, once only (alive) came to St. Paul's in great pomp, his robes hung with bells, and afterwards feasted at the house of his favourite, Sir Nicholas Brember, who was eventually put to death. The Lollards were now making way, and Archbishop Courtenay had a great barefooted procession to St. Paul's to hear a famous Carmelite preacher inveigh against the Wycliffe doctrines. A Lollard, indeed, had the courage to nail to the doors of St. Paul's twelve articles of the new creed denouncing the mischievous celibacy of the clergy, transubstantiation, prayers for the dead, pilgrimages, and other mistaken and idolatrous usages. When Henry Bolingbroke (not yet crowned Henry IV.) came to St. Paul's to offer prayer for the dethronement of his ill-fated cousin, Richard, he paused at the north side of the altar to shed tears over the grave of his father, John of Gaunt, interred early that very year in the Cathedral. Not long after the shrunken body of the dead king, on its way to the Abbey, was exposed in St. Paul's, to prove to the populace that Richard was not still alive. Hardynge, in his chronicles (quoted by Milman), says that the usurping king and his nobles spread—some seven, some nine— cloths of gold on the bier of the murdered king.
Bishop Braybroke, in the reign of Edward IV., was strenuous in denouncing ecclesiastical abuses. Edward III. himself had denounced the resort of mechanics to the refectory, the personal vices of the priests, and the pilfering of sacred vessels. He restored the communion-table, and insisted on daily alms-giving. But Braybroke also condemned worse abuses. He issued a prohibition at Paul's Cross against barbers shaving on Sundays; he forbade the buying and selling in the Cathedral, the flinging stones and shooting arrows at the pigeons and jackdaws nestling in the walls of the church, and the playing at ball, both within and without the church, a practice which led to the breaking of many beautiful and costly painted windows.
But here we stop awhile in our history of St. Paul's, on the eve of the sanguinary wars of the Roses, to describe mediæval St. Paul's, its structure, and internal government. Foremost among the relics were two arms of St. Mellitus (miraculously enough, of quite different sizes). Behind the high altar—what Dean Milman justly calls "the pride, glory, and fountain of wealth" to St. Paul's—was the body of St. Erkenwald, covered with a shrine which three London goldsmiths had spent a whole year in chiselling; and this shrine was covered with a grate of tinned iron. The very dust of the chapel floor, mingled with water, was said to work instantaneous cures. On the anniversary of St. Erkenwald the whole clergy of the diocese attended in procession in their copes. When King John of France was made captive at Poictiers, and paid his orisons at St. Paul's, he presented four golden basins to the high altar, and twenty-two nobles at the shrine of St. Erkenwald. Milman calculates that in 1344 the oblation-box alone at St. Paul's produced an annual sum to the dean and chapter of £9,000. Among other relics that were milch cows to the monks were a knife of our Lord, some hair of Mary Magdalen, blood of St. Paul, milk of the Virgin, the hand of St. John, pieces of the mischievous skull of Thomas à Becket, and the head and jaw of King Ethelbert. These were all preserved in jewelled cases. One hundred and eleven anniversary masses were celebrated. The chantry chapels in the Cathedral were very numerous, and they were served by an army of idle and often dissolute mass priests. There was one chantry in Pardon Churchyard, on the north side of St. Paul's, east of the bishop's chapel, where St. Thomas Becket's ancestors were buried. The grandest was one near the nave, built by Bishop Kemp, to pray for himself and his royal master, Edward IV. Another was founded by Henry IV. for the souls of his father, John of Gaunt, and his mother, Blanche of Castile. A third was built by Lord Mayor Pulteney, who was buried in St. Lawrence Pulteney, so called from him. The revenues of these chantries were vast.
But to return to our historical sequence. During the ruthless Wars of the Roses St. Paul's became the scene of many curious ceremonials, on which Shakespeare himself has touched, in his early historical plays. It was on a platform at the cathedral door that Roger Bolingbroke, the spurious necromancer who was supposed to have aided the ambitious designs of the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, was exhibited. The Duchess's penance for the same offence, according to Milman's opinion, commenced or closed near the cathedral, in that shameful journey when she was led through the streets wrapped in a sheet, and carrying a lighted taper in her hand. The duke, her husband, was eventually buried at St. Paul's, where his tomb became the haunt of needy men about town, whence the well-known proverb of "dining with Duke Humphrey."
