I've never seen so many churches in my life than in this "green and pleasant land." The face of this country is covered by small village churches and great cathedrals, with thousands of years of Christian prayer, will and determination virtually holding them together in some cases. By 1643 there were one hundred churches of note in the one square mile which makes up the official City of London as bounded by the River Thames and the old Roman walls. While I am not a Christian, I find the history enclosed in British churches a moving testimony to the greater society in which they were and are still anchored. Oft times I am completely taken aback at the connections I find inside these ancient houses of worship.
|The Tower of London is off to the left out of sight.|
I felt the inexorable pull of All Hallows church standing tall in the face of modern encroachment: a Kitchen Tower restaurant stands on the premises of the old churchyard, its cranked stereo spewing out loud music which would indeed wake the dead had they not been disinterred to make space for yet another commercial concern. A sign for KFC stands out in vulgar relief against the bricks of the churchyard wall. Tower Place West rises above and behind All Hallows church, a ghastly glass tribute to Mammon reaching outward toward the chapel, ready to gobble it up for some enormous sum I'm sure.
I wanted to capture a striking picture of All Hallows church tower reflected in the modern glass building across the street from the church. As I walked away from All Hallows, toward the clear glass canopy of Tower place in order to gain a wider perspective for my camera, two foreign security guards warned me off with hand signs. I attempted to explain I wanted to stand just under the canopy to photograph the church and I was basically warned to get out with vigorous head shakes and shooing motions of their hands and arms as they began to march toward me, their unfriendly grimaces ensuring they meant business. All Hallows has withstood the ravages of time and the tidal Thames; it survived direct bombing in WWII. Will it survive another millennium without further bits being carved away for corporate greed? I sincerely hope so.
|All Hallows by the Tower with one of the famed Dragons which guard entry to the one square mile City of London.|
There has been a Christian community at All Hallows for 1339 years. It is located at the far southeastern edge of boundaries of the City of London, guarded from without by one of London's famous Dragons.
This church literally embodies nineteen centuries of architecture, having been built on the foundations of an older Roman building--the remains of a tessellated mosaic floor from a house which once stood on the spot--may be seen in the under croft.
|I have walked on the very same tiles as were trod by Roman sandled feet. It is an eerie feeling, standing on the floor of a Roman home from 90 AD. If only those tiles could talk!|
|This is THE oldest known surviving Saxon arch in London which bears testament to the foundations of All Hallows in 675 AD. It stands in the west end of the nave.The top of the arch is made from Roman roof tiles recycled by the Saxons.|
The Croke Altar carved of Purbeck marble as a tomb for London Alderman John Croke (1477) is an amazing artifact. Destroyed by a direct bomb hit in WWII, his tomb was painstakingly restored from 1500 fragments. This marble altar records the effigies of the Alderman, his eight sons, his wife Margaret, and his five daughters.
Inside this amazingly humble and modest community church is a series of paintings on four panels of a winged triptych from the 1500's by a Flemish painter, featuring various saints of the church and Sir Robert Tate kneeling for baptism by Jesus' cousin John. Sir John is of the family concern from which the Tate and Lyle Sugar company has sprung.
There are brasses from the 1500's embedded in the floor of the nave picturing Jesus' resurrection and effigies of parishioner Andrew Evyngar and his wife Ellen, given as a reminder to say mass for their souls. Puritans under Cromwell in the mid 1640's defiled the face and removed some of the words.
THE MARINER'S CHAPEL
The Southern aisle of All Hallows is home to a Mariner's chapel with stained glass windows depicting the coat of arms of various shipping companies devoted to the church. The Port of London Authority also has links to this site in the form of a lovely wooden screen. The crucifix upon which an ivory carved Jesus hangs was created of wood from the Cutty Sark; the ivory for Christ's effigy is said to have come from the Captain's cabin of the flagship of the Spanish Armada.
"In 1987 The Maritime Foundation initiated a memorial book for those who've lost their life at sea and have no known grave." (http://www.ahbtt.org.uk/visiting/memorial-books/. Accessed online on 04/21/14.)
