London, Volume 4

Knight, Charles


LXXX.-Westminster Abbey: No. I.--General History.

LXXX.-Westminster Abbey: No. I.--General History.



Perhaps the highest development of art is that which, in its effect on the mind, approaches the nearest to the sublimities of nature. The emotions, for instance, raised on seeing for the time the sea, that broad expanse of waters which the skies alone seem large enough to encompass, or in gazing once in a lifetime on the hills of the Alps, towering upwards till they are lost in the clouds, and connecting, to the eye of imagination, earth with heaven, are evidently kindred in their nature to the impressions produced on walking under similar novelty of circumstance through the long-drawn aisles of a great cathedral: we have the same sense of wonder, admiration, and awe; the same elevation of spirit above the ordinary level; and the same consciousness how still inadequate are our powers to measure the spiritual heights and depths of the mysterious grandeur before us. And in whatever shape art delights to manifest itself, whether in the poem, the picture, or the oratorio, its loftiest creations may be always tested by the presence and intensity of this power; but to architecture alone is it given to exercise it with almost universal sway. In poetry, painting, and not unfrequently in music, the perception of true sublimity is perhaps, to all but highly instructed minds, the last mental operation of the reader, spectator, or listener; in architecture it is the . It were absurd to place Prometheus or Lear-the Cartoons or the paintings of the Sistine Chapel-before an uneducated rustic, or, except in peculiar cases, to endeavour to make him appreciate suddenly the music of the Messiah; but take the same man, with no other idea of an abbey than as a something vastly bigger than his own parish church, and place him in the edifice before us, dark indeed must be his soul if, as he looks around, a divine ray does not enter into it; if he feels not, in however imperfect and transitory a manner, the influence of the sublime.



The early history of all these structures bears a strangely harmonious relation to their aspect. What we now look upon almost as miracles of human genius were in the days of their foundation really esteemed as works in or connected with which a higher than human agency was visible; and it is for that very reason perhaps that so little of their glory was attributed to the architects, and that the names of the latter have been allowed-


for aught that appears-

to die.

Their antiquity, again, is so great as to take us back into the period when the boundaries of history and fable were but as yet very imperfectly understood by our historians; although the admitted facts of the former might well have been sufficient to save them from any such additions. The cathedrals of England are the great landmarks of the progress in this country of the grandest scheme of regeneration ever revealed to man; almost every step of which they illustrate. In Canterbury Cathedral you tread upon the foundations of what is maintained by some to be the Christian church ever erected in this country, whilst the Cathedral itself dates from the time of Augustine, who may be said to have really established Christianity among us; in Worcester you behold the memorial of the extension of the new religion into another of the great kingdoms of the Heptarchy, Mercia, and its reception by the Kings; whilst in you are reminded of the activity of Dunstan and the period when the different and contentious kingdoms had all been consolidated into , acknowledging generally the Christian faith.

From the tangled web of fact and fiction which our records of the foundation of present, it is hopeless to attempt to learn the simple truth. Sporley, a monk of the Abbey, who lived about , describes it as erected at the period when King Lucius is said to have embraced Christianity, about the year . He adds that, in the persecution of the Christians in Britain during the reign of the Roman Emperor Dioclesian (about the beginning of the century), the Church was converted into a Temple of Apollo. But John Flete, the monk of the same Abbey of a much earlier date, from whom Sporley is understood to have derived his materials, seems, in the following passage, to refer the erection of the Temple of Apollo to a later era, to the or, perhaps, the century, when the Saxons poured in their hordes upon the devoted islanders. He says,

The British religion and justice decaying sensibly, there landed in all parts of Britain a prodigious number of Pagan Saxons and Angles, who at length overspreading the whole island, and becoming masters of it, they, according to the custom of their country, erected to their idols fanes and altars in several parts of the land, and, overthrowing the Christian churches, drove them from their worship and spread their Pagan rites all around the country. Thus was restored the old abomination wherever the Britons were expelled their place; London worships Diana, and the suburbs of Thorney offer incense to Apollo.

Wren, during the rebuilding of , took great pains to investigate the truth of the story as respects that edifice, and ended in being very incredulous concerning both. And as to , his argument, no doubt, is sufficiently forcible, having

changed all the foundations

of the old church, and found no traces of any such temple, whilst satisfied that

the least fragment of cornice or capital would demonstrate their handiwork.

