Londina Illustrata. Graphic and Historical Memorials of Monasteries, Churches, Chapels, Schools, Charitable Foundations, Palaces, Halls, Courts, Processions, Places of Early Amusement, and Modern Present Theatres, in the Cities and Suburbs of London and Westminster, Volume 1
Oratory Under the Antient Mansion, or Inn, of the Priors of Lewes in Sussex.
Oratory Under the Antient Mansion, or Inn, of the Priors of Lewes in Sussex.
This antient specimen of ecclesiastical architecture is situate opposite to , , , close adjoining Churchyard Alley, leading to Queen Elizabeth's Free ; on which site formerly stood a spacious stone building, the city residence of the Priors of Lewes in Sussex, whenever occasion led them to visit London or its vicinity, on parliamentary or ecclesiastical duty. The Priory of Lewes was founded by William de Warren, Earl of Surrey, and his wife Gundreda, in respect to Hugh Sanza, a religious of the Cluniac order of monks, and dedicated to the honour of St. Peter, and named . The Earl founded the Priory for the benefit of the souls of himself and his wife, Queen Matilda, and King William I.; who, after his coming into England, had given him this and other lands, and made him Earl of Surrey. The Earl bestowed many possessions on his foundation of the Priory; particularly in the counties of Sussex, Norfolk, York, Essex, &c.; and probably the inn or residence in Surrey, made part of the grant from his own lands. The necessity of having a mansion or palace near the parliament, appears by an exchange transacted in the year , between Gilbert Glanville, Bishop of Rochester, and Hubert Walter, Archbishop of Canterbury, to whom he resigned , reserving only out of the exchange a small piece of land, on which he built a house called , for the reception of the Bishops of Rochester, whenever they came to attend parliament.[*] Strype, in his edition of Stowe, vol. ii. p. , edit. , noticing parish church, says,
In Maitland's time it became converted into a cyder-cellar, and is described as follows:
There are entrances to this Oratory (or Crypt) in White Horse Court, reading from to House, formerly the King's Head Tavern, and prior to that the sign of the Walnut-tree. In entering by the northern entrance (marked A in the plan) it is feet inches long by feet wide, which leads to a large semicircular arched vault, feet inches long by feet wide: on side is a well, feet inches by foot, from which water is at present conveyed to the houses above; towards the further end is a door-way, feet by feet inches, leading to another semicircular vaulted arch feet long by feet inches wide; from this you are led into a passage feet by feet, which leads to the principal apartment of this antient building, the whole length of which is feet inches by feet inches in width: at the further end are windows, feet inches wide each, and on side there are likewise more of the same dimensions, and a passage feet wide, which leads to another apartment, but is blocked up with stone and bricks. This antient apartment consists of groined arches, supported on curious columns (see the view) feet inches in diameter. From this you enter into another vault of various dimensions, but the length is feet inches: part of this vault is arched, as the former, and part groined, over which the stairs leading to Queen Elizabeth's School are erected. On entering the southern entrance (marked B in the plan) you descend by a gradual slope into the semicircular apartment, already described: the present flooring is of earth and brick rubbish, which have accumulated from time to time, so as to bury the pillars (that appear in the view) to within a short space of the surface, which was lately proved by digging, on a prospect of converting the Crypt into a cœmetery for the use of the parish. The height of the roof is unequal, from the partial rising of the ground, but is in general from to feet. The principal apartment terminates at the windows (which appear in the view), now completely blocked up by brickwork towards the churchyard, no vestiges of which outwardly appear. The junction of the aisles is shown in the view, which has been taken in a way to exhibit the appearance it formerly made, although the raising of the ground has
|brought it to within feet of the frame-work of the windows. The present occupant is Mr. Hewitson, a painter and glazier, and the Oratory is now to let as store-cellars, or for any other purpose. The principal apartments of House are now converted into billiard-rooms.|
It is certain that the Earls of Warren and Surrey had very considerable possessions in this parish, and that the living itself was under their cognizance; for in Stow's Survey of London, edit. , p. , it is thus noticed, from an old record:
Having thus far established the structure described as part of the mansion of the Priors of Lewes, we will trace out for what purpose the portion under consideration was appropriated. It has been denominated in Manning's History of Surrey a , and by others an
To inform ourselves with any degree of certainty with respect to the foundation of structures for Divine service by the Christians of the early ages, would take up more than the prescribed limits of this work will allow: yet to be scanty in furnishing a proper and necessary illustration would be equally exceptionable.
