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

Allen, Thomas


King Sebert's Monument.



On the opposite side of the aisle is the tomb of Sebert, king of the East Saxons, and Ethelgeda, his queen. Over the lower part is a plain arch or recess; the back contains arched pannels, quatrefoils, with roses in their centres, and lozenges over them. At the west end has been a painting, part of which is entirely destroyed; but the despoilers have left a head of much grace and expression bending forward, probably St. Catherine kneeling before the Virgin and Christ, as there is at present (but the thick paint is chipping off, and that which yet remains is loose to the touch,)a representation of the wheel called after that saint on the opposite side of the tomb. The colours of the face of the saint are very clear and good, the hair a light chesnut, a cap on her head is vermillion, and in perfect preservation; the drapery is of white, and little mote than outlines. On the roof of the arch some colour seems to have been blistered off by the heat of burning candles, or torches placed under it at funerals. The horizontal moulding of the top of the stone-work is continued beyond the recess to the pillars, and supports an oaken canopy of compartments, having quatrefoils on their pointed summits, which fill the intercolumniation. The back part of this, or south side, is divided by buttresses, into compartments; the from the left hand contains fragments in distemper of St. Edward the Confessor, so broken, tattered, and destroyed, that nothing but a ladder and perseverance can trace any thing of it; the others are for ever lost. On the north side facing the altar, are other paintings, engraven many years since by the Society of Antiquaries. These pictures are


supposed to have been the work of Pietro Cavalini, an Italian artist of great merit.

The height of the enclosure is feet, inches, to the top of the finials; and each compartment is about feet inches wide, being separated from each other by small buttresses. They were originally adorned with a full-length figure in each, painted in oil colours on a ground of plaister, as ancient an example of the art as is to be found in the kingdom, being undoubtedly of.the period of Henry III. or of Edward I. The small pillars, from which the arches of the several compartments take their spring, were white diapered with black in various patterns, while the capitals and bases were gilt; but have been all painted black in the recent alteration.

The compartment has been supposed to exhibit king Sebert. It must be observed,

says Mr. Moule,

Antiquities in Westminster Abbey, folio.

that this is merely presumed to be the representation of Sebert, to whom historians agree in attributing the foundation of a church at . There is certainly no objection to be urged as to the identity of the portrait, and it may reasonably be supposed that he would be honoured with the stall nearest the altar.

This figure is the most perfect of the series, and merits particular attention from the fine state of preservation in which it remains. A venerable personage is represented, bearing in his right hand a sceptre of ancient form, terminating in a pinnacled turret, with his left hand raised in a commanding manner; his head is crowned with a diadem ornamented with strawberry leaves painted on a gold ground; and his beard, of silvery whiteness, is long and curled, with mustachios; his tunic is rose-coloured, worked on the borders and bottom with white and red; his hose are purple, and his shoes of blue damask, buckle over the instep with a small gold buckle; the ground upon which the figure is painted is a reddish brown, and he is represented standing on a lawn or carpet studded with flowers, &c.; the white gloves on his hands are unadorned with embroidery, and his crown and sceptre, whatever may have been their original appearance, are now of a darkish brown colour.

The next pannel or division of the screen exhibited only a small portion of a painting which was formerly concealed, the greater part of it having been purposely planed off, and it is now entirely obliterated, having been painted over a wainscot colour, at the late repairs.

The figure appeared to have been that of an ecclesiastic; and it may be supposed that the screen or enclosure contained figures of a king and bishop (or saint) in alternate succession. This series, it may without presumption be assumed, was continued round the whole choir. The sacerdotal robe was represented of pure white, edged with lace and rich fringe, the colours of which were green, white, and red; the ends of the stole were seen, as well as the


bottom of the under garment, or alb, which reached down to the feet, ornamented with a diapered hem, in squares and lozenges, very curiously worked with a mosaic pattern, in which green, red, blue, and white, were alternately introduced. The lower part, and point of the crozier was also seen; the buskins were purple, but quite plain; at least no ornament could be discerned upon them. The ground of the picture had been a dark brown, and the figure was represented standing on a lawn, or carpet of green, with small sprigs.

The compartment is, without hesitation, considered to represent Henry III.

This portrait, upon comparison, is found greatly to resemble the features of the cumbent figure of the monarch upon his tomb in this church. It is painted upon a dark brown ground, which is semee of golden lions, passant guardant, in allusion to the charge, in the royal arms of the kings of England, of the house of Plantagenet, a very early instance of heraldic decoration.

The figure of the king is well drawn, and the folds of the drapery are particularly easy and gentle, but very indistinct at the lower extremity; his countenance is mild and expressive; the figure is in action, and evidently commanding attention to the passing scene. He is represented crowned, and in regal robes; the mantle of a murrey colour, is lined with white fur, and guarded with broad lace, and is fastened on the right shoulder by a fibula of a lozenge form. His tunic, which is scarlet, is bound round the waist by a girdle of very rich workmanship, fastened with a gold buckle; his gloves also are ornamented on the back of the hand and the bottom of the little finger, with embroidery; the monarch bears in his right hand a sceptre of ivory, terminating in a rich finial of gold.

From the other pannel the figure is obliterated, the paint having been entirely scraped off the surface by a plane or some such instrument. The pictures that have been suffered to remain are highly curious and interesting, as ancient examples of painting in oil applied to pictures.

Not the least interesting part of this venerable abbey is the

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 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