Tales of English Minsters: St. Paul's by Grierson, Elizabeth W. (Elizabeth Wilson)
[Illustration: ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL.
FROM LUDGATE HILL.]
TALES OF ENGLISH MINSTERS
BY ELIZABETH GRIERSON
AUTHOR OF “THE CHILDREN’S BOOK OF EDINBURGH,” “CHILDREN’S TALES FROM SCOTTISH BALLADS,” ETC.
WITH TWO FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR AND FOUR IN BLACK AND WHITE
LONDON ADAM AND CHARLES BLACK 1910
TALES OF ENGLISH MINSTERS SERIES
EACH CONTAINING TWO FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR AND FOUR IN BLACK AND WHITE
DURHAM LINCOLN ST. ALBANS YORK ELY ST. PAUL’S CANTERBURY
PUBLISHED BY A. AND C. BLACK. SOHO SQUARE. LONDON
AMERICA THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 64 & 66 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK
AUSTRALASIA OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS 205 FLINDERS LANE, MELBOURNE
CANADA THE MACMILLAN COMPANY OF CANADA, LTD. ST. MARTIN’S HOUSE, 70 BOND STREET, TORONTO
INDIA MACMILLAN & COMPANY, LTD. MACMILLAN BUILDING, BOMBAY 309 BOW BAZAAR STREET, CALCUTTA
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL FROM LUDGATE HILL _Frontispiece_
SIGNING MAGNA CHARTA 8
IN BLACK AND WHITE
PREACHING AT PAUL’S CROSS 17
SIR CHRISTOPHER WREN 24
NELSON’S MONUMENT 40
THE NAVE 48
ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL
‘The Church of the Citizens.’
I am sure that there is no one who goes to London for the first time, no matter how hurried he may be, who does not try to visit at least three places--the Tower, Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Of these three places, two are churches; but they are churches that are so connected with the history of our nation that they almost seem to stand at the heart of the Empire.
Their stories are linked together in a curious way, and yet they are quite distinct. As someone has said, ‘Westminster Abbey was ever the Church of the King and Government; St. Paul’s was the Church of the Citizens.’
When we come to study the history of Cathedrals, we find the way in which they came to be built is pretty much the same in most cases. A little church was raised to the glory of God, and a monastery was founded beside it, which became the home of a community of monks or nuns, ruled over by an Abbot or Abbess; and the church was known as the Abbey Church.
Then by-and-by, sometimes not till quite late, as at St. Albans, a ‘Bishop’s Stool’ was placed there, and the Abbey became a Cathedral.
But in the case of St. Paul’s Cathedral it is quite different. It was built for a Cathedral from the first. Its builder, instead of adding a monastery to it, as was usually done, built a monastery having its own Abbey on a little Island which stood in some marshy ground on the banks of the Thames, about a mile away.
This Island was called ‘Thorney Island,’ and the Abbey Church was dedicated to St. Peter, but soon it began to be spoken of as the ‘West Minster,’ or Westminster Abbey, by which name we know it to-day.
This was how it all came about. In the time of the early Britons there were Christian churches scattered up and down the land, and it is almost certain, from stones that were dug up when the foundations of the present Cathedral of St. Paul were being laid, that in those far bygone days a little church stood on the Hill of Ludgate, in the centre of Roman London. But, as you know, the Roman legions were recalled to Rome in A.D. 410 to help the soldiers there to drive back the vast hoards of Goths and barbarians who were pouring down from the north-west upon Italy; and when they were withdrawn from Britain, there were not enough fighting-men left to protect her shores from the next enemies who threatened her.
These were the Jutes, the Angles, and the Saxons, fierce and heathen warriors who came from Jutland and from Germany, and landed on our coasts.
They conquered the British, and rapidly forced their way inland, ravaging and pillaging wherever they went; and in the confusion and misery that followed, Christianity was completely swept away for a time, to come again with St. Augustine and St. Columba some two hundred years later. You know too, perhaps, that when St. Augustine came to Canterbury and began to preach the Gospel there, the King of Kent, Ethelbert by name, soon became a Christian. This King Ethelbert was a very powerful monarch, and he was Overlord of the King of the East Saxons, who chanced to be his nephew, and who lived in what we now call Essex. Now, while St. Augustine preached to the men of Kent, a friend of his, named Milletus, preached to the East Saxons. And when at last their King became a Christian, his uncle Ethelbert suggested that, as Kent had its Bishop of Canterbury, with his Cathedral Church, it would be a good thing for the Kingdom of the East Saxons to have a Bishop of its own who would have his Cathedral Church also.
So, as London was the Capital of the East Saxons, he proposed to help King Siebert to build a church there; and Augustine, only too glad to find that the Faith was spreading, said that Milletus should be its first Bishop.
It was in this way that the first Cathedral of St. Paul was built, and, as we have seen, Siebert also founded the church and monastery of Westminster.
[Illustration: KING JOHN SIGNING MAGNA CHARTA. PAGE 18.
AFTER THE PAINTING BY ERNEST NORMAND IN THE ROYAL EXCHANGE, LONDON
_By permission of the artist._]
Now, although their King had been baptized, and had built two churches in their midst, the people of London did not want to become Christians; they were pagans, and were quite content to worship Thor and Odin, the gods of the tribes of the North. So for a long time the good Bishop Milletus preached to them in vain; and far away in Rome, Pope Gregory, who had hoped that the new Cathedral in London would become what we call the ‘Metropolitan Church’ of England--that is, the church where the Archbishop has his throne--was sadly disappointed, and had to become accustomed to the idea of Canterbury, which was a far less important place than London, having that honour.
Indeed, for a time it seemed as though, in spite of Church and Bishops, the new religion would be driven out. Ethelbert died, and so did his nephew Siebert, and the Kings who succeeded them either went back altogether to their pagan worship, or tried, as an East Anglian King did, to worship Thor and Odin and Christ all at the same time. I will tell you just one story about those troubled days, and it will show you what a terrible struggle went on between Paganism and Christianity, and how much we owe to these brave men, priests, and Abbots, and Bishops, whose names are almost unknown to us, on whom rested the responsibility of maintaining the Faith in England, and of whom, to their honour be it said, hardly one failed.
One day Bishop Milletus was administering the Holy Communion in his church to the little congregation of Christians who still remained true to what he had taught them. It is probable that the altar stood then just where the high-altar in St. Paul’s stands to-day. Only the church would be much smaller and plainer, and the door would be locked to prevent unbelieving pagans entering and disturbing the service by irreverent jeering and laughter. Suddenly a loud knocking was heard, then the crash of falling wood. The young King and his friends had chanced to be passing, and, in a moment of heedless excitement, had determined to visit the Christian’s church, and see what amusement they could get there. Angry at finding the door locked against them, they had broken it down without further delay. Up the aisle strode the King, followed by his mocking companions, to where the old Bishop was engaged in distributing the consecrated Bread to the kneeling communicants. In those days white bread was a rarity, most of it being dark-coloured and unwholesome; and this white bread that was used for the Holy Communion was the whitest and purest of all; for, in order that it should be so, pious people, even the clergy themselves, used to grind the meal carefully with their own hands, and bake it into loaves, and bring it to the church as their offering.