It is evident that Christianity was planted and propagated in the world in humility, and growing as it were from a state of infancy; at the primitive Christians were necessitated to assemble themselves, not in the most convenient, but the safest places, to avoid the malice of the Jews, and the persecutions of the Gentiles, and to congregate themselves, for more safety, in subterraneous caves and vaults, the remains of which are still to be traced in the Catacombs at Rome, which were places of large extent under ground, wherein the primitive Christians used to assemble, not only to pray and preach, to receive the sacraments, but to bury the bodies of their martyrs and confessors, and also oftentimes to hold their councils. Yet these were, from mere circumstances, of the utmost necessity; for the Christian converts, both Jews and Gentiles, though they rejected idolatrous and superstitious pomp, deposited their departed friends in places distant from towns in cœmeteries (); because the laws were still in force against burying in towns, and because they were under persecution, both by Jews and Pagans.
Thus, when, by reason of the meanness of their places of worship, the Christians of those times were upbraided by their adversaries,
they with cheerful ingenuousness replied,
But though this might be a leading principle among the Christians, they did not think it necessary strictly to adhere to it: and that because the universe and a Christian's soul might be said to be God's temple, it were needless to have any other. Therefore, at the dawn of liberty of conscience, they countenanced, and then gave their assistance in building and dedicating churches and oratories; but with great caution and difficulty in those hazardous times, because, as Eusebius, in his Ecclesiastical History, informs us,
So that the places of Christian religious worship were only some convenient apartments within the dwellings of pious disciples, dedicated by the bounty of the owners to the service of the church; these chambers were called Cœnaculi, as being most quiet and safe.
But the more immediate object of our present information is an account of CRYPTS.
The word Crypt is derived from the Greek , a hollow place under ground, whence is derived the German word or , a corruption of Crypta. Hence it is that among ecclesiastical writers the word Crypta is to be met with, to signify a church under ground; and our cathedrals, in imitation, or as a memorial, have them yet under their choirs; whence the term of this kind was the church of St. Faith, formerly under the cathedral of St. Paul, London. But as Crypts were appropriated to several purposes, we shall endeavour to illustrate the various intentions of the devotees in their construction of these primæval edifices.
When the Christians became numerous, they had separate places from the Gentiles, not only for places of devotion, but also for depositories of their dead. To avoid as much as possible the insults of their enemies, they contrived vast subterraneous vaults, with various winding paths: in the sides of these vaults were niches, in which the coffins of the deceased were placed. St. Jerome has given a geographical description of them:
It appears that the Emperor Constantine the Great was the who was buried near a church; and though it could not be permitted for him to be buried the church, as a thing unheard of; yet he was resolved to lie as near the church as possible, and therefore was buried in the great church which he had erected in Constantinople. And St Chrysostom, with vast prelatical pride, insults the memory of the Emperor when he says that
|For that the Apostles in their deaths were more honourable than all the princes of the earth, because even at Rome, the royal city, emperors, consuls, and generals shewed their respect, and paid their veneration at the sepulchres of fishermen and tent-makers; and at Constantinople it was thought honour sufficient for an Emperor to be buried, not in the place where the apostles lay, but in the porch of the temples built to their names and honour.|
The clergy ventured step further, and would lie within the walls of that church, when dead, in which they had officiated when living. The bishops, priests, and monks pretended a right to the churches superior to that of princes, chose the principal places for themselves, and excluded all others from being buried there: they kept the power of dispensing such favour in their own hands, and soon made their claim a law; for the canon law says, that
Thus was the most solemn of all rites made subservient to the dictates of pride and ambition. But another and an equally mischievous cause of burying in churches arose from superstition and error; and though our respect for the memory of Pope Gregory the Great is indeed very high, yet we cannot but feel aversion to his conduct, when, in the year , he brought into the churches, and set up in the most solemn manner, relics enshrined in gold, sometimes upon, over, but generally under the altar, which made the survivors flock to bury their dead there in hopes that both might receive benefit from their emanation.
