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This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Handbook to the Cathedrals of England

by Richard John King

published by John Murray, Albemarle Street,
Peterborough, 1862

Text and engravings are in the public domain.


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Peterborough Cathedral​1

 p55  Part I. History and Details.

I. The cathedral of Peterborough was the conventual church of one of the most important Benedictine abbeys in England, founded towards the middle of the seventh century by Peada, the first Christian King of Mercia. On the dissolution the church was spared, owing, it is said, to its containing the remains of Queen Catherine of Arragon.º It became the cathedral of the new diocese, which embraced the counties of Northampton and Rutland. (See Part II for a full history of these changes). John Chamber, the last abbot, was created the first Bishop of Peterborough.

II. The dates and architectural character of the principal portions of the cathedral are as follows: —

Choir and eastern aisles of transept (1118‑1133, Abbots John of Seez and Martin of Bec), early Norman.​a

Transept, and probably a small portion of the nave  p56 (1155‑1177, Abbot William de Waterville), middle Norman.

Nave (1177‑1193, Abbot Benedict), late Norman.

Western Transept (also, in all probability, part of Abbot Benedict's work), transition Norman.

West front and remains of the Lady-chapel, Early English.

East aisle, or new building (begun 1438, completed 1496‑1528, Abbots Ashton and Kirton), Perpendicular.

From the apse of the choir to the west front, therefore, the cathedral affords an excellent example of the gradual changes in style from early Norman to fully developed Early English; whilst the Perpendicular work of the "new building" is of scarcely less value. Peterborough takes a very high, if not the highest place among English cathedrals of the second class, and has one unique feature — the grand triple arch of its west front. The entire church is built of Barnack stone — a close-grained and most durable freestone from the quarries near Stamford, known as the "hills and holes of Barnack," which had been worked from a very early period, and to which Northamptonshire is indebted for the materials of the many fine churches which distinguish the county.2

III. Before entering the Close, the visitor should  p57 place himself in front of the market-house, and remark from that point the view of the west front, and the western gateway of the abbey precincts, rising just as they did six hundred years ago above the old 'burgh' or town, which gradually sprang up under the protection of the Benedictines. The scene is picturesque, although it is to be regretted that no good unimpeded view of the cathedral is to be obtained at this distance.

The western gateway was originally the work of Abbot Benedict (1177‑1193), under whom the nave of the cathedral was erected. The Norman vault of the gateway is groined with plain cross-ribs, agreeing exactly with the vaulting of the aisles; and a Norman arcade remains on either side, one of the arches of which, north and south, is larger than the rest, and is pierced for a door. The west front has been faced with Perpendicular work, and a Perpendicular story above the gate has taken the place of a chapel of St. Nicholas, which formed part of Benedict's design. The window above the arch on the east side was part of a Perpendicular shrine, the rest of which remains in the cathedral. It is much to be regretted that the two portions should have been separated.

IV. It was at this gateway of "Peterborough the Proud," as the abbey was popularly called, that all visitors, of whatever rank, put off their shoes before entering the holy precincts; a pilgrimage to which, in certain cases, was regarded as equivalent to a visit to Rome. As he passes beneath the arch, a most striking view of the west front of the cathedral breaks upon the  p58 visitor. On the left is the chancel of Becket's chapel, founded by Abbot Benedict, and now forming a part of the Grammar-school. On the right hand is the ancient gateway of the abbots' lodgings, now that of the episcopal palace (§ XXV), and in front, across an open space of greensward, rise the three great arches of the west front, or, strictly speaking, the gigantic west porch, for the two piers are entirely detached, and stand several feet in advance of the actual wall of the west front.

This porch, which is of the purely Early English architecture, dates, in all probability, between the years 1200 and 1222, during which period Acharius and Robert of Lindsey were abbots. It is remarkable that neither of the local chroniclers has recorded the building of it, or that of the western transept behind it. The work, however, "seems about coeval with the chapter-house at Lincoln, and the west porch at Ely, both of which were built shortly after 1200, and have very florid and elaborate details." . . . "The fineness of the masonry, and the close joining of the deeply-moulded arch-stones, are unsurpassed by anything of this period in the kingdom."3

The front [Plate I] consists of three enormous arches, eighty-one feet in height, that in the centre being narrower than the other two. The arches are supported by triangular piers, entirely and boldly detached from the west wall. They are faced with banded shafts; and beyond them, north and south, rises a square turret,  p59 capped with a spire and pinnacles. The arches themselves support gables, much enriched with arcades and niches, and having in each a circular or 'rose' window. [Plate I*] A turret, terminating in a small spire, rises between each gable. The work of arches, gables, and turrets is entirely Early English; but the spires and pinnacles which terminate the flanking turrets are late Decorated additions. Those of the north turret remain incomplete. The height from the ground to the top of these spires is 156 feet; the width of the west front is exactly the same.

