Walking in the footsteps of your Sovereignty
- Original design
- various, 1042
The 2020 programme is now past. We will be launching the 2021 programme mid August 2021
Take a sacred walk through hidden London with me.
Did you know that London is criss-crossed by sacred walks that were well known to many including our Kings and Queens? You will probably have been walking past these places or on these routes without ever knowing their history or significance.
Our walk will take us on the route that all the Monarchs took from Tower of London to Westminster Abbey on the day of their Coronation, through both the cities that make up the London we know. Did you know that this journey was not only a crowd pleaser but also an essential inner journey that each monarch was required to take to understand true sovereignty?
There are many hidden gems that I’ll reveal to you and codes of why certain structures were built where they are. Walking in the footsteps of every Monarch we will take part in an age old tradition of using these sacred routes to walk a journey through yourself.
This is a walk but each of you will be encouraged to go on our own journey, stopping at seven sacred centres, I will share how they relate to London and to ourselves.
This is not a standard tour through a city but one that reaches back to a time where the sacred was as much a part of our journey of self discovery as a TED talk – come and connect with the landscape and with yourself.
This is a walk and you should come with sensible shoes and prepared for all weathers. There will be a break halfway through for essential coffee and a chance to review our journey.
Come and experience the different side of a city you thought you knew well.
1) The Tower of London – meeting place
2) The London Stone
3) St Paul’s Cathedral
4) The Temple Church
5) Charing Cross
6) Whitehall Palace
7) Westminster Abbey
The Tower of London is the focal point of the sovereignty of Britain, and is inextricably linked to the power of the monarchy. It has long been the royal fortress, and is today the home of those modern symbols of sovereignty, the crown jewels.
The history of the Tower of London began in Norman times when the White Tower was first built, but before then the hill on which the tower was built was already a sacred place: the white mount, where Bran’s head was buried. The Romance of Branwen describes the event:
As Bran lay dying, he commanded his companions to cut off his head. “And take you my head,” said he, “and bear it even unto the White Mount, in London, and bury it there, with the face towards France.” After the entertainment of the noble head, his companions journeyed to London, and “they buried the head in the White Mount, and when it was buried, this was the third goodly concealment; and it was the third ill-fated disclosure when it was disinterred, inasmuch as no invasion from across the sea came to this island while the head was in that concealment.”
The legend of Bran’s head is now nearly forgotten, yet a reminder of his guardianship remains in the form of the Tower ravens, for the raven is Bran’s bird. For many centuries, ravens have guarded the Tower of London, and legend has it that if the ravens should ever leave, then the Tower would crumble and a great disaster would befall Britain.
The crown jewels are not just for rich display, but are the symbols of Britain’s sovereignty, modern-day equivalents of the thirteen sacred treasures of Britain. In the coronation ceremonies, the crown jewels are used, in effect, as magical instruments to bind the monarch to the land and to the people.
It is only appropriate that these sacred instruments are guarded by Bran at the Tower of London, for like all gods with a connection to the underworld, he is a guardian of the treasures of the earth.
It had become a tradition that the Monarch spend the night before their coronation at the Tower. The next morning they would travel at the head of a great procession through the city and to Westminster. All of the Tudor Monarchs observed this tradition, and although the Royal residences had fallen into neglect by 1660, Charles II made a point of starting his royal procession from the Tower on his coronation day, even though he was unable to spend the previous night there.
St John’s Chapel, Tower of London
A Romanesque chapel, St. John’s is on the second floor of the White Tower, which was built in 1077–97 as a keep or citadel, the oldest part of William the Conqueror’s powerful fortress. It was constructed from stone imported from France, and has a tunnel-vaulted nave with an east apse and groin-vaulted aisles, and the gallery above curves around the apse. Thick, round piers support unmoulded arches, notable for their simplicity, with simple carvings of scallop and leaf designs providing the only decoration.
The chapel has survived complete from the early Norman period, whereas other Norman churches in England date from the mid-12th century.
Housed in 111 Cannon Street it is but a short step from its original location on the other side of the road outside what is now Cannon Street Station.
It was once a huge megalith that stood as a standing stone and as a marker for London. The first recorded mention is around 1100. It has through out history been a focus of monument, commemoration and rebellion.
There is some speculation that Dr. John Dee was much fascinated by the stone and would venerate it and used pieces of it in his experiments.
It is and has been an important part of the city of London and was an important marker on the route to Westminster Abbey.
It sits on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City of London. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604.
Bede records that in AD 604 Augustine of Canterbury consecrated Mellitus as the first bishop to the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the East Saxons and their king, Sæberht. Sæberht’s uncle and overlord, Æthelberht, king of Kent, built a church dedicated to St Paul in London, as the seat of the new bishop. It is assumed, although not proved, that this first Anglo-Saxon cathedral stood on the same site as the later medieval and the present cathedrals.
King Æthelred the Unready was buried in the cathedral on his death in 1016; the tomb is now lost. The cathedral was burnt, with much of the city, in a fire in 1087, as recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
Burnt again in the Great Fire of London 1666 Wren was commissioned ot build the Cathedral we see today.
“Handsome and noble to all the ends of it and to the reputation of the City and the nation”. Dean William Sancroft. 1668.
The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, commonly known as the Inner Temple, is one of the four Inns of Court (professional associations for barristers and judges) in London.
The Temple takes its name from the Knights Templar, who originally (until their abolition in 1312) leased the land to the Temple’s inhabitants (Templars).
The history of the Inner Temple begins in the early years of the reign of Henry II (1154–1189), when the contingent of Knights Templar in London moved from the Old Temple in Holborn to a new location on the banks of the River Thames, stretching from Fleet Street to what is now Essex House.