‘Give me some of that white bread,’ cried the young King, stretching out his hand. ‘You gave it to my father Siebert; give it also to me.’
Perhaps he thought in his reckless insolence that the Bishop would obey. But King Siebert had been a baptized Christian, his son was a pagan and an unbeliever; so, King though he was, he could not be allowed to join with the Christians in their solemn Feast. And the brave old Bishop told him so, knowing full well that the refusal might cost him his life. The young King did not put him to death, however, though he was very angry--perhaps he was ashamed to do so--but it cost him his Bishopric, for he was driven out of the Kingdom, and had to leave to seeming ruin all the work that was so dear to his heart.
But it was only _seeming_ ruin. He had done his work faithfully; he had laid the foundations, as it were; and, as has ever happened in the history of the Church, God saw to it that there were other men ready to step in, and build upon these foundations. Other Bishops were appointed--Bishop Cedd and Bishop Erkenwald--and in their days the Christian Faith began to take root again, and spread among the citizens of London, and they improved and beautified their Cathedral until it became famed for its riches and grandeur. Indeed, Bishop Erkenwald was such a famous preacher, and did so much for his church, that when he died he was buried in a golden shrine which people came to see, just as they visited the shrine of St. Cuthbert at Durham, and St. Thomas at Canterbury. As for stout old Bishop Milletus, although he was driven into exile for a time, he became in after-years Archbishop of Canterbury, and his bones lie in the Cathedral there.
Now, it is a curious thing how often those old churches that we are talking about were destroyed, either wholly or in part, by fire. And if there was one church that was fated to suffer more than another in this way, it was St. Paul’s. It was partly burned down in A.D. 951. By that time the Normans were in the country, and they set to work at once to rebuild it. When it was finished, it was a very splendid church indeed; but once more it suffered severely from a fire which broke out in the City, and destroyed everything from London Bridge to the Church of St. Clement Danes, which stands in the Strand.
Let us see what this Cathedral of the Middle Ages was like. It was the largest church in England, and was shaped like a cross, and, instead of having a dome, as the present Cathedral has, it had a great square tower in the centre, with a wooden spire, four hundred and sixty feet high. It stood in the middle of a churchyard, which was surrounded by a high wall. We still talk about ‘St. Paul’s Churchyard,’ although it is long years since anyone was buried there; but if we are in London, and take a bus along the crowded Strand, and up Ludgate Hill, we shall arrive at this old churchyard, and then we shall see the ‘St. Paul’s’ of to-day, and shall be better able to picture to ourselves the ‘St. Paul’s’ of the Middle Ages.
When we leave our bus, we find ourselves in an open space bounded on all sides by busy streets and fine shops. In the centre of this open space stands an immense church, with a huge dome rising from its centre, and on the top of the dome, standing clearly out against the sky, so far up that it can be seen from nearly all parts of London, is an immense gilded cross. In front of the church there are two great flights of steps, which lead down into a broad paved space, only separated from the street by a row of low stone pillars, while round at the sides lie pleasant gardens, with flagged walks, where pigeons flutter about, and where, in summer, hundreds of busy clerks, and shop-girls, and message-boys, come and sit in their lunch-hour, and get a breath of fresh air and a little sunshine.
‘But where is the old churchyard?’ you ask, looking round in amazement. I will tell you. These gardens, and the great space in front of the church, stand to-day where St. Paul’s Churchyard stood long ago, only there is no longer a wall round them, and although the name remains, the gravestones have long since disappeared. Let us try, however, to think that we are back in the Middle Ages, and imagine ourselves standing among the graves in the old churchyard. In front would be the great church, bigger than that which now rises before us, with its square tower and wooden steeple. At the north-east corner of it we should see a curious erection like a low, eight-sided tower, with a stone cross on the top of it. That was called ‘Paul’s Cross,’ and it was almost as important a place as the Cathedral itself.
As I said at the beginning, St. Paul’s Church was the Church of the Citizens. The Monarchs of the land might be crowned or buried at Westminster, but it was to St. Paul’s that the people crowded when they wanted to meet together and stand up for their rights. So there was a great bell in the Cathedral belfry, like the bell in St. Giles’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, which was rung whenever a question arose which concerned the burghers of the city, and when its deep tones were heard, the people ran out of their houses, and thronged into the churchyard through the six gates which pierced its encircling wall, and crowded round Paul’s Cross; and the Aldermen, ascending by steps to the top of the eight-sided tower, stood under the Cross, and spoke to them. Here royal proclamations were made, quarrels were settled, grievances stated, and put to rights. Here, also, sermons were preached in the open air by famous preachers.
Indeed, I think that I may safely say that ‘Paul’s Cross’ was the centre of the public life of London. It has long since been pulled down, however; but if we go to the north-west corner of the gardens, we can still see the place where it stood, clearly marked on the pavement.
The Bishop’s Palace also stood within the wall, and two little churches, one of which was founded by Gilbert à Becket, father of Thomas of Canterbury, who was a silk-mercer in Cheapside; while the other was a parish church--the Church of St. Faith--which was pulled down in after-years, and the people who went to Service there were allowed to worship in the crypt of the Cathedral instead.
It would only weary you to attempt to describe the interior of the old church. It would be very like the other Cathedrals of that time, which were all more richly adorned before the Reformation than they are now. All the accounts which we read of it show us that it was very magnificent, with rich carvings, and stained glass, and no less than seventy side-chapels and chantries, each with its own altar, and, richer than all others, the great Shrine of St. Erkenwald, with its ornaments and jewels.
[Illustration: PREACHING AT ST. PAUL’S CROSS.]
I think that it will be much more interesting to talk of some of the scenes that took place there in these far-off days. Let us go back, for instance, almost eight hundred years, to the day when the news arrived in London that the King of England, Henry I., lay dead in France. He and his brother, William Rufus, were, as you know, sons of the great Norman Conqueror, and during their reigns the country had been well governed and prosperous. But when Henry died, no one quite knew what to do next. For the rightful heir to the throne was Henry’s daughter Maud, who had married a French Count of Anjou, who, as you remember, was the first of his race to be called ‘Plantagenet,’ because he was in the habit, as he rode along, of plucking a piece of broom (_Planta genista_) and sticking it in the front of his cap. Now, the English people did not love this Geoffry of Anjou, who was a greedy and selfish man, and they had no wish to have him for their King, as they would certainly have to do if his wife became Queen. So their thoughts turned to Maud’s cousin, Count Stephen of Blois, who, although his father was a Frenchman, had an English mother, and who had been brought up in England at his uncle’s Court. Most people wished to have him as their King; but no one dare suggest it until the citizens of London took matters into their own hands.