There are also several other parochial items of interests such as a lectern with pieces form the original medieval church, a baptismal font cover carved by Grinling Gibbons, and various pieces of gilt communion plate from the 16th century.
THE UNDER CROFT
After a thorough poke about on the main floor of this church the best is yet to come in my opinion, for hidden beneath the nave is the under croft of the Saxon church, parts of which date back to the second through 14th centuries. It contains three chapels: The Columbarium, and the chapels of St. Francis of Assisi and that of St. Clare.
The Columbarium is a place of internment for the ashes of parishioners and those closely connected to All Hallows by the Tower. This section previously was outside the walls of the current building, and was once part of the burial ground of the Saxon church. There are three Saxon coffins within, all buried before the arrival of the Normans in 1066.
In place below the present day altar are stone thought to have once from the alter of the chapel of Richard Couer de Lion (Richard the Lion Heart) aka Richard I, third son of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. He spent years in the East on Crusade and would have been acquainted with the Knights Templar's--described as rough knights in the battlefield and pious monks at chapel.
THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR
These men swore on the cross an oath of poverty, chastity, and devotion to the Catholic church with the charge of protecting the Christian kingdom. Theirs was the job of protecting citizens on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, from robbers, marauders, and captivity by local Muslim tribes and anyone else seeking to interfere with pilgrimage. They built marvelous defensive castles, the remains of which can still be seen today.
Despite living only on alms at first, the Knights Templar combined two great male passions of the Middle Ages: religious fervor and martial prowess. Their ranks quickly swelled from eight to four hundred, as the Crusades grew in number from one to eight, over a period from 1118-1270. Favorite sons of the Church, The Templars' properties were exempt from taxation and ecclesiastical tithes. The Order answered only to the Pope.
Over time the Templar's became incredibly wealthy as members brought their wealth and real estate to the order. The Templar's kept their money in temples located in London and Paris. Their treasure was inviting to Kings and leaders who wanted it to fund wars and further crusades, and the Order went into the word-of-mouth business of making loans to kings and principalities sewing the seed of their destruction.
Eventually the Crusades failed to hang on to the Outremer as the Christian States of the far east were known. These included the County of Odessa, the Principality of Antioch, The county of Tripoli and the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Without lands and pilgrims to protect, the Knights Templar were seen by some powerful bishops within the Church and various princes and Kings as a plum ripe for picking. Colluding with the pope, Phillip the Fair of France set out defame the Order and destroy it, spreading lascivious rumors about satanic rituals conducted by the Templar's.
Knights were arrested all across France on October 13, 1307 and held in Phillips dungeon for inquisition. Phillip made it known this was done under the auspices of an ecclesiastical commission but in reality the Pope was unaware of what had taken place. Due to the cruel savagery of torture used to gain submission, nearly all the knights agreed to the accusations in an attempt to stay alive. Instead, they were burned at the stake.
|A hiding place for Templar Knights!|
|The Crows Nest from Sir Ernest Shackleton's ship Quest. One of the many amazing artifacts on display in the crypt museum of All Hallows Church by the Tower.|
Sir Admiral William Penn, Sr.--Friends with the High and Mighty, Fractious Neighbor, and Savior of All Hallows
William Penn Jr., the founder of the State of Pennsylvania was baptized at All Hallows by the Tower on the 23rd of October 1644. His father, Sir William Penn was an Admiral in the Royal Navy and a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons during the English Civil Wars. He made much of his wealth applying for land grants on properties confiscated from Irish Catholics and Royalist supporters after he took part in putting down the failed Irish Rebellion of 1641.
Meanwhile Penn Senior stayed discreetly in touch with Royalist supporters abroad, playing both sides to his own benefit. As a moderate Puritan, Penn managed to survive quite well during the Cromwell Protectorate. When it ended and the monarchy was reestablished with limited powers, William Penn Senior was on the ship which fetched King Charles II back to England.