But he had not the same opportunity of examining the foundations of , and most devoutly it is to be


hoped that no ever will have, arising, as the opportunity must, from the destruction of the existing edifice. Under these circumstances Wren is hardly justified in taking it for granted that the story of Apollo and the Abbey was merely made up by the monks in rivalry to the traditions of Diana and . The matter is buried in obscurity, and, for any proof that appears, to this hour the foundations of the Pagan shrine may lie below those of the Christian. Flete adds to the statement given, that the temple was overthrown and the purer worship restored by Sebert, with whose name the more undoubted history may be said to commence. Yet even Sebert is so much a matter of question, that, whilst some old writers call him a citizen of London, others say-apparently with truth, from the care taken of his tomb through all the rebuildings--it was Sebert, King of the East Saxons in the beginning of the century, and nephew of Ethelbert. Mellitus was then Bishop of London, and encouraged, if he did not instigate, Sebert to the pious work; which, indeed, has been attributed wholly to him. The place--a


, as an old writer calls it-was overrun with thorns, and surrounded by a small branch of the Thames; hence the name Thorney Island. Malcolm, having day mounted to the top of the northernmost of the western towers, professes to have been able to trace clearly the old boundaries of the island. Here the Church, or , was built, of London, from which circumstance the Abbey and the district now derive their appellation. It was to be dedicated to St. Peter, and the preparations were already made for that august ceremony, when, according to the relation of several writers, whose fidelity we leave our readers to judge of, the Apostle himself appeared on the opposite bank of the Thames, and requested a fisherman to take him over. There he was desired to wait while St. Peter, accompanied with an innumerable host from heaven singing choral hymns, performed the ceremony of dedication to himself; the Church, meanwhile, being lighted up by a supernatural radiance. On the return of St. Peter to the astonished fisherman he quieted the latter's alarm, and announced himself in his proper character; bidding him, at the same time, go to Mellitus at daybreak to inform him of what had passed, and to state that, in corroboration of his story, the Bishop would find marks of the consecration on the walls of the edifice. To satisfy the fisherman he ordered him to cast his nets into the river, and present of the fish he should take to Mellitus; he also told him that neither he nor his brethren should want fish so long as they presented a to the Church just dedicated; and then suddenly disappeared. The fisherman threw his nets, and, as might have been expected, found a miraculous draught, consisting of the finest salmon. When Mellitus, in pursuance of the Apostle's mandate, went to examine the Church, he found marks of the extinguished tapers and of the chrism. Mellitus in consequence contented himself with the celebration of Mass. We may smile now at such a story; but there is no doubt whatever that for ages it obtained general credibility. centuries after a dispute took place between the convent and the parson of , the former claiming a of all the salmon- caught in the latter's parish, on the express ground that St. Peter had given it to them; eventually a compromise was agreed to for a . Still later, or towards the close of the century, it appears fishermen were accustomed to bring salmon to be offered on the high altar, the donor on such occasion having


the privilege of sitting at the convent table to dinner, and demanding ale and bread from the cellarer.

From the time of Sebert to that of the Confessor the history of the Abbey continues still uncertain. There are in existence certain charters which, could they be depended upon, would give us all the information we could reasonably desire. And, although the best authorities seem to think they are not to be so depended upon, yet their arguments apply rather to the property concerned than to any mere historical facts. For when these ingenious monks took the bold step of forging such important documents, supposing them to have done so, they would assuredly take care to be as precise as it was possible to the known incidents connected with the history of their house, and of course they were in possession of the best information. The of the charters is granted by King Edgar, , directing the reformation of the monastery by Dunstan, which had been previously destroyed or greatly injured by the Danes, and confirming privileges said to have been granted by King Offa, who, after the decay of the church consequent on the death of Sebert, and the partial relapse of the people into heathenism under the rule of his sons, had, says Sulcardus, restored and enlarged the church, collected a parcel of monks, and, having a great reverence for St. Peter, honoured it by depositing there the coronation robes and regalia. Another charter by Edgar, of the most splendid of supposed Saxon MSS., among a variety of other particulars agreeing with the account we have given, ascribes Sebert's foundation to the year . This, and a charter by Dunstan, are preserved among the archives of the Abbey. Dunstan's charter names Alfred among the benefactors to . According to William of Malmsbury and another writer, the church having at this period been restored, Dunstan brought hither (Benedictine) monks, and made of his favourites, Wulsinus, a man whom he is said to have shorn a monk with his own hands, Abbot.