‘The country needed a Monarch,’ they said, ‘and if the Barons would not take the responsibility of electing one, they would.’ And without more ado the Portreve (or Lord Mayor) and Aldermen caused the great bell of St. Paul’s to be rung, summoning the burghers to a ‘Folk-mote’ or council; and when they had all gathered round the Cross in the churchyard, the matter was discussed, and it was agreed that it would be better for England that Stephen should be King rather than that Maud should be Queen; and straightway the city gates were thrown open to the Count, and the citizens swore allegiance to him, and he was crowned King of England.
Perhaps, after all, it would have been better if the citizens had chosen Maud, for, as history shows, Stephen did not turn out to be a very good King.
Another great decision that was made at a public meeting at St. Paul’s was the framing of Magna Charta--that great Charter which secured, for all time to come, justice and liberty to English freemen.
In these old days, especially after the Normans came into the country, Kings were apt to think that might was right, and that they could do what they chose with their subjects. If a man displeased the King, or if he wanted to seize his land, he could simply throw him into prison and keep him there, sometimes until he died, without giving him even a trial. Then, too, if the Monarch wanted money, he simply forced the people to give it to him, and no one had any security that what was his to-day might not be the King’s to-morrow.
When Henry I. came to the throne, he wanted to please the people, because he had an elder brother living, who had gone to the Crusades, and he was afraid that unless he gained the affection of his subjects before his brother came back, they might choose the latter to be King instead of him. So he granted them a Charter, promising not to seize any of their property, nor to tax them unduly, nor to touch any of the lands belonging to the Church. He did not keep those promises very well, however, and his successors, Stephen, and Henry, and Richard, and John, did not keep them at all; and by the middle of King John’s reign the country was in a very bad state indeed. No heed was given to the advice or wishes of the great nobles, who ought to have had a voice in the government of the country, while the common people were so oppressed and down-trodden that they were ready to rise in rebellion. And they would have done so if it had not been for the wisdom and prudence of two great men--Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, and William Marshal, eldest son of the Earl of Pembroke. Stephen Langton was a foreigner, whom the Pope had sent to Canterbury, but he was a good man, a real ‘Father in God’ to his people, and he believed that he was set over them to look after their bodies as well as their souls. When he found out how down-trodden the poor folk of England were, he made up his mind that such a state of things should not continue. So he began to inquire into the laws, and he found out about this old Charter, which had been granted by Henry I., but had never been kept, and had long since been forgotten. The wise Archbishop did not say anything, but he quietly set to work to find a copy of this Charter. After some trouble he discovered one, hidden away among the papers of an old monastery. He then summoned all the chief people in the country to meet him at St. Paul’s Cathedral. That was one of the most memorable assemblies in English history. All the powerful Nobles and Barons, all the stately Bishops and Priors, all the sober Aldermen of the great city, met together and listened with deep interest while the Archbishop read aloud to them the promises which had been made by Henry I., and recorded on the parchment which he held in his hand; then pointed out to them that these promises had never been kept, and that the people of England had a right to demand that they should be kept. He finished his speech by calling upon his listeners to band themselves together, and never rest satisfied till they had obtained redress from the grievous wrongs which had pressed upon them, and upon their poorer brethren.
The Archbishop’s words were not in vain. Nobles and Barons crowded round him, and, laying their hands upon their swords, took a solemn oath that they would insist upon the principles of Henry’s Charter being maintained, and would do their best to protect the liberties of the people.
This was just before Christmas-time, and when the King came to hold his Christmas Court in London, these same Nobles, armed to the teeth, and accompanied by the Churchmen and the principal citizens, appeared before him, and demanded that he should listen to their requests, and make proper laws to guard their liberties.
King John was frightened, but he did not want to give in; so, like the weak man that he was, he did not return a direct answer, but said that he would think over the matter, and meet them again at Easter. He thought that in this way he could put them off, and never give them an answer at all. But the people were determined, and formed themselves into an army, which they called the ‘Army of God, and of Holy Church,’ and all the clergy, and all the citizens of London, and Exeter, and Lincoln, supported them, and the King was obliged to yield.
So it came about that one June day a great assembly of people met on the banks of the Thames near Windsor. On one side was encamped the King, with a handful of followers, and on the other the great army of Barons, and nobles, and citizens had pitched their tents on a piece of marshy land known by the name of Runnymede. In the middle of the river was a small island, and on this island a few men chosen by the King, and a few men chosen by the Nobles, met to discuss matters; at least, they pretended to discuss matters, for everyone knew what the end would be. The King was powerless to resist the wishes of the great concourse of people gathered across the river, and before nightfall ‘Magna Charta,’ the ‘Great Charter,’ had been drawn up and signed.
I cannot tell you all the good things that were secured to Englishmen by this great deed, but there was one thing which, above all others, it gained for them--and gained for us as well--Justice. It is one of our proudest boasts that, by English law, no man, be he ever so poor or degraded, is condemned unheard; that every man is counted innocent till, by a fair trial, he is proved to be guilty. And the very foundation of our freedom rests on some words that were written that day on that old parchment: ‘_We will sell to no man, we will not delay nor deny to any man, justice or right_.’
But if the great bell of St. Paul’s could call the citizens to fight for their liberty as Englishmen against the oppression of the King, it could also summon them to fight for their liberty as Churchmen against the oppression of the Pope. We must always remember that when first Christianity was brought to England, in the time of the Romans, and the ancient British Church was formed, it did not owe allegiance to the Bishops of Rome as it did in later days. It was only after it had been swept away by the invasion of the Angles and Saxons, and then brought back again to the South of England by St. Augustine, who came direct from Pope Gregory of Rome, that the belief arose that it was right that the Church of England should be ruled by the Pope.
[Illustration: SIR CHRISTOPHER WREN
From a painting by Sir G. Kneller in the National Portrait Gallery, London
Up in the North, on the other hand, in Scotland and in Northumbria, where Christianity had been brought by St. Columba and his followers, who, as you remember, came from Ireland, it was a very much longer time before the Church would admit the Papal claims, though at last it did so. And St. Aidan and St. Cuthbert, who founded the Northumbrian Church, being missionaries from the ancient British Church, which St. Columba represented, did not feel obliged to obey the Pope in the same way that St. Augustine did. It would take me too long to tell you about the differences that existed between the Church in the North and that in the South, the chief of which was that they did not keep the festival of Easter on the same day. The Church of St. Augustine, following the example of Rome, kept it on one day; the Church of St. Columba, following the example of the British and Eastern Churches, observed it some ten days later, as the Russians and Greeks do still.