Henry VI.'s first peaceful visit to St. Paul's is
quaintly sketched by that dull old poet, Lydgate,
who describes "the bishops in pontificalibus, the
Dean of Paules and canons, every one who conveyed the king"
"Up into the church, with full devout singing;
And when he had made his offering,
The mayor, the citizens, bowed and left him."
While all the dark troubles still were pending,
we find the Duke of York taking a solemn oath
on the host of fealty to King Henry. Six years
later, after the battle of St. Albans, the Yorkists and
Lancastrians met again at the altar of St. Paul's in
feigned unity. The poor weak monarch was crowned,
and had sceptre in hand, and his proud brilliant
queen followed him in smiling converse with the
Duke of York. Again the city poet broke into
rejoicing at the final peace:—
"At Paul's in London, with great renown,
On Lady Day in Lent, this peace was wrought;
The King, the Queen, with lords many an one,
To worship the Virgin as they ought,
Went in procession, and spared right nought
In sight of all the commonalty;
In token this love was in heart and thought,
Rejoice England in concord and unity."
Alas for such reconciliations! Four years later more blood had been shed, more battle-fields strewn with dead. The king was a captive, had disinherited his own son, and granted the succession to the Duke of York, whose right a Parliament had acknowledged. His proud queen was in the North rallying the scattered Lancastrians. York and Warwick, Henry's deadly enemies, knelt before the primate, and swore allegiance to the king; and the duke's two sons, March and Rutland, took the same oath.
Within a few months Wakefield was fought; Richard was slain, and the duke's head, adorned with a mocking paper crown, was sent, by the shewolf of a queen, to adorn the walls of York.
The next year, however, fortune forsook Henry for ever, and St. Paul's welcomed Edward IV. and the redoubtable "king-maker," who had won the crown for him at the battle of Mortimer's Cross; and no Lancastrian dared show his face on that triumphant day. Ten years later Warwick, veering to the downfallen king, was slain at Barnet, and the body of the old warrior, and that of his brother, were exposed, barefaced, for three days in St. Paul's, to the delight of all true Yorkists. Those were terrible times, and the generosity of the old chivalry seemed now despised and forgotten. The next month there was even a sadder sight, for the body of King Henry himself was displayed in the Cathedral. Broken-hearted, said the Yorkists, but the Lancastrian belief (favoured by Shakespeare) was that Richard Duke of Gloucester, the wicked Crookback, stabbed him with his own hand in the Tower, and it was said that blood poured from the body when it lay in the Cathedral. Again St. Paul's was profaned at the death of Edward IV., when Richard came to pay his ostentatious orisons in the Cathedral, while he was already planning the removal of the princes to the Tower. Always anxious to please the London citizens, it was to St. Paul's Cross that Richard sent Dr. Shaw to accuse Clarence of illegitimacy. At St. Paul's, too, according to Shakespeare, who in his historic plays often follows traditions now forgotten, or chronicles that have perished, the charges against Hastings were publicly read. Jane Shore, the mistress, and supposed accomplice of Hastings in bewitching Richard, did penance in St. Paul's. She was the wife of a London goldsmith, and had been mistress of Edward IV. Her beauty, as she walked downcast with shame, is said to have moved every heart to pity. On his accession, King Richard, nervously fingering his dagger, as was his wont to do according to the chronicles, rode to St. Paul's, and was received by procession, amid great congratulation and acclamation from the fickle people. Kemp, who was the Yorkist bishop during all these dreadful times, rebuilt St. Paul's Cross, which then became one of the chief ornaments of London.
Richard's crown was presently beaten into a hawthorn bush on Bosworth Field, and his defaced. mangled; and ill-shaped body thrown, like carrion, across a pack-horse and driven off to Leicester, and Henry VII., the astute, the wily, the thrifty, reigned in his stead. After Henry's victory over Simnel he came two successive days to St. Paul's to offer his thanksgiving, and Simnel (afterwards a scullion in the royal kitchen) rode humbly at his conqueror's side.