While sailing over to France Penn Senior ingratiated himself with the Duke of York--soon to be awarded the title of Lord high Admiral. With this fortuitous bit of networking in hand William Penn Sr. was appointed Commissioner of the Navy Board where he worked with none other than Mr. Samuel Pepys, diarist, and who was also Penn's next door neighbor. Pepys took a dim view of William Penn, senior, saying, "To the office, where the falsenesse and impertinencies of Sir W. Pen would make a man mad to think of." (Pepys diary, 5th April, 1666). Of course it is also possible Pepys threw such a jaundiced eye upon his neighbor because he tried--unsuccessfully--to seduce both William's wife Margaret and his daughter Peggy!
William Penn the elder is credited with saving the Easternmost part of the city during the Great Fire of 1666 when ordered the houses along street in front of All Hallows to be blasted with dynamite to serve as a firebreak which saved the church.
William Penn Junior--Rebellious Son and Quaker Leader
|No. 23: "William sonn of William Penn and Margaret his wife of the Tower Liberties." Baptized 23, October 1644.|
|Penn Jr. age 22. (Am. Library of Congress)|
RISE TO FAME AND BURIAL IN IGNOMINY
In 1681 after his father's death, the matter of the King's debt arose. King Charles the Second granted millions of acres to Penn the Younger in the New World which the King named Pennsylvania. The now wealthy Penn and his Quaker followers settled and began building the capitol city of Philadelphia. William was a pacifist who held passionate beliefs regarding democracy and religious freedom. Many of the principles he engaged in the founding of Pennsylvania were later included in the United States Constitution.
Over his lifetime William Penn Junior would become a widower, marry again, travel back and forth between England and America attempting to settle land boundary disputes between Pennsylvania and Maryland, which was owned by the Duke of Baltimore. Penn died in England a penniless man and was buried in a simple grave with no headstone.
|Quaker Oats are synonymous with William Penn|
September 4th 1877 Quaker Oats became America's first registered cereal brand. According to the company "The 'Quaker man' is not an actual person. His image is that of a man dressed in the Quaker garb, chosen because the Quaker faith projected the values of honesty, integrity, purity and strength." However, early Quaker Oats advertising, dating back to 1909, did, indeed, identify the man as William Penn, "standard bearer of the Quakers and of Quaker Oats."
John Quincy Adams-6th President of the United States
First born son of Abigail Smith Adams and John Adams--first U.S. Vice President and second President, John Quincy Adams began seventy years of public service at the age of eleven when he served as his father's secretary on a diplomatic mission to France. He spoke five languages including Greek and Latin and graduated with a degree in Law from Harvard University.
This son of American Independence shaped the first century of U.S. foreign policy, and a devout Puritan; an inexorable adversary of slavery and a keen practitioner of law. He served by President George Washington as U.S. Minister to both Holland and Prussia.
Resigning from congress in 1808 John Quincy was asked by America's fourth President James Madison to serve as minister to Russia. He went on to serve as the first post War of Independence minister to Britain. As his father before him, and his son Charles would do after him, John Quincy Adams stood proudly before the King of the former mother country as a representative of his independent nation.
Old Man Eloquent
Tapped again for public service by fifth U.S. President James Monroe to serve as Secretary of State, he later ran for the highest office in the land. After serving for only one term as U.S. President, John--a once devoted Federalist (America's first political party founded to represent the interests of bankers and businessmen) who became embittered by partisan politics--retired to his books and his farm and changed his political persuasion to Whig (the second political party affiliated in the U.S. which stood against tyranny and for economic protectionism).
Asked by his neighbors to serve them first in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and then in the U.S. House, John Quincy was elected to nine terms, earning his nickname "Old Man Eloquent."
John Quincy Adams suffered a stroke in the Speaker's room in Washington on
February 21, 1848, while serving his last term as representative. He died two
days later without regaining consciousness. When he died, he was not only
the last surviving statesman of the American Revolution but also the first
national leader to have dramatized the moral issue that precipitated the Civil
War. Although he was at times rigid, demanding, self-righteous, and even
quaint, John Quincy Adams possessed personal integrity, devotion to
principle, intellectual intensity, and strong will. (http://www.johnqadams.org/ Accessed 05/01/14 online)
So what link could this son of the American Revolution possibly have to All Hallows?