But as time went on the rule of the Pope began to weigh heavily upon the English people. They thought that they had the right to elect their own Bishops and Archbishops, while the Pope thought that he had the right to do so, and at first he very often sent foreigners to fill the English Sees.
Sometimes, indeed very often, they were good men. The saintly Bishop Hugh of Lincoln came from Savoy. Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury was a Greek, who came from far-away Tarsus, the city of St. Paul. But some of them were bad men, haughty and insolent, who wanted to override English laws and English freedom. And when this happened the people were apt to rebel, and declare that only English Bishops should rule in the Church of England.
Things came to a crisis when, in the thirteenth century, a great many Italians came over to England, and were given some of the highest offices in the country. Among them were two brothers of good birth, Peter of Savoy and his brother Boniface. Peter, who had a grand house in the Strand, called Savoy House, was made a Privy Councillor, and was given the chief seat at the King’s Council Board. Boniface, who was a priest, was, by the wish of the Pope, made Archbishop of Canterbury. Now, Boniface of Savoy had mistaken his vocation. He was young, and handsome, and full of roistering spirits; he would have made a good soldier, and doubtless his men would have admired him for his reckless daring; but he was haughty, and insolent, and overbearing, and sadly lacking in common sense--not fit to be placed in the great position in which he found himself.
He brought with him a band of armed retainers, who, when they rode through the streets of London, robbed the stalls in the market-places as though they had been wild marauders, instead of the servants of a Christian Bishop. Their Master behaved no better than they did. There was in the City a monastery called St. Bartholomew’s, in Smithfield. He resolved to visit it, and, appearing at the gate with his men, demanded an entrance. For some reason the Prior resented this--perhaps Boniface’s insolent manner made him angry; perhaps he felt that it was the Bishop of London’s place to inspect his monastery, and not the Archbishop of Canterbury’s. At any rate, he refused to admit the Prelate.
And what do you think happened? Without more ado the Archbishop clenched his fist, and knocked the Prior to the ground. It was a foolish as well as a wicked act, for of course the news of what had been done spread through London, and the citizens began to say to each other that a man who could do a deed like that was not fit to be an Archbishop.
A little time afterwards, Boniface determined to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral, and call upon the Bishop of London for his tithes or first-fruits. He may have been acting quite within his rights to do this: I do not know; but the citizens, at any rate, made up their minds that, if he came with his demands to their Cathedral Church, he would find out what they thought of him. So the big bell was rung, and they gathered round the Cross in their thousands. Archbishop Boniface heard of this in his Palace at Lambeth, and, although he would not be turned from his purpose, he put on a suit of armour under his robes before he ventured near the Cathedral. When he arrived there, he found, to his rage, that the citizens had closed the gates against him, and instead of being awed by his angry remonstrances, they jeered and hooted at him, and even threatened him with violence, so that at last he thought it wise to go home.
But worse was to follow. Now that an Italian Archbishop sat on the throne of Canterbury, a great many Italian priests came over, and were given the best livings in the Church. Their manners were no better than those of their countryman, and the citizens became so enraged at the behaviour of these foreigners, and at the unjust way in which the Pope had forced them upon them, that they determined that not one of them should set foot in the church that they looked on as especially their own.
And they were in such deadly earnest that it actually came about that, when two of these priests attempted to enter the precincts one day, the people crowded into the churchyard and killed them on the spot. After this they rushed to Lambeth, and besieged the Palace there, uttering such threats that Boniface, the ‘Handsome Archbishop’, as they called him, was glad to escape as best he could, and fly abroad for safety. He never came back, and we can fancy that the Pope was more careful in future whom he sent to England, for the citizens of London had taught him a lesson, and shown him that he could not lord it over them with impunity.
Just one more story about these old days, and then we must come to the St. Paul’s that we know.
It was in the reign of King Edward III., and the Church of England had lost its first purity, and grown rich and corrupt. Many of the Bishops and clergy had forgotten what they had been made ministers of God for, and, instead of thinking about the needs of their people, they thought only of how much wealth they could heap up for themselves, and how luxuriously they could live.
The Reformation was yet a long way off, but there were two men in the country who wanted to put an end to this state of affairs, and they wanted to do so for two very different reasons. You have all heard of John Wyclif, the earliest of the English Reformers. He was one of those two men, and he wanted to weaken the power of Rome, because he saw that the poor people of this country were being robbed, in order to enrich the Pope and his favourites, who, as we have seen, were put into high places in the Church. So he began to point out the abuses that existed, and to urge people not to submit to them any longer.
The other man was a powerful Noble, ‘John of Gaunt--Time-honoured Lancaster,’ as Shakespeare calls him; and I am afraid that the reason why he wanted the power taken from the clergy was, that he hoped that when they could no longer collect great sums of money from the common people, he and his brother Nobles might be able to do so instead.
So when, one day, Wyclif was summoned to appear before the Bishop of London, Bishop Courtenay, to answer for the heretical notions which it was reported that he was spreading, the Duke of Lancaster espoused his cause, and stood by his side.
It must have been a curious scene--the grave Bishop in his robes, seated on his throne, with his advisers round him; the thin, worn priest from Lutterworth, with his pale, studious face and black gown; and the proud Noble, who was, at that time, one of the most powerful men in the country.
Some of the citizens had crept into the church, to hear what the monk had to say, but they did not hear him say very much, for the Duke of Lancaster soon began to wrangle with the Bishop. He hated the clergy, because he was envious of their position and the power that they had over the simple folk, and his pride could not brook the questions that the Bishop put to his friend. At last he lost his temper altogether, and, after speaking very rudely to the Prelate, he threatened to drag him out of the church by the hair of his head. In an instant, the listening citizens sprang to their feet. They were not very interested in Wyclif’s reforms--probably, at that time, they did not know very much about them--but this powerful Duke was no friend of theirs, and they were enraged at the thought that he dared come into their Cathedral and threaten their Bishop. With one accord they rushed to the belfry and tolled the great bell, and when, as was their duty, crowds of other citizens gathered in the churchyard to see what had happened, they told them, in excited tones, that John of Gaunt was in the church with his followers, and threatening to lay hands on the Bishop.
Then a perfect tempest arose. Some of the crowd rushed into the church, declaring that they would murder the Duke; others went off to his Palace in the Strand, determined to break into it and pillage it, in order to punish him for his insolence. And they were in such deadly earnest that they would have carried out both threats had not Bishop Courtenay himself interfered, and saved his enemy from their violence.