Still the Abbey-church and buildings were but small, and comparatively unworthy of the distinguished honour which St. Peter had so condescendingly conferred; and the monks no doubt pondered over the means by which a more magnificent structure might be obtained. An opportunity at last offered in the reign of the Confessor. Whilst Edward was in exile during the Danish usurpation, he vowed a pilgrimage to Rome, if God should please to restore him to his crown. He was restored; and then, mindful of his vow, assembled his principal nobility soon after his coronation, and declared his purpose. By them he was persuaded, however, to send an embassy to Rome to procure absolution from the vow. The embassy was successful; and the Pope merely enjoined that the King should spend the sums intended for his journey in the foundation or reparation of some religious house dedicated to St. Peter. It was precisely at the time these particulars got abroad that a monk of , named Wulsine, a man of great simplicity of manners and sanctity, had a remarkable dream. Whilst asleep day, St. Peter appeared to him, to bid him acquaint the King that he should restore his (Wulsine's) church: and, with that noticeable minuteness which characterises unfortunately only those stories of our early times which we are most disposed to doubt, we have the very words of the Apostle recorded:--

There is,

said he,

a place of mine in the west part of

London, which I chose, and love, and which I formerly consecrated with my own hands, honoured with my presence, and made illustrious by my miracles. The name of the place is Thorney; which, having, for the sins of the people, been given to the power of the barbarians, from rich is become poor, from stately low, and from honourable is made despicable. This let the King, by my command, restore and make a dwelling of monks, stately build, and amply endow: it shall be no less than the house of God and the gates of Heaven.

[n.70.1]  The dream was no doubt just the thing for the credulous monarch, who might have been otherwise puzzled where to bestow his benefactions, and he immediately commenced his task in an earnest and magnificent spirit. Instead of confining himself to the expenditure enjoined, he ordered a part of his property of every kind to be set apart for the new abbey; he enlarged the number of monks; a new and no doubt grander style of architecture was adopted Matthew Paris says it was built ; and, when the whole was finished, bestowed on it a set of relics which were alone sufficient in the century to make the fortune of any monastery, and which must have rendered the envy of most of the other religious houses of Britain. They comprised, says Dart, in his history of the Abbey,

part of the place and manger where Christ was born, and also of the frankincense offered to him by the Eastern Magi; of the table of our Lord; of the bread which he blessed; of the seat where he was presented in the Temple; of the wilderness where he fasted; of the gaol where he was imprisoned; of his undivided garment; of the sponge, lance, and scourge with which he was tortured; of the sepulchre, and cloth that bound his head ;

[n.70.2] -and so on, through not only Christ's own history, but, in a lesser degree, through that of his mother, his apostles, and the most famous abbots and saints. Of the Confessor's building we have fortunately an interesting and perfect remain in the Pix Office and the adjoining parts against the east cloister and the south transept. As we may here perceive, the architecture is grand in its chief features, but strikingly plain in details, with the exception of the capitals, which are handsomely sculptured. The original edifice was built in the form of a cross, with a high central tower. When the work was finished, Edward designed its consecration under circumstances of unusual splendour. He summoned all his chief nobility and clergy to be present: but, before the time appointed, he fell ill on the evening of Christmas-day. By this time his heart was greatly set upon putting the seal to his goodly work in the manner he had designed; so he hastened his preparations; but on the day appointed, the Festival of the Innocents, he was unable to leave his chamber, consequently Queen Editha presided at the ceremony. He died almost immediately after, and was buried in the church.

From the death of the Confessor to the reign of Henry III. the history of the Abbey is chiefly confined to the lives and characters of its Abbots, of whom our space will allow us to mention only the most noticeable, and those briefly. Gervase de Blois, a natural son of King Stephen, who had well-nigh ruined the Monastery by his mal-administration, was Abbot from to , and was succeeded by Laurentius, who, to a great extent, repaired the mischiefs of De


Blois' abbacy, and who obtained the canonization of King Edward. He also obtained, what seems to have been a great object of ambition with the Abbots of his period, permission from the Pope to wear the mitre,[n.71.1]  ring, and gloves, which the bishops considered especially the insignia of their superior authority, but died before he could enjoy the coveted honour. His successor, Walter, obtained the additional privilege of using the dalmatica, tunic, and sandals, and was about to exercise his privilege for the time in a Synod, when the Pope's Nuncio, then in the Abbey, where he thought he had not been received with sufficient respect, interdicted him. Walter's abbacy is remarkable for a curious and somewhat unseemly quarrel that took place in the Abbey, at the sitting of a Synod in . Holinshed writes-