The last ceremonial of the reign of Henry VII. that took place at St. Paul's was the ill-fated marriage of Prince Arthur (a mere boy, who died six months after) with Katherine of Arragon. The whole church was hung with tapestry, and there was a huge scaffold, with seats round it, reaching from the west door to the choir. On this platform the ceremony was performed. All day, at several places in the city, and at the west door of the Cathedral, the conduits ran for the delighted people with red and white wine. The wedded children were lodged in the bishop's palace, and three days later returned by water to Westminster. When Henry VII. died, his body lay in state in St. Paul's, and from thence it was taken to Windsor, to remain there till the beautiful chapel he had endowed at Westminster was ready for his reception. The Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's were among the trustees for the endowment he left, and the Cathedral still possesses the royal testament.
A Venetian ambassador who was present has left a graphic description of one of the earliest ceremonies (1514) which Henry VIII. witnessed at St. Paul's. The Pope (Leo X.) had sent the young and chivalrous king a sword and cap of maintenance, as a special mark of honour. The cap was of purple satin, covered with embroidery and pearls, and decked with ermine. The king rode from the bishop's palace to the cathedral on a beautiful black palfrey, the nobility walking before him in pairs. At the high altar the king donned the cap, and was girt with the sword. The procession then made the entire circuit of the church. The king wore a gown of purple satin and gold in chequer, and a jewelled collar; his cap of purple velvet had two jewelled rosettes, and his doublet was of gold brocade. The nobles wore massive chains of gold, and their chequered silk gowns were lined with sables, lynx-fur, and swansdown.
In the same reign Richard Fitz James, the fanatical Bishop of London, persecuted the Lollards, and burned two of the most obstinate at Smithfield. It is indeed, doubtful, even now, if Fitz James, in his hatred of the reformers, stopped short of murder. In 1514, Richard Hunn, a citizen who had disputed the jurisdiction of the obnoxious Ecclesiastical Court, was thrown into the Lollard's Tower (the bishop's prison, at the south-west corner of the Cathedral). A Wycliffe Bible had been found in his house; he was adjudged a heretic, and one night this obstinate man was found hung in his cell. The clergy called it suicide, but the coroner brought in a verdict of wilful murder against the Bishop's Chancellor, the sumner, and the bell-ringer of the Cathedral. The king, however, pardoned them all on their paying £1,500 to Hunn's family. The bishop, still furious, burned Hunn's body sixteen days after, as that of a heretic, in Smithfield. This fanatical bishop was the ceaseless persecutor of Dean Colet, that excellent and enlightened man, who founded St. Paul's School, and was the untiring friend of Erasmus, whom he accompanied on his memorable visit to Becket's shrine at Canterbury.
In 1518 Wolsey, proud and portly, appears upon the scene, coming to St. Paul's to sing mass and celebrate eternal peace between France, England, and Spain, and the betrothal of the beautiful Princess Mary to the Dauphin of France. The large chapel and the choir were hung with gold brocade, blazoned with the king's arms. Near the altar was the king's pew, formed of cloth of gold, and in front of it a small altar covered with silver-gilt images, with a gold cross in the centre. Two low masses were said at this before the king, while high mass was being sung to the rest. On the opposite side of the altar, on a raised and canopied chair, sat Wolsey; further off stood the legate Campeggio. The twelve bishops and six abbots present all wore their jewelled mitres, while the king himself shone out in a tunic of purple velvet, "powdered" with pearls and rubies, sapphires and diamonds. His collar was studded with carbuncles as large as walnuts. A year later Charles V. was proclaimed emperor by the heralds at St. Paul's. Wolsey gave the benediction, no doubt with full hope of the Pope's tiara.
In 1521, but a little later, Wolsey, "Cardinal of
St. Cecilia and Archbishop of York," was welcomed
by Dean Pace to St. Paul's. He had come to
sit near Paul's Cross, to hear Fisher, Bishop of
Rochester, by the Pope's command, denounce
"Martinus Eleutherius" and his accursed works,
many of which were burned in the churchyard
during the sermon, no doubt to the infinite alarm
of all heretical booksellers in the neighbouring
street. Wolsey had always an eye to the emperor's
helping him to the papacy; and when Charles V.
came to England to visit Henry, in 1522, Wolsey
said mass, censed by more than twenty obsequious
prelates. It was Wolsey who first, as papal legate,
removed the convocation entirely from St. Paul's
to Westminster, to be near his house at Whitehall.
His ribald enemy, Skelton, then hiding from the
cardinal's wrath in the Sanctuary at Westminster,
wrote the following rough distich on the arbitrary
"Gentle Paul, lay down thy sword,
For Peter of Westminster hath shaven thy beard."