Just before the Reformation the great church was at the very height of its glory--from an outward point of view, at least. We read that there were no less than one hundred and thirty clergy who were supposed to minister there, and that there were so many people connected with it--schoolmasters, schoolboys, singing-men, choir-boys, bedesmen, bookbinders, sextons, gardeners, bell-ringers, etc.--that employment must have been given to more than a thousand people. It all seems very grand and glorious; but if we read further, we find that it had grown just like the Temple in our Lord’s time: there was a great deal of outward magnificence, and yet the very purpose that the church had been built for--the Service and Worship of God, was in danger of being forgotten. Instead of being kept as God’s house, entirely for His Worship, we find that the great nave was the fashionable meeting-place of the good folk of London, and they used it as we should use a promenade to-day.
Francis Osborne, an old historian, writes: ‘It was the fashion in those days ... for the principal Gentry, Lords and Courtiers, and men of all professions, to meet in S. Paul’s by eleven of the clock ... and walk in the middle aisle till twelve, and after dinner from three till six, during which time some discoursed of business, and others of news.’
Then came the Reformation; and, as always happens when a great change like that is taking place, people were so zealous to sweep away all the abuses that had crept in, that they ‘lost their heads,’ as we say, and did many wrong and unseemly things. It was right and needful that the Church should be reformed; but it was not right nor needful that all the splendid carving, and decorated stonework, and beautifully illuminated books, and gold and silver altar vessels, which had been given for the Service of God by pious men and women, should be broken by hammers, or burned, or carried away and melted down, to fill the pockets of worthless noblemen.
It was right that the nave should no longer be the place of resort for all the fashionable loungers in the city; but it did not improve matters when the same nave was turned into cavalry barracks for Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers, and the rough men were allowed to play games and behave in any way that they liked in the church.
No, the history of that time is not pleasant reading; and we feel almost glad when we hear that, first of all, the wooden spire was struck by lightning, and set on fire, and then that the whole church was burned down by the Great Fire that devastated London in September, 1666; for then a new beginning could be made, and those unhappy old stories forgotten.
You all know about the Great Fire of London: how it came after the Plague, and how it seemed such a calamity at the time, but proved, after all, a blessing in disguise, for it burned down all the old plague-infested, unhealthy wooden houses, which were so crowded together that the streets were narrow and dark, and made room for better buildings and wider streets, and brought in a healthier mode of living altogether.
Just before the Fire broke out, a proposal had been made to restore the old Cathedral, and a famous architect, Sir Christopher Wren, had been called on to discuss the matter. He had agreed to undertake the work, and was prepared to do so, when the Great Fire took place, and when it was over, there was nothing left of the church but the blackened walls.
Then people shook their heads, and said that it would be impossible to restore it. A new Cathedral might be built somewhere else, but the St. Paul’s that they had known on Ludgate Hill had gone for ever.
But Sir Christopher Wren differed from them. ‘It would be impossible to restore the church,’ he said, ‘or even to rebuild it on its old foundation, but there was no reason why a new foundation should not be laid, and a new church built upon it.’
‘That was all very well,’ answered the objectors to the scheme; but how did Dr. Wren propose to take down the walls and level the old foundations?
He suggested gunpowder; and with a little care he could have blown down the walls quite safely, but a stupid master-builder thought that he could do the work himself, without the architect superintending, and he set to work one morning, and used such a big charge of the explosive that a great many of the half-ruined houses in the neighbourhood fell with the force of the explosion, and people got such a fright that they objected to gunpowder being used at all.
The famous architect was not dismayed, however, at this opposition. He believed in the proverb that says, ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way.’ So he procured a great beam of wood, forty feet long, and had it covered at both ends with iron. Then he slung this beam up in a wooden erection, something like a triangle, and used it as a battering-ram to break down the walls. At first it appeared as if it would be in vain. The workmen battered at the walls for a whole day, and not a stone fell. But Wren persevered, and the next day he was rewarded, for the great buttresses fell at last with a crash, and he was able to proceed with his work.
And this he did most thoroughly. Someone has said of him that he ‘built for eternity,’ and, as far as any man can do so, the saying is true.
Everyone knows that the security of a building depends greatly upon the kind of foundation it rests upon. No matter how well built it is, no matter how showy the walls may be, if the foundation is not firm and solid, sooner or later it must fall to pieces, unless something is done to repair it.
Christopher Wren knew of this danger, and the first thing that he set his workmen to do was to dig down forty feet into the earth to find out if the ground on which he intended to build was quite solid and secure. Doubtless many people laughed at him, and said that he was too particular, but he did not care, and they stopped laughing when it was discovered that right down at the north-east corner there was a pit, and if the new Cathedral had been built over this, sooner or later the ground would have sunk, and the wall of the building have cracked, and in all probability fallen to pieces. However, Dr. Wren made his workmen dig deeper, till they got to the bottom of this pit; then he filled it up with a pier of solid stone. It took him a whole year to do this, but at the end of that time he was ready to begin the church, knowing that underneath it was a foundation that was absolutely secure.
Then arose the great Cathedral that we see to-day. It took some thirty years to build, and when it was finished, the highest stone in the lantern that rests on the dome was laid in its place by Sir Christopher Wren’s son.
But now we learn something about Sir Christopher that shows that he was a good as well as a clever man. Do you remember what is said in the Bible about people who can rule their own spirits, and are slow to be angry? That they are really greater than the men who conquer cities, and whom the world admires. Tried by this standard, Sir Christopher was a really great man. For he was not only clever enough to build St. Paul’s Cathedral, but he could rule his own spirit, and not vex himself over the way in which his enemies treated him.
The story of Sir Christopher Wren’s life--for he was knighted as a reward for his work--is as interesting as any of the stories connected with St. Paul’s Cathedral. He was the son of a Wiltshire clergyman, and his love of architecture dated from a time when the roof of his father’s church had grown so old that it threatened to fall down. And, as often happens in a country parish, there were not very many rich men living there who could give money to pay for the building of a new one. So the Vicar determined that, instead of paying for an architect, he would draw the plans, and superintend the building of the roof himself.
And we can imagine how little Christopher would hear all about the new church roof, and how he would look over his father’s shoulder and watch him when he was drawing the plans, and how he would spend all his play-time in the church, looking at the joiners putting up the wooden beams, and the other workmen working on the walls, while his father went up and down, superintending everything, and very likely lending a helping hand himself. Perhaps it was in these early days that the boy determined that he, too, would build churches when he was grown up.
Then he had an ‘Uncle Matthew,’ who was Bishop of Ely, and as he grew older he would go and visit him, and would wander across from the Palace into Queen Etheldreda’s beautiful Minster Church, and stand and look up in wonder at the Lantern Tower; and his uncle would tell him the story of how it once fell, and how Alan de Walsingham built it up again, and perhaps it was that which gave him the idea, which he carried out afterwards at St. Paul’s, of a great church with an enormous dome in the centre of it, under which thousands of people could assemble, as they do on Sunday afternoons at St. Paul’s to-day, and listen to the sermon of some great preacher.