Lucre now came in for a share of the profits of the rights of sepulture;
But instead of the Christian religion benefiting and enlightening mankind, as was its primary intention, the minds of the selfish, aided by power, induced the most absurd and shameful practices; for the Council of Nice decreed,
They did not stop here; for that Council further decreed,
Such a profane doctrine, in process of time, introduced innumerable superstitious follies into the church, and opened the way for infinite frauds and impostures, such as the blessed saints themselves, had they been on the earth, must have held in the utmost detestation and abhorrence.
During the reign of Charlemagne, the monks, in , to acquire wealth, ran up and down with the bones and other relics of the saints; and, under the pretence of this kind of zeal, used every indirect mode to enrich themselves, insomuch that the Emperor took such umbrage at their conduct, that he forbade their iniquitous proceedings to obtain their object, which was, to get the burial of the dead within their cloisters, that they might benefit by the oblations. This gave rise in the middle ages, both in England and other parts of Europe, to mortuaries, oblations, gifts, , and , all which at were voluntary, but afterwards enforced; for, by a decree of Simon Mepham, Archbishop of Canterbury, in the year , and in the year of the reign of Edward III., it was declared,
And what heavy burdens the clergy in England exacted for oblations, mortuaries, &c., even to the impoverishing of their votaries, is amply detailed in most of our ecclesiastical histories.
Burial in churches in England did not take place till Cuthred, King of the West Saxons, introduced that mode in the century, previously to which inhumation was performed in the open fields.
The privilege of having churchyards for interment, was procured from the Pope, by Cuthbert, the Archbishop of Canterbury from St. Austin, in the year . And Dr. Inett acknowledges,
Even so late as the year , in the reign of William the Conqueror, the Council held at Winchester, under Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury,
But when corruption of principle, superstitious extravagance, and the vilest fraud, tyrannized over the minds of the weak and unwary, under the mask of purity of manners, and an innocent susceptibility to deception, the grossest iniquity prevailed, the most scandalous profanation ensued, the poor devotees were instructed to believe the most palpable inconsistencies, and the doubting such inconsistencies and absurd dogmas, maintained by arbitrary dictators, was rendered liable to the severest persecution; and religion did not resume its due influence till the fires in Smithfield, and in other places of England, so far purified the reason of the inhabitants of this country, that the results have been in the highest degree beneficial.
No places for Divine worship in London, or throughout England, during the period of this lamentable superstition were without their Cemeteries, Crypts, Sepulchral Lamps, and other dregs of profanation; so that what was originally
|considered idolatrous, came, through the corruption of future times, to be considered as the only mediums to obtain eternal happiness! Farmer, in his History of Waltham Abbey, recounts no less than a hogshead of nails in England, all most solemnly affirmed to be the true nails which fastened the Redeemer to the cross!|
Another use to which these Crypts were appropriated, was that of or
According to the civil and canon law, no man could build a church or oratory without the leave of the bishop, not before he consecrated the place by prayer, by setting up the cross, and making processions, and also, that before the constructor built it, the necessary maintenance should be allotted for it, and for those who performed Divine offices. No sanctuary was allowed to the place till the bishop had hallowed it, nor that it should be hallowed, within years, by the bishop.
Thus, according to Burn's Ecclesiastical Law,
Degge, p. i. c. .
According to the decrees of Archbishop , chapels are thus noticed:
A certain portion of antient churches was called the , which was the nether part set apart for the purpose of instructing children, and thence called the parvis, , from the young boys who were there instructed; which illustrates the following passage in Matthew Paris:
continues the passage,
Having thus endeavoured to ascertain the uses to which the structure we have described might be put, it only remains to add, that, agreeably to the mode of its architecture, it seems to have been built about the century, and probably by of the Earls of Warren and Surrey, as part of a benefaction to the Priory of Lewes; and its dimensions, as above, were thus taken from an exact measurement.
[*] There had been antiently a palace in Southwark (probably that in Bermondsey), wherein Henry II. resided, and held his first parliament, Christmas, 1154, which was afterwards occupied by the De la Poles, Marquisses and Dukes of Suffolk. Margaret de la Pole, it appears by her will, bequeathed her body to be laid in the monastery of St. Saviour, Bermondsey, in the chapel called the Virgin's Chapel.