About Mid-Lent the King with his son and the Legate came to London, where, at


, a Convocation of the Clergy was called; but when the Legate was set, and the Archbishop of Canterbury on his right hand as Primate of the realm, the Archbishop of York, coming in, and disdaining to sit on the left, where he might seem to give pre-eminence unto the Archbishop of Canterbury (unmannerly enough, indeed), swasht him down, meaning to thrust himself in betwixt the Legate and the Archbishop of Canterbury. And when belike the said Archbishop of Canterbury was loth to

remove, he set himself

We have taken the liberty here to alter plain-speaking Holinshed's phrase.

just in his lap; but he scarcely touched the Archbishop's skirt, when the Bishops and other Chaplains, with their servants, stept to him, pulled him away, and threw him to the ground; and, beginning to lay on him with bats and fists, the Archbishop of Canterbury, yielding good for evil, sought to save him from their hands. Thus was verified in him that sage sentence,

Nunquam periclam sine periculo vincitur

. The Archbishop of York, with his rent rochet, got up, and away he went to the King with a great complaint against the Archbishop of Canterbury. But when, upon examination of the matter, the truth was known, he was well laughed at for his labour, and that was all the remedy he got. As he departed so be buffeted forth of the Convocation-house towards the King, they cried upon him,

Go, traitor; thou diddest betray that holy man, Thomas: go, get thee hence; thy hands yet stink of blood!

To what particular act of the Archbishop of York against his old enemy, Becket, the monks here allude, we know not; but the malignity of his feelings toward him is evident from various circumstances-among the rest, his notice of the murder. When the news reached him, he ascended the pulpit and announced it to the congregation as an act of Divine vengeance, saying Becket had perished in his guilt and pride like Pharaoh. We now reach the reign of the King to whom we are indebted for the greater portion of the existing Cathedral, Henry III. From a boy he seems to have been interested in the place; for whilst yet but years old we find him called the Founder of the Lady Chapel (on the site of the present Henry VII.'s Chapel), and the stone of which he laid on Whitsun Eve, , in the abbacy of Humez. years afterwards Henry commenced more extensive works; he pulled down, according to Matthew Paris, the east end, the tower, and the transept, in order that they might be rebuilt in a more magnificent


style. The lightness, beauty, and variety, as well as the grandeur, of pointed architecture, recently introduced, was now to be exchanged for the comparatively cumbrous and simple impressiveness of the Anglo-Norman edifice. Crokesley, at an Archdeacon only, was made of the Treasurers, and, probably from his zeal in the prosecution of the King's object, Abbot, on the death of Berking, in . During his abbacy great progress was made. The King, among other benefactions, gave, in , due from the widow of David of Oxford, a Jew; and in the Barons of were directed to pay annually . Rich ornaments also were made by his own goldsmith for the use of the Church. In the year of his reign he directed Fitz Odo to make a

dragon, in manner of a standard or ensign of red samit, to be embroidered with gold, and his tongue to appear as continually moving, and his eyes of sapphires, or other stones agreeable to him, to be placed in the Church against the King's coming thither.

years later the Keeper of is ordered to

buy as precious a mitre as could be found in the City of London for the Abbot of Westminster's use; and also


great crown of silver to set wax candles upon in the said Church.

In addition to his own direct assistance, and the assistance of his nobles, impelled by his example, the King, no doubt at the suggestion of the Monastery, adopted a curious mode of stimulating the popular excitement on the subject, and we should suppose with the most satisfactory results. In , on St. Edward's Day, he set out with his nobles in splendid procession towards , where he received the precious relique which had been sent for him from Jerusalem by the Masters of the Temple and the Hospitallers, and which he munificently designed to deposit in the Abbey of : this was no less than a portion of the blood which issued from Christ's wounds at the Crucifixion. It was deposited in a crystalline lens, which Henry himself bore under a canopy, supported with staves, through the streets of London, from to the Abbey. His arms were supported by .nobles all the way. Holinshed says, that to

describe the whole course and order of the procession and feast kept that day would require a special treatise; but this is not to be forgotten, that the same day the Bishop of Norwich preached before the King in commendation of that relic, pronouncing


years and

one hundred and sixteen

days of pardon granted by the bishops there to all that came to reverence it.

We need hardly add that those who did come were seldom empty-handed. To give still greater distinction to the ceremony, Henry, the same day, knighted his half-brother, William de Valence, and

divers other young bachelors.