He did something else first, however, for he was very fond of watching the stars, and when he went to Oxford he watched them so closely, and learned so much about them, that he was made Professor of Astronomy.
But although he was made Professor of Astronomy, he seems to have gone on all the time studying architecture, and drawing plans of churches, and at last King Charles heard of him, and asked him to draw some plans of churches for him. In this way he became known as a clever architect, and when the Great Fire took place, and a large part of London had to be rebuilt, he not only built a new Cathedral, but forty-two other churches as well; besides which he built Marlborough House, and a great part of Greenwich Hospital.
_Photochrom Co., Ltd._
ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL: NELSON’S MONUMENT
So you see that he had a useful, busy life, and it was a very long one as well, for he lived till he was an old man of ninety-one. He was not very kindly treated towards the end of his life, and this was because of what is called ‘political jealousy.’ It had been the Stuart Kings who had brought him into notice, and given him the post of Surveyor-General; but when the House of Hanover came into power, their followers said, ‘Oh, we cannot have any of the friends of the Stuarts holding good posts; we must take them from them, and give them to those of our own party.’
And so Sir Christopher Wren’s office was taken from him, and given to another man, and something else was done that vexed him quite as much as losing his post.
He had meant his great Cathedral to stand as it stands to-day, with an open space all round it. Someone suggested that it would look much better if it were enclosed by a wall. And, in spite of Sir Christopher’s remonstrances, a wall was built, which quite spoilt the effect in his eyes.
He might have gone up and down the world trying to prove to everyone that his idea was best, and he might have made himself and his friends very unhappy over the unkindness and injustice that had been shown him, but, instead of this, he only shrugged his shoulders when he looked at the unsightly wall, and said, with a little laugh, that ‘ladies thought nothing looked well without an edging.’ Then he retired quietly to Hampton Court, where he had a house, and occupied himself until he died with his old hobby of Astronomy, and with reading Theology and Philosophy.
We read that occasionally the old man would ‘give himself a treat,’ and do you know what that treat was? He would come to London, and walk quietly up the Strand to St. Paul’s Churchyard, and stand and look for a while at the great and beautiful Cathedral that he had built, and then he would go home feeling quite content and happy, for he knew that it would stand for long centuries after the ugly wall had been pulled down again, and that future generations would forget all the unkind and untrue things that people had said about him, while they would always remember that it was he, Christopher Wren, who was the builder of St. Paul’s.
And there was something else, I think, which must have made him very happy towards the close of his life. In those days people were not above taking bribes--that is, they would take money, let us say, from a timber merchant, and promise that they would use his timber, whether it was good or bad; or from a stonemason, and use his stones, no matter how badly they were hewn. But Wren had never done this; his hands were clean, and he left such a splendid name for uprightness and honesty behind him that after his death someone wrote of him, ‘In a corrupt age, all testimonies leave him spotless.’
Now let us go inside the Cathedral, and walk round it, although it is so full of monuments that it is impossible to tell you the story of each.
As we look at them we realize that St. Paul’s still keeps its character of the Citizens’ Church.
In Westminster Abbey, Kings, and poets, and writers lie buried, or have monuments put up to their memory, but here, in St. Paul’s, most of the monuments are those of national heroes, of men who have lived and died for the Empire.
We will just look at one or two. If, as we walk up the nave, we keep to our right hand, we come, on the north side, to a recumbent statue of bronze, and we are almost certain to find one or two people standing looking at it, and perhaps someone has laid a tiny bunch of flowers against the slab on which the figure rests. For this is the monument erected to General Gordon, and there is no man who has died in recent years whose memory is held more in honour by the people of England. For he died in the attempt to save women and children from deadly peril; and these poor people were not English--they had not even white skins--but were Soudanese, who lived in far-away Khartoum. I expect that most of you have read the life of this great man, but for the sake of those who have not, I will tell you a little about him. To begin with, he was what we call ‘unique’--that is, there is no one else who is quite like him, and no one can read the story of his life without thinking of two words, ‘Hero’ and ‘Saint.’
Somehow he reminds us of a strong climber, who spends his days toiling up a great mountain, and always getting higher and higher, and nearer and nearer Heaven, while most of us are content to remain down in the valley, where life is not so hard, but where the air is less pure, and the roads are dusty.
And just as we read in the old stories about heroes having one possession that kept them strong, such as a magic sword, or shield, or helmet, so we can clearly see one thing in General Gordon’s life that made him what he was--something that enabled him to be brave, and chivalrous, and modest; to care absolutely nothing about praise, or blame, or reward, or even money (the thing that so many people care so much about)--and that one thing was absolute faith in God and in God’s Providence.
Most of us live our lives as something that belongs to ourselves; and we make our own plans, and choose our own careers, and we think twice before we do this or that, trying to see what the consequences of our act will be.
To General Gordon life was simply a time that was given to him to do God’s will--and he was certain that whatever came to him was God’s will--so it was all the same to him whether the days brought joy or sorrow, praise or blame, riches or poverty, life or death.
He was a good soldier of the Queen--for Queen Victoria was living then--but he was also a good soldier of Jesus Christ; perhaps one of the best that has ever enlisted in that great army, for he took his orders, and carried them out to the best of his power, never questioning, never grumbling, quite certain, whatever the consequences turned out to be, that everything was right.
And it was this great faith that made him go, promptly and fearlessly, into danger that other men might have shrunk from, and with reason. He is sometimes called ‘Chinese Gordon,’ because once, when there was a rebellion in China, the Emperor asked for a British officer to help to quell it, and Gordon was sent. The rebels had entrenched themselves in forts, and Gordon used to lead bands of soldiers to storm these forts, carrying only a little cane in his hand, with which he pointed out to the men what he wanted them to do. And the Chinese were so amazed that they thought that the little cane was enchanted, and they called it his ‘magic wand,’ and believed that it protected him from all harm.
After the rebellion was quelled he came home, and was stationed at Gravesend, where he was employed in constructing forts. He might have been puffed up by the reputation that he had earned in China, and have become proud and self-conscious; but instead of that, he lived very quietly, visiting infirmaries and ragged schools in his leisure time. And he so interested himself in the poor boys whom he found in the streets that he would take them into his own house, and keep them there until he found an opportunity to send them to sea, and thus give them a fresh start in life.
Now comes the story of the Soudan. If you look at a map of Africa, you will see, south of Egypt, a tract of country bearing that name. I have not time to tell you how it came to be under British protection, but it did, and the natives, who had been very badly treated before, settled down to live quietly and peacefully under British rule.
Then a man arose, called the Mahdi, who gathered together thousands of Arabs and raided the Soudan, vanquishing the Egyptian troops who tried to fight against them. The Mahdi became very powerful, and it was felt that it would take too many of our soldiers to hold the country against him, so the British Government determined to give it up. But we could not leave all the poor Soudanese people to be massacred by the Arabs, so it was determined to try to get them safely out of the country into Egypt, and Gordon was sent out from England to do this. He was accompanied by a friend of his, Colonel Stewart, and they went to Khartoum, which, if you look at the map, you will see is the Capital of the Soudan, and stands on the banks of the Nile, surrounded by deserts.