On the startling news of the battle of Pavia, when Francis I. was taken prisoner by his great rival of Spain, a huge bonfire illumined the west front of St. Paul's, and hogsheads of claret were broached at the Cathedral door, to celebrate the welcome tidings. On the Sunday after, the bluff king, the queen, and both houses of Parliament, attended a solemn "Te Deum" at the cathedral; while on St. Matthew's Day there was a great procession of all the religious orders in London, and Wolsey, with his obsequious bishops, performed service at the high altar. Two years later Wolsey came again, to lament or rejoice over the sack of Rome by the Constable Bourbon, and the captivity of the Pope.
Singularly enough, the fire lighted by Wolsey in St. Paul's Churchyard had failed to totally burn up Luther and all his works; and on Shrove Tuesday, 1527, Wolsey made another attempt to reduce the new-formed Bible to ashes. In the great procession that came on this day to St. Paul's there were six Lutherans in penitential dresses, carrying terribly symbolical fagots and huge lighted tapers. On a platform in the nave sat the portly and proud cardinal, supported by thirty-six zealous bishops, abbots, and priests. At the foot of the great rood over the northern door the heretical tracts and Testaments were thrown into a fire. The prisoners, on their knees, begged pardon of God and the Catholic Church, and were then led three times round the fire, which they fed with the fagots they had carried.
Four years later, after Wolsey's fall, the London clergy were summoned to St. Paul's Chapter-house (near the south side). The king, offended at the Church having yielded to Wolsey's claims as a papal legate, by which the penalty of præmunire had been incurred, had demanded from it the alarming fine of £100,000. Immediately six hundred clergy of all ranks thronged riotously to the chapter-house, to resist this outrageous tax. The bishop was all for concession; their goods and lands were forfeit, their bodies liable to imprisonment. The humble clergy cried out, "We have never meddled in the cardinal's business. Let the bishops and abbots, who have offended, pay." Blows were struck, and eventually fifteen priests and four laymen were condemned to terms of imprisonment in the Fleet and Tower, for their resistance to despotic power.
In 1535 nineteen German Anabaptists were examined in St. Paul's, and fourteen of them sent to the stake. Then came plain signs that the Reformation had commenced. The Pope's authority had been denied at Paul's Cross in 1534. A miraculous rood from Kent was brought to St. Paul's, and the machinery that moved the eyes and lips was shown to the populace, after which it was thrown down and broken amid contemptuous laughter. Nor would this chapter be complete if we did not mention a great civic procession at the close of the reign of Henry VIII. On Whit Sunday, 1546, the children of Paul's School, with parsons and vicars of every London church, in their copes, went from St. Paul's to St. Peter's, Cornhill, Bishop Bonner bearing the sacrament under a canopy; and at the Cross, before the mayor, aldermen, and all the crafts, heralds proclaimed perpetual peace between England, France, and the Emperor. Two months after, the exbishop of Rochester preached a sermon at Paul's Cross recanting his heresy, four of his late fellowprisoners in Newgate having obstinately perished at the stake.
In the reign of Edward VI. St. Paul's witnessed far different scenes. The year of the accession of the child-king, funeral service was read to the memory of Francis I., Latin dirges were chanted, and eight mitred bishops sang a requiem to the monarch lately deceased. At the coronation, while the guilds were marshalled along Cheapside, and tapestries hung from every window, an acrobat descended by a cable from St. Paul's steeple to the anchor of a ship near the Deanery door. In November of the next year, at night, the crucifixes and images in St. Paul's were pulled down and removed, to the horror of the faithful, and all obits and chantreys were confiscated, and the vestments and altar cloths were sold. The early reformers were backed by greedy partisans. The Protector Somerset, who was desirous of building rapidly a sumptuous palace in the Strand, pulled down the chapel and charnel-house in the Pardon churchyard, and carted off the stones of St. Paul's cloister. When the good Ridley was installed Bishop of London, he would not enter the choir until the lights on the altar were extinguished. Very soon a table was substituted for the altar, and there was an attempt made to remove the organ. The altar, and chapel, and tombs (all but John of Gaunt's) were then ruthlessly destroyed.