This was mode, and, if he had-:faith in the essentials of the act performed, it was as cheap and efficacious as it was unobjectionable. But we cannot say so of his next act of beneficence to the Abbey. In he granted, evidently with the same object, a fair of a very extraordinary kind to the Abbot, to be held at Tut or Tot Hill, at St. Edward's tide, when all other fairs were ordered to be closed, and not only them but all the shops of London, during the several days of its continuance. The object was to draw the entire trade of London to the spot for the time; and although the citizens and merchants were much inconvenienced, the fair succeeded so well as to be repeated in ;

which thing, by reason of the foul weather chancing at that time, was very grievous unto them (the citizens); albeit there was such

repair of people thither, that London had not been fuller to the judgment of old ancient men never at any time in their days to their remembrance.

By all these different methods, a sum of nearly -an enormous sum, if reckoned its present value--was raised, and applied to the rebuilding of the Abbey, in about years: when it was still unfinished.

The quarrels between Abbot Crokesley and the King during the latter part of the abbacy probably retarded the progress of the work. Crokesley appears to have lost Henry's favour through a somewhat paltry act, the endeavouring to set aside an agreement made by the late Abbot to enlarge the allowance of the monks. In the course of the dispute Crokesley threatened to appeal to the Pope, whilst Henry, on his part, declared the goods of the convent to be separate from those of the Abbot, and actually caused proclamation to be made that no person should lend the Abbot money, nor take his note or seal for security. They gradually, however, became again friendly, and, in , Crokesley set an example to the other religious houses of England, which, by the bye, they declined following, of assisting Henry in his struggles with De Montfort and the barons by entering into an obligation for . Crokesley died in , and was succeeded by Philip de Lewesham, a man of such gross and corpulent body that he declined the abbacy rather than go to Rome, as usual, for confirmation, till the monks promised to send a deputation to get him excused. The deputation was sent, was successful, and returned to find the object of its labours dead. He was succeeded by Ware, who brought from Rome the materials of the beautiful mosaic pavement which lies before the altar in the choir of the Abbey. During his abbacy Henry was constrained to seek a peculiar kind of assistance from the edifice he had so enriched. years after the battle of Evesham, when the Earl of Gloucester seemed inclined to play by himself the game which he had helped to spoil in De Montfort's hands, the King borrowed the shrines and other jewels and relics of the Abbey, and pledged them to certain merchants. It was a dangerous act. But the King, who had so often broken faith in political matters, even when the Church had strengthened the engagement by the performance of the most solemn and awful rites, kept faith with the Church itself, and honestly redeemed and replaced the treasure.

It may be useful to see with precision how far the Abbey had now advanced, which we may easily do by an examination of the building. It will then appear that Henry erected the chapel of the Confessor, which forms the rounded end of the choir, and is properly the apsis of the building, the chapels in the ambulatory which encompasses the latter, the choir to a spot near Newton's monument, the transepts, and probably the Chapter-house. In the reign of Edward I. a portion of the nave was completed. Edward was too busy with his Welsh and Scottish wars, we suppose, to accomplish more, though he exhibited his favour to the Abbey in a marked manner by bringing hither the most precious spoils of his warfare. In , during the abbacy of Wenlock, he gave a large piece of our Saviour's cross which he had met with in Wales; and in , or in as Stow has it, he offered at St. Edward's shrine the chair, containing the famous stone, sceptre, and crown of gold, of the Scottish sovereigns, which he had brought from the Abbey of Scone. In this reign events disturbed the even tenor of the monastic life: a fire, which destroyed some of the domestic buildings,


in , and the robbery of the King's treasure deposited in the cloisters in the care of the convent in , when the Abbot and monks were sent to the Tower, where some of them were kept for years. In Simon Langham was elected Abbot--a man who must not be passed without brief mention. Raised by merit alone from a mean station, he enjoyed the highest honours of the States well as of the Church; in connection with the having held the offices of Lord Treasurer and Lord Chancellor, and with the other those of Prior and Abbot of , Bishop of London, and lastly Archbishop of Canterbury. He it was who, when Wickliff was made head of Canterbury Hall in Oxford, removed him, that the institution might be made a college of monks, and thus, it is supposed, gave the energy of personal feeling to the great Church Reformer's inquiries into religious abuses. Langham was an excellent Abbot, for he paid debts contracted by his predecessors to the amount of from his own purse, and in other ways so contributed to the wants and revenues of the convent, that the entire amount of his benefactions was estimated at or Part of this, we presume, was expended in carrying forward the building of the Abbey, which, in the time of his successor Litlington, received large additions; as the famous Jerusalem Chamber, the Hall of the Abbey (where now dine the boys of the School), and the Abbot's house; whilst the south and


the west sides of the great cloister were finished. The riches of the interior were also increased by this Abbot, who added many ornaments of plate and furniture. Litlington's abbacy, however, is chiefly memorable for an incident that occurred in it of no ordinary interest connected with the privilege of sanctuary,[n.75.1]  which is supposed to have been granted by Edward the Confessor, in of whose disputed charters the grant is found. The story is of those romances of history which fortunately has not yet been disputed, partly[ perhaps from the careless way in which later writers (Pennant for instance) have mentioned it, omitting the most interesting features.

