The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 4

Allen, Thomas


The Chapel of St Edward the Confessor.


It extends to the western pillar, and is formed by the circular sweep of the east end of the choir.

This chapel is ascended by a flight of wooden steps. was at time of exquisite workmanship; but the constant tread of visitors, the depredations of idle persons; and, as a modern writer supposes also, the depredations of weak devotees, have almost worn away, in many places, the stone from the marbles inlaid upon them. Of the latter cause of ruin no fear need now be entertained; we live in more enlightened times, wherein devotees are neither so numerous nor so weak as formerly.

The ground-work of this fine pavement consists of large irregular dark stones, cut into circles, intersecting others, triangles within triangles, and many other geometrical figures, which are all filled with thousands of pieces in the above shapes, of the same valuable materials that compose the pavement about the altar.

In this chapel is the ancient shrine of St. Edward, once the glory of England; but now neglected, defaced, and much abused. A few hardly perceptible traces of its former splendour exist. Only of its spiral pillars remain, the western, and a capital at the east. The wooden Ionic top is much broken and covered with dust. The Mosaic is picked away in almost every part within reach. The inscription on the architrave is partly legible. Widmore attributes it


to abbot Feckenham. The words in italic are supplied from this writer.

On the south side:

Omnibvs Insignis: Virtutum: lavdibus: Heros: Sanctus: Eduar- dvs.

On the east end:--

Confessior Rex Venenandvs


quinto die


Or the north side :--

Jam Moriens 1065,Mr. Gough says 1063. Super: Aethera: Scandit. Sursum Corda. I. F.

The letters on this inscription are gradually becoming more indistinct, and some of them are discernible with the greatest difficulty.

This shrine was the production of Pietro Cavalini, who invented the Mosaic species of ornament. It is conjectured that abbot.Ware, when he visited Rome in the year , brought the artist to England back with him. Weaver says that

Ware brought with him certain workmen and rich porphiry stones, whereof he made that singular, curious, and rare pavement before the high altar; and with these stones and workmen he did also frame the shrine of Edward the Confessor.

This shrine was erected by Henry III. upon the canonization of Edward. This king was the last of the Saxon race; and was canonized by pope Alexander III, who, causing his name to be [inserted in the catalogue of saints, issued his bull to the abbot Lawrence, and the convent of , enjoining,

that his body be honoured here upon earth, as his soul is glorified in heaven.

He died in , and was canonized in .

Before this shrine, says Pennant, seem to have been offered the The Scotch regalia, and their sacred chair from Scone, were offered here; and Alphonso, son to Edward I. who died in his childhood, presented the golden coronet of the unfortunate Welch prince, the last Llewellyn.

legendary sculptures in alto relievo, relating to the history of the Confessor, appear upon the frieze of the chapel screen. It is divided into compartments, connected by a ribbon at the bottom, (on which was probably inscriptions alluding to the subjects above) and separated by trefoils formed by the folds of the said ribbon, every alternate containing a plain shield; in these compartments are the sculptures to be described; they are most accurately engraved by that most eminent antiquary Mr. Carter, and also more recently in Mr. Neale's splendid work.


These sculptures describe respectively

. The trial of queen Emma, mother of the Confessor,



. The birth of Edward the Confessor.

. The ceremony of his coronation, which was performed in the abbey on Easter day, .

. The legendary story of the abolition of , which is said to have been occasioned by the king having imagined that he saw the devil dancing on the money and rejoicing: and in consequence he gave orders that the sum collected for the tax should be restored to the former owners.

, The king's reproof of a thief who robbed the royal chamber.

. The miraculous appearance of to the king, as he partook of the sacrament in this church.

. Represents the vision of the drowning of the Danish king, who was preparing to invade England, which is said to have been seen by the Confessor at another reception of the sacrament in this church.

. The quarrel between the boys Tosti and Harold, sons of earl Godwin, from which the king predicted their future fate.

. The Confessor's vision of the sleepers.

. The well-known legend of St. John the Evangelist in the character of a pilgrim receiving a ring, as alms, from the Confessor.

. The miracle of the blind receiving their sight by using water in which the Confessor's hands had been washed.

. St. John delivering the ring to some English pilgrims to return to the Confessor, being a continuation of the story represented in No. .

. The pilgrims delivering the ring to the Confessor.

. The consecration of the abbey church after its completion by the Confessor.

The design of the lower part of the screen is extremely elegant; and the variety of delicate lace-work tracery which it exhibits, can hardly be parallelled. In its original and complete state, when its niches were filled with statues, and its rich gilding and colouring were perfect, it must have had an exceedingly beautiful appearance. The principal admeasurements are as follows: entire height of screen, feet inches; extreme length of entablature, feet inches. Width of do. feet inches. General length below, feet. Width of central compartment, feet inches. Breadth of doorway, feet inches; height of do, to the top of the pointed arch, feet inches. It is but justice to the parties who designed and executed the altar screen, to add, that it is a very excellent copy of this screen, it is only to be regretted that Bath stone was not used as the material.

On the south side of the shrine just described lies Editha, daughter of Goodwyn, earl of Kent, and queen of Edward the Confessor. She died at Winchester, kal. of .


[] Funeral Monuments, p. 485.

[] In Carter's Specimen of Ancient Sculpture and Painting, vol. i. p. 5.

[] Neale and Brayley, vol. ii.

[] Mr. Brayley says, The prelates and nobility swearing fealty to Edward the Confessor in his mother's womb.

This object is in collection Subject Temporal Permanent URL
Component ID:
To Cite:
TARC Citation Guide    EndNote
Detailed Rights
View all images in this book
 Title Page
CHAPTER I: Site, local divisions, and government of the City of Westminster; history of the Abbey; Coronation Ceremonies; and lists of the Abbots and Deans
CHAPTER II: Westminster Abbey, and Description of the Tombs and Monuments
CHAPTER III: History and Topography of St. Margaret's Parish
CHAPTER IV: History and Topography of St. John's Parish, Westminster
CHAPTER V: History and Topography of the parish of St. Martin's in the Fields, Westminster
CHAPTER VI: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. James, Westminster
CHAPTER VII: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Anne, Westminster
CHAPTER VIII: History and Topography of the parish of St. Paul, Covent Garden
CHAPTER IX: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Mary-le-strand
CHAPTER X: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. Clement Danes
CHAPTER XI: History and Topography of the parish of st. George, Hanover Square
CHAPTER XII: History and Topography of the Precinct of the Savoy
CHAPTER XIII: History and Topography of the Inns of Court
CHAPTER XIV: History and Topography of the Precincts of the Charter-house and Ely Place, and the Liberty of the Rolls
 CHAPTER XV: Historical Notices of the Borough of Southwark
CHAPTER XVI: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Olave, Southwark
CHAPTER XVII: History and Topography of the parish of St. John, Southwark
CHAPTER XVIII: History and Topography of the parish of St. Thomas, Southwark
CHAPTER XIX: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. George's, Southwark
CHAPTER XX: History and Topography of St. Saviour's Parish
CHAPTER XXI: History and Topography of the parist of Christ-church in the County of Surrey
 CHAPTER XXII: A List of the Principal Books, &c that have been published in Illustration of the Antiquities, History, Topography, and other subjects treated of in this Work
 Addenda et Corrigienda