All the details of this front deserve the most careful examination. The capitals and leaf-ornaments of the shafts which line the piers, as well as the mouldings of the arches themselves, are of pure Early English character, and very graceful. The manner in which a clustered shaft ascends in front of the piers and between the arches, and terminates below the square basement supporting the turrets between the gables, should especially be noticed. These turrets are octangular, and in two stages; the upper of which is pierced by narrow lights, bordered by a chevron moulding. The spires which cap them rise slightly above the gables. The gables themselves are of equal height and width. The very ingenious manner in which they are made to correspond, in spite of the inequality of the three great arches below them, will be seen at once by a comparison of their bases. On each gable is an open cross, that in the centre being the richest. In a niche at the top of the central gable is a figure of St. Peter with the  p60 keys. In the two side niches are St. Paul and St. Andrew; the church having been dedicated in the names of these three saints by the bishops of Lincoln and Exeter (Grostête and Brewere) in 1237, when the west front must have been recently completed.​4 In the niches on either side of the circular windows are six small figures, said to be those of the six kings of England from the Conquest to the time of the erection of the front. Below, and placed in a most graceful arcade at the base of each gable, are nine figures of apostles, each of which has a circular nimbus. Figures of saints and ecclesiastics, which can no longer be identified, are placed in the spandrils of the great arches. The flanking turrets are enriched with blank arcades, of varying size and details. The spire and pinnacles which crown the south turret are Decorated (circ. 1360), and of extreme beauty. Those of the north turret are very meagre, and were perhaps never completed.

V. Between the central piers of the front, rising to about half their height and slightly projecting beyond them, is a parvise, or porch with an upper chamber, of late Decorated character, and apparently added about  p61 1370. The porch is much enriched, and is in itself a fine composition. It materially injures the uniform effect of the front; but its insertion seems to have been rather a question of necessity than of taste. It was probably erected "as an abutment against the west front, which, by a bulging outward of the pillars or a settlement of the foundations, was falling forward toward the west. It was, in fact, overweighted by the stone spires and pinnacles of the flanking towers, which those structures, having no proper buttresses, were ill adapted to bear. . . . The construction of this elegant little edifice is extremely scientific, especially in the manner in which the thrust is distributed through the medium of the side turrets, so as to fall upon the buttresses in front. These turrets, being erected against one side of the triangular columns, on the right and the left hand, support them in two directions at once, viz. from collapsing towards each other, and from falling forward. . . . The latter pressure is thrown wholly upon the buttresses in front, which project seven feet beyond the base of the great pillars."5

The bosses on the vault of the porch should be noticed. On one of them is an unusual representation of the Trinity — the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove proceeding out of the glory of the Father. The room above now serves as the chapter library.

VI. The west wall of the church, within the great arches, is enriched with various arcades. In the opening of each arch is a doorway with a window above it,  p62 the latter being Decorated insertions. The three doorways are unusually fine. That in the centre is divided into two arches by a shaft, the base of which displays a Benedictine tortured by demons — a perpetual "sermon in stone" for the monks. The wooden doors themselves are the original ones, as is shewn by the chevron moulding on the interior framework. An Early English vaulted roof connects the façade with the west wall of the church.

"As a portico," says Mr. Fergusson, "using the term in its classical sense, the west front of Peterborough is the grandest and finest in Europe; though wanting in the accompaniments which would everybody it to rival some of the great façades of Continental cathedrals."​6 There is no similar arrangement on an important scale in England, although on the Continent it is not uncommon, as at Amiens and Chartres.​7 Nowhere is the triple entrance to the sanctuary — typical, it is usually considered, of the Holy Trinity — grander, or more emphatically marked. The effects of light and shade produced by the great piers and arches of this "majestic front of columel-work," as Fuller calls  p63 it, are wonderful. The upper portion of the space within them is generally in deep shadow, even at sunset, when the rest of the front is glowing with rosy light: this moment should be watched for by the visitor — and the effect of a full moon is still more impressive. The entire front, it should here be added, was repaired and restored before 1830, by Dr. Monk, then Dean of Peterborough, afterwards Bishop of Gloucester.