At the battle of Najara, during the campaign of the Black Prince in Spain, of Sir John Chandos's squires, Frank de Haule and John Schakell, had the good fortune to take prisoner a Spanish nobleman of distinction, the

Count of Denia,

who, according to the custom of the time, was awarded to them as their rightful prize by Sir John Chandos and the Prince himself. They took the Count to England, who, whilst there, being greatly desirous to return to Spain in order to collect the ransom-money demanded, was allowed to do so on his placing his eldest son in their hands. Either the Count forgot his son or was unable to raise the money, for years passed without news of him, and then he was dead, About this period the Duke of Lancaster was promoting, by all the means in his power, his claim to the throne of Castile, and, knowing these squires held prisoner the Count's son, now the Count, induced the King, Richard II., and his council, to demand him from them; expecting, no doubt, to make important use of him in the advancement of his objects. The squires refused to give him up unless the ransom to which they were justly entitled was paid; and, as the prisoner could not be found, Haule and Schakell were committed to the Tower. From thence they escaped and took sanctuary at . Determined not to be baffled, John of Gaunt ordered the Constable of the Tower, Sir Alan Boxhull, and Sir Ralph Ferrers, to pursue them with a band of armed men even into the sacred enclosure. At they endeavoured to get them into their power by fair promises, and, with regard to Schakell,

used the matter so with him that they drew him forth

and sent him once more to his prison. Haule, however, refused to listen, and would not allow them to come within reach. They then prepared for force, when the brave but devoted squire drew a short sword from his side and kept his enemies at bay, with great address and spirit, even whilst they drove him twice round the choir. At last they got round him, and of the assailants clove his head by a tremendous blow from behind, when the completion of the murder was easy. At the same time they slew of the monks who interfered. All this took place in the midst of the performance of high mass. The prisoner, however, was still concealed in spite of all the efforts made to discover the place of his confinement; and partly, perhaps, from that circumstance, and partly from the odium attached to the affair by the violation of sanctuary, the Court eventually agreed to pay Schakell, for his prisoner's ransom, in ready money and annually for his life. We give the conclusion in the words of Holinshed:

This is to be noted as very strange and wonderful, that when he should bring forth his prisoner, and deliver him to the King, it was known to be the

very groom that had served him all the time of his trouble

as an hired servant,

in prison and out of prison, and in danger of life when his other master was murdered. Whereas, if he would have uttered himself, he might have been entertained in such honourable state as for a prisoner of his degree had been requisite; so that the faithful love and assured constancy in this noble gentleman was highly commended and praised, and no less marvelled at of all men.

The church was closed for months in consequence of this profanation, and the subject brought by Litlington before Parliament, which granted a new confirmation of its privilege. Boxhull and Ferrers had to pay each a fine.

We have dwelt somewhat upon the early history of the Abbey, not only because it is the portion the most interesting, but more particularly on account of that harmonious connexion before alluded to which exists between it and the structure. Look at the cathedrals of England, and at the simplicity and comparative inefficiency of the mechanical aids at the disposal of their builders, and then, on the other hand, at our best modern churches, erected under circumstances admitting of every conceivable mechanical advantage; what is the meaning of the melancholy contrast presented? The answer will be found in our previous pages. It is not that we are poorer, or that we want apprehension of architectural grandeur, least of all that our faith is less pure than that of our forefathers; it is that we have less faith in our faith: we are, it must be confessed, more worldly. The miracles, and relics, and processions, and offerings, and privileges, that form so considerable a portion of the early records of , are no doubt absurd enough to the eye of reason; but it were still more foolish to think of them as evidences of the credulity only of our ancestors. When the artisan came and offered his day's labour once or twice in every week without remuneration, and his wife parted gladly with her solitary trinket; when the farmer gave his corn and the merchant his rich stuffs; when the noble felled his ancestral oaks, and the King decimated his possessions; when, in short, persons of all classes aided, each in the best way he could, the establishment of the new abbey or minster, and bishops might be seen in the position of the hewers of wood and drawers of water-circumstances all of more or less frequent occurrence in the history of such houses,--was it the mere vague sense of wonder and profitless admiration of miracles, relics, and processions, which moved the universal heart?-or was it not the fervour and entire devotion of men's spirits unto God, of which credulity was then but a natural, indeed inevitable, accompaniment?- Religion in the middle ages was of

imagination all compact;

and, although such a state of things could not, ought not to be permanent, we are experiencing the truth of remark who overthrew it. As Luther propped us on the side, we have fallen on the other: when shall we obtain the true balance and elevation? We must now pursue more rapidly our narration.