During the Lady Jane Grey rebellion, Ridley denounced Mary and Elizabeth as bastards. The accession of gloomy Queen Mary soon turned the tables. As the Queen passed to her coronation, a daring Dutchman stood on the cross of St. Paul's waving a long streamer, and shifting from foot to foot as he shook two torches which he held over his head.
But the citizens were Protestants at heart. At the first sermon preached at St. Paul's Cross, Dr. Bourne, a rash Essex clergyman, prayed for the dead, praised Bonner, and denounced Ridley. The mob, inflamed to madness, shouted, "He preaches damnation! Pull him down! pull him down!" A dagger, thrown at the preacher, stuck quivering in a side-post of the pulpit. With difficulty two good men dragged the rash zealot safely into St. Paul's School. For this riot several persons were sent to the Tower, and a priest and a barber had their ears nailed to the pillory at St. Paul's Cross. The crosses were raised again in St. Paul's, and the old ceremonies and superstitions revived. On St. Katherine's Day (in honour of the queen's mother's patron saint) there was a procession with lights, and the image of St. Katherine, round St. Paul's steeple, and the bells rang. Yet not long after this, when a Dr. Pendleton preached old doctrines at St. Paul's Cross, a gun was fired at him. When Bonner was released from the Marshalsea and restored to his see, the people shouted, "Welcome home;" and a woman ran forward and kissed him. We are told that he knelt in prayer on the Cathedral steps.
In 1554, at the reception in St. Paul's of Cardinal Pole, King Philip attended with English, Spanish, and German guards, and a great retinue of nobles. Bishop Gardiner preached on the widening heresy till the audience groaned and wept. Of the cruel persecutions of the Protestants in this reign St. Paul's was now and then a witness, and likewise of the preparations for the execution of Protestants, which Bonner's party called "trials." Thus we find Master Cardmaker, vicar of St. Bride's, and Warne, an upholsterer in Walbrook, both arraigned at St. Paul's before the bishop for heresy, and carried back from there to Newgate, to be shortly after burned alive in Smithfield.
In the midst of these horrors, a strange ceremony took place at St. Paul's, more worthy, indeed, of the supposititious temple of Diana than of a Christian cathedral, did it not remind us that Popery was always strangely intermingled with fragments of old paganism. In June, 1557 (St. Paul's Day, says Machyn, an undertaker and chronicler of Mary's reign), a fat buck was presented to the dean and chapter, according to an annual grant made by Sir Walter le Baud, an Essex knight, in the reign of Edward I. A priest from each London parish attended in his cope, and the Bishop of London wore his mitre, while behind the burly, bullying, persecutor Bonner came a fat buck, his head with his horns borne upon a pole; forty huntsmen's horns blowing a rejoicing chorus.
The last event of this blood-stained reign was the celebration at St. Paul's of the victory over the French at the battle of St. Quintin by Philip and the Spaniards. A sermon was preached to the city at Paul's Cross, bells were rung, and bonfires blazed in every street.
At Elizabeth's accession its new mistress soon purged St. Paul's of all its images: copes and shaven crowns disappeared. The first ceremony of the new reign was the performance of the obsequies of Henry II. of France. The empty hearse was hung with cloth of gold, the choir draped in black, the clergy appearing in plain black gowns and caps. And now, what the Catholics called a great judgment fell on the old Cathedral. During a great storm in 1561, St. Martin's Church, Ludgate, was struck by lightning; immediately after, the wooden steeple of St. Paul's started into a flame. The fire burned downwards furiously for four hours, the bells melted, the lead poured in torrents; the roof fell in, and the whole Cathedral became for a time a ruin. Soon after, at the Cross, Dean Nowell rebuked the Papists for crying out "a judgment." In papal times the church had also suffered. In Richard I.'s reign an earthquake shook down the spire, and in Stephen's time fire had also brought destruction. The Crown and City were roused by this misfortune. Thrifty Elizabeth gave 1,000 marks in gold, and 1,000 marks' worth of timber; the City gave a great benevolence, and the clergy subscribed £1,410. In one month a false roof was erected, and by the end of the year the aisles were leaded in. On the 1st of November, the same year, the mayor, aldermen, and crafts, with eighty torchbearers, went to attend service at St. Paul's. The steeple, however, was never re-erected, in spite of Queen Elizabeth's angry remonstrances.