VII. On entering the cathedral we find ourselves in the west transept; extending across the nave, and projecting one bay beyond the aisle on either side. This transept was an addition to the Norman nave during the period of the great transition of styles, and, like the nave itself, was probably the work of Abbot Benedict (1177‑1193; see § VIII). The naves of the neighbouring cathedrals of Ely and Lincoln terminate in a similar manner; but the west transept of Ely is probably earlier (1174‑1189), and that of Lincoln later (1209‑122) than the west transept of Peterborough. The vaulting and arch-mouldings are of transition Norman character, and much enriched. Lofty arches, parallel with the nave-aisles, support towers, of which, except one stage of the north tower, no portion above the roofs was completed at the same time as the transept (§ XII). In the bays beyond the towers are two long windows north and south, and two narrower east, the tracery of which is Early English. They have transoms, with cusped headings to the lower lights — an unusual and early example. The Norman clerestory windows above are filled with Perpendicular  p64 tracery. Whether the existing west wall belonged originally to this transept, or to the Early English west front, is an architectural problem which must be allowed to remain unsolved.​8 An Early English arcade, pierced for three doorways, runs along it; and above each doorway is a window with Perpendicular tracery. A wall-passage runs through their jambs.

The bells, which hang in the north-west tower, are rung from the floor of this transept. The Early English font, which has been restored, is placed under the great south window. The view up the nave-aisles, with their long perspective of circular vaulting-ribs, is very striking.

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VIII. The nave [Plate II] is throughout Norman, the work of Abbots de Waterville and Benedict (1155‑1193), and a continuation of the choir, which was completed in 1133. Peterborough is one of three Norman cathedrals, the other two being Ely and Norwich, which are separated by no great distances, and may be advantageously compared. Of these the earliest is Norwich (1091‑1119), the original design of which has been least interfered with, and which still affords the most perfect example of an early Norman church remaining in England. The nave of Ely, completed in 1174, is nearly contemporary with that of Peterborough, which it greatly resembles. Peterborough, however, retains its Norman choir and apse; and its ground-plan is only second in interest to that of Norwich. The dimensions  p65 of the actual nave exceed those of either Ely or Norwich: —

Length of nave

(from west transept to western piers of central tower)

211 ft.

(from western transept
to octagon)


(to choir screen)


Width of nave (without aisles)
33 ft.
81 ft.
72. 9.
69. 6.

The choir of Norwich, however, is extended into the nave, which measures 250 ft. to the central tower; and at Ely the grandeur of the later additions, the great west tower and the octagon, produces an effect before which Peterborough fades into complete insignificance. The view eastward at prevent is intercepted by the organ, which is placed over the choir-screen: the windows of the Norman apse, however, are seen beyond it; and the wooden ceiling of the nave, which is no doubt the original one, gives an especial interest to the interior of this cathedral.