Litlington was succeeded by Colchester, during whose abbacy, which extended through the reigns of Richard II., Henry IV., and Henry V., steady progress was kept up with the west end of the church, as also during the subsequent abbacies of Harweden, Estney, in whose time the roof of the nave and the great west window were completed, and Islip, in whose abbacy the works stopped, on the completion of Henry VII.'s Chapel (the history of which will be noticed elsewhere), although the main and west towers were still unbuilt. The latter Wren supplied in a manner that, to say the least of it, does not add to his reputation;


the former is wanting to this hour: its square base, just appearing above the body of the building at the intersection of the transepts, provoking an unsatisfactory inquiry. highly-interesting incidents mark the history of the Abbey during the rule of Estney and his predecessor, Milling. On the reverse--of Edward IV. in , his Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, took shelter in , where,

in great penury, forsaken of all her friends,

she gave birth to the unfortunate Edward V. Here, again, on her husband's final success, she received him in all the flush of victory, and presented the child for the time to his father's arms; and here, lastly, when Edward was dead, took place those melancholy scenes in which the Protector Gloucester endeavoured, and successfully at last, to induce her to give up her children to his care. On of these occasions More describes her as sitting

alow on the rushes

in her grief, to receive the embassy. The other incident to which we allude is the residence in some part of the Abbey-Stow says in the Chapel of , which was pulled down during the erection of Henry VII.'s building--of the great printer, Caxton, who established here the English printing-press during the time of Abbot Estney. In his we read as the place of its production

th' Abbey of Westmynstre.

He subsequently moved into the Almonry, that nest of vice, disease, and filth, still allowed to exist close to the chief place of national worship; and an interesting advertisement of his for the sale of some type

good cheap

is still preserved, dated from the

reed pale

there. Bagford says he also had a place in adjoining.

At the Reformation Benson was Abbot, a man who will be remembered for his remark to Sir T. More, if for nothing else. The great Chancellor was placed, for a short time, in his custody, when Benson endeavoured to turn him from his


purpose of preserving a pure conscience, by showing that he must be in error, since the Council of the realm had so determined. This little revelation of the Abbot's mind may explain the favour shown to the Abbey at the period so dangerous to all such institutions. The Abbey was changed into a Cathedral, with a Bishop, Dean, and Prebendaries, and a revenue of at least ,[n.78.1]  the old revenues amounting to according to authority, or according to another. Benson, the late Abbot, was made Dean, the Prior and other monks prebendaries, more brethren became minor canons, King's students in the universities, and the remainder were dismissed with pensions. Thirlby received the bishopric, which, however, he resigned in , when it was suppressed, and the Cathedral, the following year, was included within the diocese of London. [n.78.2]  We have not yet done with the settings--up and pullings-down of the old religion at Westminister. On Mary's accession the Abbey was restored, with Feckenham at its head, who set to work with great zeal in his new vocation. He repaired the shrine of the Confessor, provided a paschal candle, weighing , which was made with great solemnity in the presence of the master and warden of the Wax-chandlers' Company; he asserted the right of sanctuary, and made the processions as magnificent as ever. It was but for a brief period. Mary died, and Elizabeth restored in effect the Cathedral foundation of her father, with the exception of the bishopric. William Bill was the new Dean. Among his successors have been Lancelot Andrews; Williams, who took so active, and to the court unpalatable, a part in the great Revolution, during which time the Abbey was several times attacked by the mob, and considerable injury done; Atterbury, the literary friend of Pope, and who was so deeply implicated in the conspiracies against George I., and in consequence deprived of his dignities and banished; Pearce, Horsley, &c.

Having devoted the present number of our publication to what we may call the General History of the Abbey, we propose to devote others, immediately following, to the Coronations and the Burials of our Monarchs, and to the Tombs of our great men generally; in the course of which we shall have ample opportunities of noticing the chief internal features of the edifice, as well as the more remarkable events, not already mentioned, which have taken place within its walls, and which are more fitly deferred to such occasions. In the mean time let us take a short walk round the Abbey.