In the first year of Philip and Mary, the Common
Council of London passed an act which shows the
degradation into which St. Paul's had sunk even
before the fire. It forbade the carrying of beercasks, or baskets of bread, fish, flesh, or fruit, or
leading mules or horses through the Cathedral,
under pain of fines and imprisonment. Elizabeth
also issued a proclamation to a similar effect, forbidding a fray, drawing of swords in the church,
or shooting with hand-gun or dagg within the
church or churchyard, under pain of two months'
imprisonment. Neither were agreements to be
made for the payment of money within the church.
Soon after the fire, a man that had provoked a fray
in the church was set in the pillory in the churchyard, and had his ears nailed to a post, and then
cut off. These proclamations, however, led to no reform. Cheats, gulls, assassins, and thieves thronged
the middle aisle of St. Paul's; advertisements of all
kinds covered the walls, the worst class of servants
came there to be hired; worthless rascals and disreputable flaunting women met there by appointment. Parasites, hunting for a dinner, hung about
a monument of the Beauchamps, foolishly believed
to be the tomb of the good Duke Humphrey.
Shakespeare makes Falstaff hire red-nosed Bardolph
in St. Paul's, and Ben Jonson lays the third act
of his Every Man in his Humour in the middle
aisle. Bishop Earle, in his "Microcosmography,"
describes the noise of the crowd of idlers in Paul's
"as that of bees, a strange hum mixed of walking
tongues and feet, a kind of still roar or loud
whisper." He describes the crowd of young curates,
copper captains, thieves, and dinnerless adventurers
and gossip-mongers. Bishop Corbet, that jolly
prelate, speaks of
Where all our British sinners swear and talk,
Old hardy ruffians, bankrupts, soothsayers,
And youths whose cousenage is old as theirs."
On the eve of the election of Sandys as Bishop of London, May, 1570, all London was roused by a papal bull against Elizabeth being found nailed on the gates of the bishop's palace. It declared her crown forfeited and her people absolved from their oaths of allegiance. The fanatic maniac, Felton, was soon discovered, and hung on a gallows at the bishop's gates.
One or two anecdotes of interest specially connect Elizabeth with St. Paul's. On one occasion Dean Nowell placed in the queen's closet (pew) a splendid prayer-book, full of German scriptural engravings, richly illuminated. The zealous queen was furious; the book seemed to her of Catholic tendencies.
"Who placed this book on my cushion? You know I have an aversion to idolatry. The cuts resemble angels and saints—nay, even grosser absurdities."
The frightened dean pleaded innocence of all evil intentions. The queen prayed God to grant him more wisdom for the future, and asked him where they came from. When told Germany, she replied, "It is well it was a stranger. Had it been one of my subjects, we should have questioned the matter."
Once again Dean Nowell vexed the queen—this time from being too Puritan. On Ash Wednesday, 1572, the dean preaching before her, he denounced certain popish superstitions in a book recently dedicated to her majesty. He specially denounced the use of the sign of the cross. Suddenly a harsh voice was heard in the royal closet. It was Elizabeth's. She chidingly bade Mr. Dean return from his ungodly digression and revert to his text. The next day the frightened dean wrote a most abject apology to the high-spirited queen.
The victory over the Armada was, of course, not forgotten at St. Paul's. When the thanksgiving sermon was preached at Paul's Cross, eleven Spanish ensigns waved over the cathedral battlements, and one idolatrous streamer with an image of the Virgin fluttered over the preacher. That was in September; the Queen herself came in November, drawn by four white horses, and with the privy council and all the nobility. Elizabeth heard a sermon, and dined at the bishop's palace.
The "children of Paul's," whom Shakespeare, in Hamlet, mentions with the jealousy of a rival manager, were, as Dean Milman has proved, the chorister-boys of St. Paul's. They acted, it is supposed, in their singing-school. The play began at four p.m., after prayers, and the price of admission was 4d. They are known at a later period to have acted some of Lily's Euphuistic plays, and one of Middleton's.
In this reign lotteries for Government purposes were held at the west door of St. Paul's, where a wooden shed was erected for drawing the prizes, which were first plate and then suits of armour. In the first lottery (1569) there were 40,000 lots at 10s. a lot, and the profits were applied to repairing the harbours of England.