The nave, which consists of ten bays, has massive cylindrical piers, with smaller shafts set against them, and well moulded circular arches.​9 The triforium, which closely resembles that of Ely, has a wide semi-circular arch, with zigzag moulding, embracing two smaller ones, divided by a single shaft. The clerestory above has three semicircular arches, (of which that in the centre, higher than the rest, springs from slender  p66 shafts, set on the capitals of those below), circumscribed by a pointed hood-moulding. The nave, "from the tower to the west front," is expressly said by the chroniclers of Peterborough to have been the work of Abbot Benedict (1177‑1193). It has been suggested, however, that his predecessor, Abbot Waterville, who built the central tower, must necessarily, in order to ensureº its safety, have completed some portion of the nave. Mr. Paley has accordingly pointed out some differences which may mark the point of junction between his work and Benedict's. "Immediately above the fourth pillar on the north side, the column which supports the triforium arch, as well as that of the clerestory above it, has its capitals enriched with Early English foliage in place of the plain cushion-capital which is elsewhere seen. This seems to mark . . . . . . that the Norman work of Benedict is assimilated, or imitative, i.e. built in conformity with the rest in a style then becoming obsolete."​10 It also shews that his new work finished at this point, having been begun, as usual, at both ends of the nave. The mouldings of the bases of the piers in this part are also Early English, differing entirely from the rest, which are plain Norman. Eastward of the last bay of Benedict's work the tympana of the triforium are hatched, like those of the transepts, whilst all the rest are plain. The courses of stone in the first four piers on each side vary from twenty to twenty-four; those westward, from twenty-five to twenty-seven courses (counted from base to capital exclusively). The hoodmould of the two eastern arches is  p67 deeper than the rest; the capitals of the shafts plainer and heavier. The distinction in this direction appears to be sufficiently marked. A more evident change at the west end, first pointed out by Mr. Paley, is thought by him to indicate the termination of Abbot Benedict's work in that direction. "The third pillar from the west end on each side is considerably larger and wider than any others; and it also projects further into the aisles. The arch also, springing from it westward, is of a much greater span. The opposite vaulting-shafts, in the aisle-walls, are brought forward beyond the line of the rest, to meet the pillars in question, so that the arch across the aisles is in this part very much contracted, and instead of being a mere groin-rib, like the rest, is a strong moulded arch, of considerable depth in the soffete. What appears at first sight still more strange, the wall of the aisle opposite to the wider nave-arch just mentioned is brought forward at least a foot internally, but again retires to the old level at the last bay; so that in this particular part the whole thickness of the aisle-wall is considerably greater."​11 It is sufficiently plain that these peculiarities mark the former existence of the lower portions of two Norman towers. "The wider nave-arch, with its massive and complex pillars, was the entrance into the tower from each side of the nave. The thicker aisle-wall opposite to it was, in fact, the tower wall." In the south triforium gallery, also, there is the springing of a transverse arch at this point, evidently the eastern arch of a south-west tower, intended  p68 to have been erected there. There is, however, no satisfactory reason for believing these towers to mark the western termination of Abbot Benedict's work. The chroniclers, Robert Swaffham and Abbot John (the former of whom was for some years contemporary with Benedict himself), assert expressly that the nave ("a turre usque ad frontem") was constructed by Benedict. The present Early English portico was in existence when they wrote, so that their 'front' can be no other than the western wall of the west transept. Benedict's original design seems in fact to have been changed during the progress of the work. The towers were abandoned, and two more bays were added to the nave, besides the western transept. This was also an afterthought, and is entirely of transitional character, distinct from that of the nave, with the exception of the one capital and of the bases before mentioned, which agree in style with this transept, and the two additional west bays, which approach to it. The capitals of the triforium-shafts and of the main piers in these two bays are worthy of special notice.

The south side of the nave was evidently built before the north side, probably to complete the cloister.12

 p69  IX. A single shaft rises from the floor to the roof between each bay of the nave. These shafts formerly supported the rafters of the painted ceiling. When the tower-arches were changed from round to pointed, this remarkable ceiling, which is clearly of the twelfth century, was raised from a flat form to its present shape, which is half octagonal. [Plate III] It is painted in lozenge-shaped divisions, of which the central and alternate lines on each side contain figures, most of which are seated, and represent royal and ecclesiastical personages, intermixed with very curious grotesques. These are in colours. The bordering and smaller lozenges are painted in black and white, with narrow red lines. The painting on the upper part of the walls, between the present position of the ceiling and the Norman cornice on which it originally rested, is work of the fourteenth century, when the arches were altered, and the Norman ceiling was raised to fit them. In this painting on the walls there are shields of arms of the fourteenth century, and its general character is quite distinct from that of the ceiling itself. The semicircular shafts which separate the bays of the nave (commonly called vaulting-shafts), are all terminated in the same manner, sloped off at the top to the Norman string-moulding, which forms a cornice; and on each shaft is a sort of tongue, evidently part of the original design, so that they never had, nor were intended to have, capitals; nor is there any trace of capitals in the walls above the ceiling, as has been rashly asserted; the side-walls are in fact not high enough above the ceiling to  p70 admit of them. The original design was evidently intended for a flat painted ceiling, and although the only other example known in the country of such a ceiling is the one at St. Alban's, there is abundant evidence that it was the usual covering of an early Norman nave, and indeed of any wide central space, whether nave, or chancel, or transepts. On the Continent there are many examples of flat ceilings of the twelfth century, although we are not aware that any have retained their ancient painting. This remarkably interesting ceiling may therefore be unique.