As we approach from , the exquisitely beautiful and most elaborately panelled and pinnacled architecture of the rounded end of Henry VII.'s Chapel meets the eye over the long line of ; into the burial-ground of which we step, in order to pass along the northern side of the Abbey. About the centre we pause to gaze on the blackened exterior of the front of the north transept,[n.78.3]  in which, however, many of the most delicate beauties of the sculpture, as well as all the bolder outlines of the tracery and the mouldings, are distinctly and happily marked by the light colour of the


projecting edges. Time was when this front had its

statues of the


Apostles at full length, with a vast number of other saints and martyrs, intermixed with intaglios, devices, and abundance of fretwork,

and when it was called for its extreme beauty

Solomon's Porch ;

and now, even injured as it is, the whole forms a rich and beautiful facade. The rose window, feet in diameter, was rebuilt in . Beyond the transept tie new appearance of a part of the exterior of the nave shows how extensive have been the reparations of recent years; and we may add the remainder shows how necessary it is to go on. As we pass round the corner towards the west front, can hardly resist the fancy that Wren, seeing how badly the Abbey needed its deficient towers, had taken a couple from some of his City churches, and placed them here. And who could for a moment mistake the ornaments of the clock for a part of a genuine Gothic structure? At the right-hand corner of the western front, half concealing the beautiful decorations of its lower part, is the plain-looking exterior of the Jerusalem Chamber, forming, with the Hall, Dean's house, &c., a square, partly resting against the nave on the southern side of the Abbey, partly projecting beyond it. Passing along the exterior of these buildings a gateway lids into the , a large quadrangle, where the modern houses contrast strangely with the ancient ones, lower portions with upper, large windows with green blinds and small rude ones scarce big enough to put 's head through,, painted wooden doorways and arches so old and decayed scarcely even ventures to guess how old they may be. From the we can again approach the Abbey, the doorway in the corner at the end of the pavement on our left opening into a vaulted passage leading directly to the cloisters. From the grassy area of the latter you obtain a view, and we believe the only , of the south transept, or rather of its upper portion Passing along the south cloister, where the wall on your right is also the wall of the ancient refectory, to which the doorway led, at the end you have on the right a low vaulted passage, which is considered a part of the Confessor's building, and where, in a small square called the Little Cloisters, stood the Chapel of St. Katherine, in which took place the scene between the Archbishops of York and Canterbury so dramatically described by Holinshed, and on the left the East Cloister, with the low and well-barred door leading into the chamber of the Pix, and the exquisitely beautiful but much-injured entrance to the Chapter-house. To this building, now used for the custody of records, and visited only by express permission from the Public Record Office, , we might devote more pages than we have words to spare: so sumptuous were its architecture and its decorations, and so interesting yet are the remains. , with its coloured tiles in heraldic and other devices, and the wall almost covered apparently with paintings, deserve even closer investigation than they have yet received. It is also rich in its curiosities; here is, perhaps, the most valuable ancient historical document possessed by any nation in the world, the Domesday Book, in such exquisite preservation, and its calligraphy so perfect, that it scarcely appears as many years old as it is centuries. The large gold seal appended to the treaty between Henry VIII. and Francis is not only interesting for its associations, but for its intrinsic merit. The sculptor was no less than Cellini. Passing through the Chapter-house, and turning round to


look at the exterior of the building we have quitted, the most melancholy-looking part of the Abbey is before us; and it is that which is necessarily the most seen, standing as it does against the entrance to Poets' Corner. The magnificent windows bricked and plastered up, or smaller ones being formed instead in the hideous walls which fill them, and the dilapidated, neglected aspect of the whole, are truly humiliating. And what a contrast to the visitor who has just passed Henry VII.'s Chapel! It is fortunate we can so soon forget it, and all other jarring associations: a few steps-and we are in the Abbey, and out of the world.


[n.70.1] Translation from Ailred of Riveaulx, in Neale's Westminster Abbey.

[n.70.2] Dart's Westmonasterium.

[n.71.1] Which subsequently entitled the abbots to sit in parliament.

[n.75.1] For an engraving of the Sanctuary Church, a separate building near the Abbey, see vol. iii. p. 9 of this work.

[n.78.1] Widmore's History of the Abbey: Strype says 804l.

[n.78.2] In the arrangements that now ensued, some portion of the property of the Abbey (St. Peter's) passed to St. Paul's: whence the popular remark-robbing Peter to pay Paul.

[n.78.3] See page 74.