They succeeded in sending 2,500 people away in safety; then the Mahdi and his followers hemmed them in. Colonel Stewart tried to escape up the Nile, and summon help from Egypt, but his boat was wrecked, and he was murdered. And then Gordon was left alone, the only Englishman in Khartoum.
It is very sad, and yet it is grand, to read how that lonely soldier defended the city, for almost a year, with no one to help him except natives, and with a howling mob of Arabs outside the walls. He lived in what was called the ‘Palace,’ and day after day he used to go up to the roof, and look in vain down the river, and all over the desert, for the help which he expected would be sent from England, and which never came.
It did not come in time, at least, for it was too late in being sent; and when, at last, after much danger, a relieving force did reach the city, it was only to find that it had fallen into the hands of the Arabs two days before, and that its brave defender, along with the rest of the inhabitants, had been killed.
_Valentine and Sons, Ltd._
ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL: THE NAVE]
Can you imagine the thrill of horror and regret that swept over England when the news came home? It was felt to be such a terrible thing that one of our countrymen should have been sent out to attempt such a dangerous and difficult task, and then left alone for months fighting against such overpowering odds, and that, when at last help was sent, we should have to confess that it was sent ‘too late.’
And yet, to General Gordon, facing death alone in that far-off Soudanese town, it was not terrible; it was simply a bit of God’s will. Listen to the words that he wrote just ten days before the end came, when he knew quite well that if succour did not come speedily, it need not come at all.
After writing ‘Good-bye’ to all his friends, he adds, ‘I am quite happy, thank God; and, like Lawrence, I have tried to do my duty.’
These are not the words of a man who sees death coming, and is afraid; they are the words of one who was ‘quite happy,’ because he had done his life-work as well as he could, and was content to go home to God, no matter if the way thither were very rough and very lonely.
His body was never found; probably it was hacked in pieces by the Mahdi’s wild followers; and yet he had a ‘funeral.’
For although Englishmen may be slow to act, they act surely; and fourteen long years after Gordon’s death, the Soudan was retaken, and after the great Battle of Omdurman, Lord Kitchener, with his victorious army, entered Khartoum one peaceful Sunday morning, and what do you think was the first thing that he did?
He took his troops, British and Egyptian, into the open space in front of the ruined Palace where Gordon had fallen, and formed them into three sides of a square, while he and his generals stood in the centre.
And then, after the British and Egyptian flags had been run up to the roof of the Palace, and a Royal Salute had been fired, a little group of clergymen stepped forward. They represented all parts of the Church, for soldiers of all creeds wished to take part in Gordon’s ‘funeral.’ Then, while solemn minute-guns were fired, a Presbyterian minister read the seventeenth Psalm, which tells how God’s people, whenever or however they die, will behold His ‘Face in righteousness,’ and how they will be ‘satisfied’ when they ‘awake in His likeness.’
Then an English clergyman said the Lord’s Prayer, and an old Roman Catholic Priest, with snow-white hair, said a memorial prayer for Gordon and those who had fallen with him. Then the Scottish pipers wailed out a dirge, and the dark Egyptian band played Gordon’s favourite hymn, ‘Abide with Me.’ After that the soldiers were dismissed from their ranks, and were at liberty to wander up and down, and everybody, down to the youngest bugler, had a glad feeling in his heart, that, although they did not know the exact spot where General Gordon’s bones were resting, they had done their best, after fourteen years, to give him Christian burial.
There are many more memorials here of men about whom we could tell the most interesting stories, had we only the time. Here is a monument to Sir John Moore, who was killed at Corunna; and who, as doubtless you have learned at school, was ‘buried darkly at dead of night,’ before the defeated English army took to their boats.
And here is one to Sir John Howard, the great prison reformer. See, he carries a key in his hand, to show us how he unlocked the prison doors, and brought help and comfort to the wretched inmates, far more hopeless and neglected in his day than they are in ours.
And here is a representation of a Bishop blessing little black children. That is Bishop Heber, first Bishop of Calcutta, who wrote a great many hymns, some of which I am sure you know--‘Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty,’ ‘From Greenland’s icy mountains,’ and ‘Brightest and best of the sons of the morning.’
Here is a beautiful memorial--a bronze angel stooping to lift the figure of a wounded yet crowned warrior. Let us read the inscription under it, for it tells of forty-three thousand men, sons of the Empire, who flocked from our Colonies--from Australia, India, Ceylon, New Zealand, and South Africa--to help us to fight against the Boers, and who ‘Gave their Lives for the Motherland.’
Near by is a great window, representing our Lord healing the sick, which was placed there as a thanksgiving for the recovery of our King from a very dangerous illness when he was Prince of Wales.
Look up to the Dome. Do you see the paintings there? They are so far above us that we can hardly see them properly; but if we were nearer we should see that they are scenes from the life of St. Paul. They were painted by an artist called Sir John Thornhill, and he almost lost his life when he was painting them. Indeed, he would have done so had it not been for the promptitude of a friend of his. A great scaffold had been erected for him to stand on while he was painting, and it makes us almost giddy to think of the height that it must have been from the floor. One day he was up there, working busily, and, luckily, a friend was with him; for he stepped back to see the effect of his work, and went so near the edge of the scaffold that another step would have taken him over, to be dashed to pieces on the floor below.
His friend saw his danger, and, seizing a wet paint-brush, flung it at the painting. The artist rushed forward to intercept the brush, and so his life was saved.
Now let us enter the choir, and look at this wonderful carving on the stalls. This was done by a famous wood-carver, named Grinling Gibbons, whose story is as well worth knowing as that of Sir Christopher Wren. He was partly English and partly Dutch, and was born in Rotterdam. He was very fond of carving, and he used to copy all the things that he saw growing outside--fruits, and flowers, and sprays of leaves, and berries--and he became a very clever carver indeed.
He came to England, and made up his mind to work hard at his art, and, in order to have time and quietness to do so, he hired a tiny house at Deptford, and went and lived there. After he had been there some time, he determined to do a really great piece of work.
He was very fond of a wonderful picture of the Crucifixion, which had been painted by a Venetian artist named Tintoretto, and he made up his mind that he would copy this in wood, and frame it in a wreath of carved fruits and flowers.
It was a very ambitious thing to do, but he succeeded beautifully, although it took him a long while, and cost him a great deal of time and work.
Now it chanced that near his little cottage there was a great mansion called Sayes Court, in which lived a very wise, rich, and cultured man named John Evelyn. We know all about him, because he did what perhaps some of you do:--he kept a diary, which has been preserved, and which we can read to-day.