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X. The vaulting of the side aisles is Norman, with bold and massive cross-ribs. An arcade of intersecting arches runs below the windows, which are late Early English insertions. They are unusual in form, flat-arched, of five lights, and have plate-tracery. The aisle walls were apparently raised when these windows were inserted. The triforium is now lighted by large Decorated windows (circ. 1360), of three lights. It had originally a steep roof, sloping outward.

In the third bay (from the west) of the south aisle, is the "Abbot's door," — an Early English doorway opening into what was the ancient cloister, and corresponding with another door in the south cloister walk which led to the abbot's lodgings.

XI. On the north side of the great west door hangs a portrait of "Old Scarlett," the sexton who interred Catherine of Arragon and Queen Mary of Scotland, and who died in 1594, aged ninety-eight. The arms above are those of the see of Peterborough. The inscription runs, —  p71 

"You see old Scarlitt's picture stand on hie,

But at your feete here doth his body lye.

His gravestone doth his age and Death time show,

His office by thes tokens you may know.

Second to none for strength and sturdye limm,

A Scarebabe mighty voice with visage grim.

Hee had interd two Queenes within this place

And this townes Householders in his lives space

Twice over: But at length his own time came;

What for others did for him the same

Was done: No doubt his soule doth live for aye

In heaven: Tho here his body clad in clay.

The portrait is curious as an example of costume, but is scarcely a fitting ornament for the nave of a cathedral.

XII. The central tower, at the intersection of the nave and eastern transept, was originally built by Abbot de Waterville (1155‑1177), and formed a lantern of four stages.​13 It subsequently proved, however, too heavy for the central piers to support; and in order to prevent the fall of the tower (which had actually taken place at Ely and Winchester), it was taken down nearly as far as the crowns of the great arches. The east and west arches were altered from semicircular to pointed; the Norman arches, north and west (which have chevron mouldings) remain. "The pointed hoods inserted above the two round arches mark real arches of construction, devised to remove the weight from the crown of the  p72 latter. The strong courses of masonry for this purpose may be seen from below when the sun shines brightly on the walls."​14 The original Norman pillars and capitals remain, but have been adapted to the new work in a manner which should be noticed. The existing lantern is Decorated (circ. 1340?), with two lofty windows on each side, filled with Decorated tracery. Graceful vaulting-shafts of wood, in groups of three, carry the lierne roof, in the central boss of which is the Saviour holding a globe. The wooden vaulting, as well as the lightness of the entire lantern, were no doubt rendered necessary from the mischief which the weight of the Norman tower had already caused to the south-east pier, which is much crippled, and bound with iron. The great pillars on the east side have, in fact, "settled very considerably on their foundations, dragging down their adjoining triforium and clerestory arches in a remarkable manner."

The view from beneath the central tower, looking westward, should be noticed. The unusual effect of the west transept, and of the enriched western wall with its windows, is well seen from this point.

XIII. The eastern arches of both transepts, as has been already stated, belong, like the choir, to the earliest part of the church, built by Abbots John of Seez and Martin of Bec (1118‑1133). The rest of the transepts is the work of Abbot de Waterville (1155‑1177). The arrangement of both transepts is the same. Each consists of three bays. The termination  p73 of each, north and south, is alike; each having three tiers of semicircular-headed windows (two upper in the lines of the triforium and clerestory), with a wall-arcade below the lowest tier. The western wall of both transepts has the same arrangement of windows, except that the clerestory tier resembles that of the nave in having a high central light with a lower arch (forming an arcade passage) on either side. From some indications, — such as that the lowest tier of windows have the billet-moulding above them, and that the windows in this wall are straight-sided, whilst those opposite them in the north transept are splayed, — Mr. Paley infers that the work of the transepts was commenced on the south side, where it was at first executed in imitation of the older work of the choir and eastern transept-aisles, and completed on the north side in rather a plainer manner. The splaying of the windows was an evident improvement. The windows throughout the transepts (except those in the eastern aisles) are filled with Perpendicular tracery.