The original Temple covered much of what is now the northern part of Chancery Lane (originally New Street), which the Knights created to provide access to their new buildings. The old Temple eventually became the London palace of the Bishop of Lincoln. After the Reformation it became the home of the Earl of Southampton, and the location is now named Southampton Buildings.
The first group of lawyers came to live here during the 13th century, although as legal advisers to the Knights rather than as a society. The Knights fell out of favour, and the order was dissolved in 1312, with the land seized by the king and granted to the Knights Hospitaller. The Hospitallers probably did not live on the property, but rather used it as a source of revenue through rent.
During the 12th and 13th centuries the law was taught in the City of London, primarily by the clergy. During the 13th century two events happened that ended this form of legal education; first, a papal bull of 1207 that prohibited the clergy from teaching the common law, rather than canon law, and second, a decree by King Henry III on 2 December 1234 that no institutes of legal education could exist in the City of London. As a result, the Church ceased to have a role in legal education in London. The secular, common law lawyers migrated to the hamlet of Holborn, as it was easy to get to the law courts at Westminster Hall and was just outside the City.
Two groups occupied the Hospitaller land, and became known as the “inner inn” (occupying the consecrated buildings near the centre of the Temple) and the “middle inn” (occupying the unconsecrated buildings between the “inner inn” and the Outer Temple).
The original Charing Cross was one of the medieval Eleanor crosses that stood in the heart of the hamlet of Charing, Westminster, from the 1290s until its destruction on the orders of Parliament in 1647.
The name of the area, Charing, is derived from the Old English word cierring, referring to a bend in the River Thames.
The addition of the name “Cross” to the hamlet’s name originates from the Eleanor cross erected in 1291–94 by King Edward I as a memorial to his wife, Eleanor of Castile, and placed between the former hamlet of Charing and the entrance to the Royal Mews of the Palace of Whitehall (today the top of Whitehall on the south side of Trafalgar Square).
At some time between 1232 and 1236, the Chapel and Hospital of St Mary Rounceval was founded at Charing. It occupied land at the corner of the modern Whitehall and into the centre of Northumberland Avenue, running down to a wharf by the river. It was an Augustinian house, tied to a mother house at Roncesvalles in the Pyrenees. The house and lands were seized for the king in 1379, under a statute “for the forfeiture of the lands of schismatic aliens”.
The Palace of Whitehall (or Palace of White Hall) at Westminster, Middlesex, was the main residence of the English monarchs from 1530 until 1698, when most of its structures, except notably Inigo Jones’s Banqueting House of 1622, were destroyed by fire. Henry VIII moved the royal residence here after the old royal apartments at the nearby Palace of Westminster were themselves destroyed by fire.
By the 13th century, the Palace of Westminster had become the centre of government in England, and had been the main London residence of the king since 1049.
By 1691 the palace had become the largest and most complex in Europe. On 10 April a fire broke out in the much-renovated apartment previously used by the Duchess of Portsmouth, damaging the older palace structures, though apparently not the state apartments. This actually gave a greater cohesiveness to the remaining complex. At the end of 1694 Mary II died in Kensington Palace of smallpox, and on the following 24 January lay in state at Whitehall; William and Mary had avoided Whitehall in favour of their palace at Kensington.
A second fire on 4 January 1698 destroyed most of the remaining residential and government buildings. It was started inadvertently by a servant in an upper room who had hung wet linen around a burning charcoal brazier to dry. The linen caught fire and the flames quickly spread throughout the palace complex, raging for 15 hours before firefighters could extinguish it. The following day, the wind picked up and re-ignited the fire farther north. Christopher Wren, then the King’s Surveyor of Works, was ordered expressly by William III to focus manpower on saving the architectural jewel of the complex, the Banqueting House.
A late tradition claims that Aldrich, a young fisherman on the River Thames, had a vision of Saint Peter near the site. This seems to have been quoted as the origin of the salmon that Thames fishermen offered to the abbey in later years – a custom still observed annually by the Fishmongers’ Company. The recorded origins of the Abbey date to the 960s or early 970s, when Saint Dunstan and King Edgar installed a community of Benedictine monks on the site.
Between 1042 and 1052, King Edward the Confessor began rebuilding St Peter’s Abbey to provide himself with a royal burial church. It was the first church in England built in the Romanesque style. The building was completed around 1060 and was consecrated on 28 December 1065, only a week before Edward’s death on 5 January 1066. A week later, he was buried in the church; and, nine years later, his wife Edith was buried alongside him. His successor, Harold II, was probably crowned in the abbey, although the first documented coronation is that of William the Conqueror later the same year.
The abbey became the coronation site of Norman kings. None were buried there until Henry III, intensely devoted to the cult of the Confessor, rebuilt the abbey in Anglo-French Gothic style as a shrine to venerate King Edward the Confessor and as a suitably regal setting for Henry’s own tomb, under the highest Gothic nave in England. The Confessor’s shrine subsequently played a great part in his canonization.
Construction of the present church began in 1245 by Henry III who selected the site for his burial.The first building stage included the entire eastern end, the transepts, and the easternmost bay of the nave. The Lady chapel built from around 1220 at the extreme eastern end was incorporated into the chevet of the new building, but was later replaced.
This work must have been largely completed by 1258–60, when the second stage was begun. This carried the nave on an additional five bays, bringing it to one bay beyond the ritual choir. Here construction stopped in about 1269, a consecration ceremony being held on 13 October of that year and because of Henry’s death did not resume.
The old Romanesque nave remained attached to the new building for over a century, until it was pulled down in the late 14th century and rebuilt from 1376, closely following the original (and by now outdated) design. Construction was largely finished by the architect Henry Yevele in the reign of Richard II.