In the reign of James I. blood was again shed before St. Paul's. Years before a bishop had been murdered at the north door;. now, before the west entrance (in January, 1605–6), four of the desperate Gunpowder Plot conspirators (Sir Everard Digby, Winter, Grant, and Bates) were there hung, drawn, and quartered. Their attempt to restore the old religion by one blow ended in the hangman's strangling rope and the executioner's cruel knife. In the May following a man of less-proven guilt (Garnet, the Jesuit) suffered the same fate in St. Paul's Churchyard; and zealots of his faith affirmed that on straws saved from the scaffold miraculous portraits of their martyr were discovered.
The ruinous state of the great cathedral, still without a tower, now aroused the theological king. He first tried to saddle the bishop and chapter, but Lord Southampton, Shakespeare's friend, interposed to save them. Then the matter went to sleep for twelve years. In 1620 the king again awoke, and came in state with all his lords on horseback, to hear a sermon at the Cross and to view the church. A royal commission followed, Inigo Jones, the king's protégé, whom James had brought from Denmark, being one of the commissioners. The sum required was estimated at £22,536. The king's zeal ended here; and his favourite, Buckingham, borrowed the stone collected for St. Paul's for his Strand palace, and from parts of it was raised that fine water-gate still existing in the Thames Embankment gardens.
When Charles I. made that narrow-minded churchman, Laud, Bishop of London, one of Laud's first endeavours was to restore St. Paul's. Charles I. was a man of taste, and patronised painting and architecture. Inigo Jones was already building the Banqueting House at Whitehall. The king was so pleased with Inigo's design for the new portico of St. Paul's, that he proposed to pay for that himself. Laud gave £1,200. The fines of the obnoxious and illegal High Commission Court were set apart for the same object. The small sheds and houses round the west front were ruthlessly cleared away. All shops in Cheapside and Lombard Street, except goldsmiths, were to be shut up, that the eastern approach to St. Paul's might appear more splendid. The church of St. Gregory, at the south-west wing of the cathedral, was removed and rebuilt. Inigo Jones cut away all the decayed stone and crumbling Gothic work of the Cathedral, and on the west portico expended all the knowledge he had acquired in his visit to Rome. The result was a pagan composite, beautiful but incongruous. The front, 161 feet long and 162 feet high, was supported by fourteen Corinthian columns. On the parapet above the pillars Inigo proposed that there should stand ten statues of princely benefactors of St. Paul's. At each angle of the west front there was a tower. The portico was intended for a Paul's Walk, to drain off the profanation from within.
Nor were the London citizens backward. One most large-hearted man, Sir Paul Pindar, a Turkey merchant who had been ambassador at Constantinople, and whose house is still to be seen in Bishopsgate Street, contributed £10,000 towards the screen and south transept. The statues of James and Charles were set up over the portico, and the steeple was begun, when the storm arose that soon whistled off the king's unlucky head. The coming troubles cast shadows around St. Paul's. In March, 1639, a paper was found in the yard of the deanery, before Laud's house, inscribed—"Laud, look to thyself. Be assured that thy life is sought, as thou art the fountain of all wickedness;" and in October, 1640, the High Commission sitting at St. Paul's, nearly 2,000 Puritans made a tumult, tore down the benches in the consistory, and shouted, "We will have no bishops and no High Commission."
The Parliament made short work with St. Paul's, of Laud's projects, and Inigo Jones's classicalisms. They at once seized the £17,000 or so left of the subscription. To Colonel Jephson's regiment, in arrears for pay, £1,746, they gave the scaffolding round St. Paul's tower, and in pulling it to pieces down came part of St. Paul's south transept. The copes in St. Paul's were burnt (to extract the gold), and the money sent to the persecuted Protestant poor in Ireland. The silver vessels were sold to buy artillery for Cromwell. There was a story current that Cromwell intended to sell St. Paul's to the Jews for a synagogue. The east end of the church was walled in for a Puritan lecturer; the graves were desecrated; the choir became a cavalry barracks; the portico was let out to sempsters and hucksters, who lodged in rooms above; James and Charles were toppled from the portico; while the pulpit and cross were entirely destroyed. The dragoons in St. Paul's became so troublesome to the inhabitants by their noisy brawling games and their rough interruption of passengers, that in 1651 we find them forbidden to play at ninepins from six a.m. to nine p.m.