The eastern aisles are divided from the transept by massive piers, alternately round and octangular, supporting arches which are slightly stilted. They have plain cushioned capitals. A billet-moulding surrounds each arch, which has a plain rib in the soffit. The triforium above resembles that in the nave, except in having many of the tympana hatched. The clerestory is the same as on the west side: vaulting-shafts rise to the roof between the arches: a chevroned stringcourse runs at the foot of the triforium; a plain moulding  p74 above it. The 'heaviness' of the masses, and the style of ornamentation (the billet, chevron, and indented or hatched moulding are alone used), sufficiently indicate the early date of these aisles, which precisely resemble the choir in all their details. "It seems to be one continuous piece of work throughout." The difference between this portion and the rest of the transept will be at once recognised by comparing the mouldings of the entrance arches of the choir-aisles with those into the nave-aisles opposite.

The ceilings of both transepts are of the same date as that of the nave, which they resemble except in being plainer: they are painted black and white, in medallions. Unlike the nave ceiling, however, these of the transepts remain in their original position, and have never been raised. They may therefore lay claim to a yet higher antiquity.

XIV. The eastern aisle of the north transept [Plate IV] is divided from the transept itself by oaken screen-work, of Perpendicular date, but of no very high interest. Some stalls and canopies removed from the choir are placed against the north walk, among which three Early English shafts with gilt capitals should especially be noticed. At the east end of the chancel in Compton Church, Surrey, are some small wooden arches of the same date, which may be compared. The east wall below the windows is hung with tapestry of the sixteenth century — relics in all probability of hangings which formerly adorned the choir — representing the delivery of St. Peter from prison, and the  p75 healing of the lame man at the gate of the Temple. The windows of this aisle are filled with Perpendicular tracery — except that nearest to the choir, which is geometrical. A Norman doorway in the north wall opens to a staircase leading to the roof. The two closed arches in the northern and central bays on the east side formed the entrance to a very beautiful Lady-chapel of the Early English period (1274), which after the Restoration was demolished for the sake of the materials, in order to repair the great damage which the cathedral had received from Cromwell's troopers.15

[image ALT: An engraving of three wooden capitals of geminate columns. They are in the cathedral of Peterborough (Cambridgeshire, England).]
[A] In the North Transept.

[image ALT: An engraving of the rather schematic wooden capital on a pilaster of adoor. It is a detail of the west door of the cathedral of Peterborough (Cambridgeshire, England).]
[B] On the Interior of the great West Door.

The east aisle of the south transept is lighted by three Early English windows, the tracery in the heads of which is of the earliest kind, consisting of foliated circulars only. This aisle was divided into three chapels, dedicated to St. Oswald, St. Benedict, and St. Kyneburga, by stone partitions of the same date as the aisle itself, one of which has an intersecting Norman arcade.  p76 Brackets on each side of the altars remain in the east wall. Similar divisions for chapels of Early English date exist in the transepts of Lincoln Cathedral.

A Decorated doorway in the west wall of this transept opens to a small building of transition Norman character, now used partly as a music school, and partly as the chapter-house. It was anciently known as the "Chapel of the Ostrie," — a corruption, according to Mr. Paley, of 'hostelry' or guest-house.

XV. The cathedral suffers throughout from the want of stained glass — always of infinite service in increasing the solemn effect of Norman architecture. It was richly furnished in this respect, and retained the greater part of its ancient fittings until long after the Reformation; but in 1643 Peterborough was visited by Cromwell himself, on his way to besiege Crowland; and it is probable that no English cathedral was more completely "set to rights," or underwent more wanton destruction at the hands of the Parliamentarian troopers. In spite of special orders to "do no injury to the church," they broke open its doors, and proceeded to shatter the windows, to pull down the fittings of the choir, to destroy the organ and the monuments, including those of the two queens, Catherine and Mary, and to break in pieces the superb reredos of carved stone, painted, gilt, and inlaid with plates of silver. The narrative in the Mercurius Rusticus asserts, that "one of the soldiers having charged his musket to shatter down the four Evangelists, in the roof, above the Communion-table, by the rebound of his own shot was struck blind." The  p77 cloisters were then pulled completely down, (the windows had been filled with stained glass of unusual beauty), and all the charters and evidences belonging to the cathedral were burnt or destroyed. The soldiers appropriated such rich church vestments as they could find; and until their departure they were daily exercised by their officers in the nave of the cathedral.