And, luckily for Grinling Gibbons, John Evelyn got to know him, and was a very good friend to him. If we read Evelyn’s ‘Diary,’ we learn how it came about.
He tells us how one day he was walking, ‘by mere accident,’ in a field near Sayes Court, when he noticed a ‘poore solitary thatched house.’ He thought he would like to see who lived there, and he went and knocked, but the door was shut, so he looked in at the window.
And he saw the young artist working at his beautiful piece of carving, which was almost finished. Evelyn was so astonished at finding such a skilful craftsman living so humbly that he asked him if he might come in and speak to him.
Gibbons opened the door quite civilly, and Evelyn tells us that when he saw the work close at hand he was quite amazed at its beauty and delicacy. He asked the young carver why he lived in such a lonely spot, and Gibbons told him that he wanted to have time ‘to work hard at his profession without interruption.’
Then Evelyn, who was always ready to do a kind action and to help people, volunteered to introduce him to some ‘great man,’ who might, perhaps, buy the piece of carving, and asked the sum for which Gibbons would sell it.
The craftsman replied modestly that ‘he was but a beginner, but he thought that the carving was worth a hundred pounds.’
Mr. Evelyn thought that it was quite worth a hundred pounds too, and so the very next time that he went to Court he told King Charles about it, and asked him if he might invite the young artist to bring the piece of work to Whitehall when it was finished, in order that the King might see it.
King Charles said ‘Yes,’ and kind-hearted John Evelyn was delighted, for he felt certain that as soon as the King saw it he would buy it. But, alas! his expectations were dashed to the ground by a French ‘peddling woman,’ who sold ‘petticoats and fauns and baubles out of France’ to the Queen and the ladies of her Court. And this was how it happened.
When the piece of carving was brought to the Palace, the King admired it very much, and would have bought it, but he thought that he would ask his wife first how she liked it. So he gave orders that it was to be carried into the Queen’s apartments, so that she could see it. She also admired it, and was anxious that the King should buy it; but an old Frenchwoman chanced to be in the room--the ‘peddling woman,’ as Evelyn calls her--who was in the habit of bringing over gloves, and fans, and things of that sort, from France, and selling them to the Court ladies. When she heard the price that Charles proposed to give for the carving, she was afraid that the Queen would run short of money, and so would not be able to buy so many things from her as she usually did.
So, when the King left the room, she began to criticize the carving, and to find fault with it, and the foolish Queen believed that what she said was true, and when the King came back, she persuaded him not to buy it. So poor Grinling had to carry it back to his little cottage at Deptford, and he afterwards sold it to a nobleman for eighty pounds.
But, although his first attempt at helping Grinling Gibbons had not succeeded very well, kind Mr. Evelyn did not give it up. He happened to know Sir Christopher Wren, and as Sir Christopher was busy at that time over the building of the new Cathedral, he went and saw him, and told him about his protégé, and asked him if he could not give him something to do.
And Sir Christopher, who was looking about for someone to carve the woodwork of the stalls, went down and saw Gibbons’ work, and was so pleased with it that he engaged him at once to come and help him. And of course, when Gibbons did this, he soon became famous, and had no more trouble in obtaining orders.
Now perhaps you may feel inclined to ask if all the monuments in St. Paul’s Cathedral are erected to the memory of men who died far away in other lands. It looks like it, does it not? for we have seen Gordon’s monument, who died at Khartoum; and Moore’s, who died in Spain; and Bishop Heber’s, who died in India; and that of the Colonial soldiers, who died in South Africa; and if we go on looking, we shall find very many more, to the memory of soldiers and sailors who fought our battles, and guarded our shores, but whose bones are resting in foreign lands, or, mayhap, under the rolling waves of the sea.
But if we go down to the crypt, we shall find that there are some graves there. Two of them I am sure that you would like to look at for a moment, because they are the graves of two men whose memory will be kept green as long as the English nation lasts. One of them was her greatest soldier, and the other her greatest sailor. I need not tell you their names, need I?--Arthur, Duke of Wellington--‘The Iron Duke,’ as men called him--and Horatio, Lord Nelson, who died at Trafalgar, on board the _Victory_.
There are two monuments erected to them, upstairs, in the great church. That to Wellington is enormous, and stands just across the aisle from General Gordon’s. Nelson’s monument is on the other side of the Cathedral, just at the corner of the south transept, and is more interesting to look at than that of Wellington, for it represents the famous Admiral standing with one sleeve empty--for, as you remember, his right arm was shot away at the Battle of Teneriffe--while underneath are carved the names of his greatest sea-fights, Copenhagen, Nile, and Trafalgar. Lower still is the British Lion, emblem of the land he fought for, and the figure of Britannia, pointing out the great sailor to two little middies, and telling them to follow in his steps.
But when, in 1805, Nelson died on board his battleship, the English people felt that it was not enough that a monument should be put up to his memory in the Citizen Church of their Capital. They wanted his body to rest amongst them; so it was brought home, and, amid general lamentation, was buried in this still and silent crypt.
Forty-seven years passed; and once more the whole nation was mourning, for the Duke of Wellington was dead. He had not died in action, as did Nelson, but had fought his fights, and won his victories, and conquered Napoleon, and had lived to come home, and enter Parliament, and serve his country as a politician as well as a soldier.
And when the question arose as to where he should be buried, it was felt to be fitting that he--‘The Greatest Soldier,’ as Tennyson calls him--should be brought and laid beside ‘The Greatest Sailor,’ and that the
‘Sound of those he wrought for, And the feet of those he fought for,’ Should ‘Echo round his bones for evermore.’
Do you know how his body was brought through the streets of London? Look at this enormous funeral car standing under this dark arch, and you will see. It looks so strange and fantastic that at first sight you hardly know what it is meant for; but you must remember that it was not made out of ordinary wood, like carts and waggons. It was made out of iron--out of old cannon which had done their part in the great soldier’s victories. Look at the names of these victories, twenty-four of them, engraved upon the body of the car.
You can think what a solemn procession it must have been, as the mighty soldier and prudent statesman was borne upon it, through more than a million silent onlookers, to his last long rest in St. Paul’s.
Here is another grave that we must look at ere we leave the Crypt. ‘It cannot be an important one,’ you say, ‘for there is no monument over it, only an inscription.’
Ah yes, but read the inscription--‘Lector, Si Monumentum Requiris, Circumspice.’[A] That tells us at once whose grave it is. It is Christopher Wren’s. And, as we do his bidding, and look around and above us, and as we ascend the stairs once more, and enter the magnificent Cathedral and walk down the nave to the great west door, we feel that no smaller monument could have been erected to the man whose marvellous skill planned it all.
[A] ‘Reader, if thou requirest a monument, look around.’
Italicized text is surrounded by underscores: _italics_.
Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.