It is his wife Luisa Catherine Johnson, the only American First Lady born outside the United States. Daughter of an American merchant and an Englishwoman, her father served as U.S.Consul General in London after 1790, however during the War her family escaped London and took refuge in France.
In Nantes four year old Luisa first met elven year old John Quincy when he traveled through with his father.
They met again in London after the war and at age twenty two, Louisa married John Quincy Adams in All Hallows Church, July 26, 1797.
|Louisa Adams $10 gold coin honoring the First Ladies of the U.S. Issued in 2008. United States Mint.|
|John Quincy Adams "of Boston in the parish of America," and Luisa Catharine Johnson's signatures in the church registry.|
All Hallows by the Tower is also the home church for the parish which has administered local customs, rites, and ritual for more than six hundred years. During the more extreme measures of the Protestant Reformation many of the old church registers and documents were hidden...in a lead cistern in the tower of the church. Discovered in 1923, these documents reveal the only unbroken records of events on Tower Hill from the reign of Elizabeth the First (1558).
Beating the Boundaries is an ancient medieval rite reaffirming the boundaries of a parish by proceeding around them to beat each boundary marker with wands while praying for protection and blessings for the land. The beating party for All Hallows by the Tower is made up of boys from St. Dunstans College Catford (Americans: a College over here is a secondary junior or senior high school) and the southern boundary of the parish is mid stream in the Thames!
|Courtesy of All Hallows by the Tower Church|
Every third year this ceremony includes a mock battle with the Governor and Yeoman Warders of the Tower of London at the boundary mark shared by the Church and the Tower, commemorating a riot in 1698! this being the third year, the battle will take place on the terrace between the Church and the Tower at 7 p.m. May 29th. The Beating of the Bounds will occur at 3:15 p.m.
The Knollys Rose Ceremony
Organized each year in June by the Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames (this Guild or Livery represents 500 years of tradition. Watermen carry passengers and Lightermen carry goods and cargo), on the appointed day each year one red rose is lucked from the garden on Seething Land, conveyed to Mansion House on the altar cushion from All Hallows and presented to the Lord Mayor of the City of London Corporation (this is not the Mayor of Greater London which is a political position and currently held by Boris Johnson).
The Lord Mayor is an officiating presence representing, supporting and promoting the businesses and people of London--a business and cultural ambassador if you will. The present Lord Mayor is a the first ever woman to hold the post since records were kept beginning in 1189.
|© Yorkshire Tea Company, 2013|
This Knollys Rose Ceremony commemorates an ancient judgment dating from 1381 in which a gentleman by the name of Sir Robert Knollys owned a house on Seething Lane. Sent abroad to fight in France with John of Gaunt (Prince of the realm), Knolly's wife bought up land across the street on which there was the City of London's threshing ground, where chaff was separated from grain. Mrs. Knollys did this because she was tired of the chaff blowing through her home and so she bought the threshing ground and put in a rose garden. she also put in a fourteen foot high footbridge over the lane to avoid walking in mud--all without planning permission.
according to all the maps of London I have reviewed but the legal requirement lives on as a City tradition--a beloved spectacle. This year's ceremony takes place on Monday, June 23rd.
If you are interested, you can gongoozle as the well heeled stand with pomp in a tiny side garden surrounded by folk in ancient ceremonial garb (one man wears a tri-corn hat and a furred vest) to pluck a rose and lay it upon a pillow after which it is marched up the street cordoned off by London Police while toffs in their finest followed by Watermen and Lightermen in medieval red suits wearing billed hats and carrying oars at attention, accompany the rose to a throne room with two red velvet thrones in front of which stands the Lord Mayor in tie and tails and his wife, waiting to receive the rent. No doubt afterward the gentry retire to a drawing room for claret and company and the local yokels head off the their favorite pub for a pint.
There you have it! nineteen centuries or wild, wicked, glorious, sanctified history encompassed in one small square bit of Lady London! Whew!!!!