When the Restoration came, sunshine again fell upon the ruins. Wren, that great genius, was called in. His report was not very favourable. The pillars were giving way; the whole work had been from the beginning ill designed and ill built; the tower was leaning. He proposed to have a rotunda, with cupola and lantern, to give the church light, "and incomparable more grace" than the lean shaft of a steeple could possibly afford. He closed his report by a eulogy on the portico of Inigo Jones, as "an absolute piece in itself." Some of the stone collected for St. Paul's went, it is said, to build Lord Clarendon's house (site of Albemarle Street). On August 27, 1661, good Mr. Evelyn, one of the commissioners, describes going with Wren, the Bishop and Dean of St. Paul's, &c., and resolving finally on a new foundation. On Sunday, September 2, the Great Fire drew a red cancelling line over Wren's half-drawn plans. The old cathedral passed away, like Elijah, in flames. The fire broke out about ten o'clock on Saturday night at a bakehouse in Pudding Lane, near East Smithfield. Sunday afternoon Pepys found all the goods carried that morning to Cannon Street now removing to Lombard Street. At St. Paul's Wharf he takes water, follows the king's party, and lands at Bankside. "In corners and upon steeples, and between churches and houses, as far as we could see up the city, a most horrid, bloody, malicious flame, not like the flame of an ordinary fire." On the 7th, he saw St. Paul's Church with all the roof off, and the body of the quire fallen into St. Faith's.
On Monday, the 3rd, Mr. Evelyn describes the whole north of the City on fire, the sky light for ten miles round, and the scaffolds round St. Paul's catching. On the 4th he saw the stones of St. Paul's flying like grenades, the melting lead running in streams down the streets, the very pavements too hot for the feet, and the approaches too blocked for any help to be applied. A Westminster boy named Taswell (quoted by Dean Milman from "Camden's Miscellany," vol. ii., p. 12) has also sketched the scene. On Monday, the 3rd, from Westminster he saw, about eight o'clock, the fire burst forth, and before nine he could read by the blaze a 16mo "Terence" which he had with him. The boy at once set out for St. Paul's, resting by the way upon Fleet Bridge, being almost faint with the intense heat of the air. The bells were melting, and vast avalanches of stones were pouring from the walls. Near the east end he found the body of an old woman, who had cowered there, burned to a coal. Taswell also relates that the ashes of the books kept in St. Faith's were blown as far as Eton.
On the 7th (Friday) Evelyn again visited St.
Paul's. The portico he found rent in pieces, the
vast stones split asunder, and nothing remaining
entire but the inscription on the architrave, not
one letter of which was injured. Six acres of lead
on the roof were all melted. The roof of St.
Faith's had fallen in, and all the magazines and
books from Paternoster Row were consumed,
burning for a week together. Singularly enough,
the lead over the altar at the east end was
untouched, and among the monuments the body
of one bishop (Braybroke—Richard II.) remained
entire. The old tombs nearly all perished; amongst
them those of two Saxon kings, John of Gaunt, his
wife Constance of Castile, poor St. Erkenwald, and
scores of bishops, good and bad; Sir Nicholas
Bacon, Elizabeth's Lord Keeper, and father of the
great philosopher; the last of the true knights, the
gallant Sir Philip Sidney; and Walsingham, that
astute counsellor of Elizabeth. Then there was Sir
Christopher Hatton, the dancing chancellor, whose
proud monument crowded back Walsingham and
Sidney's. According to the old scoffing distich,
"Philip and Francis they have no tomb,
For great Christopher takes all the room."
Men of letters in old St. Paul's (says Dean Milman) there were few. The chief were Lily, the gram marian, second master of St. Paul's; and Linacre, the physician, the friend of Colet and Erasmus. Of artists there was at least one great man—Vandyck, who was buried near John of Gaunt. Among citizens, the chief was Sir William Hewet, whose daughter married Osborne, an apprentice, who saved her from drowning, and who was the ancestor of the Dukes of Leeds.
After the fire, Bishop Sancroft preached in a patched-up part of the west end of the ruins. All hopes of restoration were soon abandoned, as Wren had, with his instinctive genius, at once predicted. Sancroft at once wrote to the great architect, "What you last whispered in my ear is now come to pass." A pillar has fallen, and the rest threatens to follow." The letter concludes thus: "You are so absolutely necessary to us, that we can do nothing, resolve on nothing, without you." There was plenty of zeal in London still; but, nevertheless, after all, nothing was done to the rebuilding till the year 1673.