XVI. This unusual havoc will account for the present condition of the choir; all the ancient furniture of which has disappeared. The heavy organ-screen, of white stone, was executed under the direction of Dean Monk, before 1830; and the stalls and woodwork are also of this date: design and colour are alike unpleasing; but allowance should be made for the period when the work was done, and much credit is due to Dean Monk for originating a movement and forming a school of workmen which soon improved and led the way to what has followed in other cathedrals. The choir, as far as the apse, is of four bays; its massive piers are entirely hidden by the tabernacle-work of the stalls. The arrangement and details of triforium and clerestory precisely resemble those of the eastern transept-aisles, except that the piers which alternate with the round ones are ten and twelve-sided instead of octangular. The choir was the recorded work of the two Abbots, John of Seez (1118‑1125), and Martin of Bec (1133‑1155); the intervening Abbot, Henry of Anjou (1127‑1133), did nothing for it. "He lived," says the Saxon Chronicle, "even as a drone in a hive. As the drone eateth and draggeth  p78 forward to himself all that is brought near, even so did he. He did there no good, neither did he leave any there." It is probable that little more than the foundations were completed by John of Seez.

The apse, or eastern end of the choir, notwithstanding the changes which have been made, in order to connect it with the New Building beyond, still remains a very fine example of a Norman termination. It should be compared with the slightly earlier eastern apse of Norwich (the work of Herbert Losinga, died 1119). A Norman arch, of which only the pillars remain, originally divided the apse from the choir. A modern screen, of Decorated character, richly diapered in gold and colour, extends across the back of the apse. Above the level of this screen were originally three tiers of Norman windows, five in a tier. The three central windows of the lowest tier were filled with Perpendicular tracery of the same date as the New Building, into which they look; portions of the roof, and the wretched stained glass window at the eastern end being visible through them. The two side-windows of this tier are built up; but the Decorated tracery which remains in them proves that this tier of windows had been altered before undergoing a second change on the erection of the new building. The triforium windows, in the second tier, whilst they retain their circular headings, are, like the clerestory windows above them, filled with Decorated tracery of the same date, and no doubt inserted at the same time. An intersecting Norman arcade is seen below the triforium window range,  p79 at the back of the wall-passage in which they are set. All these windows are filled with stained glass, most of which is modern and atrocious; that in the two central lights, however, consists of ancient fragments collected from different parts of the church. Norman pilasters run up between the windows. The slight depression in the arches of the three central openings in each tier should be noticed.

The flat roof of the apse, like the eastern screen, has been excellently decorated from the designs of Mr. G. G. Scott. In the centre is the Saviour in majesty; surrounding Him, in medallions placed among the branches of a vine which clusters over the pale blue ground of the ceiling, are half-figures of the Apostles. The whole is bordered by an inscription: "I am the Vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in Me, the same shall bring forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing."

The roof of the choir dates apparently from the close of the fifteenth century. It is of wood, with pendent bosses. The whole has been coloured, the bosses gilt, and medallions containing angels painted between the groining-ribs. Whatever may be the age of this roof, "it seems to indicate that the choir was not covered with a flat ceiling, like the nave and transepts, but probably with an open timber roof, something like the nave of Ely Cathedral. Had there been a flat ceiling, it would surely have been retained for the sake of uniformity."16

 p80  ÆLFRIC (died 1051) and Kinsi (died 106), Archbishops of York, were buried on the south side of the choir. The latter had been a monk of Peterborough.

XVII. The south choir-aisle, which we enter from the transept, is of the same date as the choir itself. The windows are early geometrical, of the same date and character as those in the nave. An intersecting Norman arcade, plainly moulded, lines the wall beneath them. (It may here be remarked, that among the differences to be noted between the choir and the transepts, is the distinction of their wall-arcades; that of the choir-aisles being double and intersected, that of the transepts single.) The vaulting is the same as that of the eastern transept-aisles.

[image ALT: An engraving of the lid of a stone coffin depicting an abbot carrying a book and a crozier, the point of which impales a small dragon coiled beneath his feet. It is the effigy of one of the early abbots of Peterborough, in the abbey, now a cathedral (Cambridgeshire, England).]
At the west end of the aisle, under a heavy Norman arch enriched with billet-moulding, is an effigy attributed to Abbot Andrew (1193‑1200). He treads on a dragon, the mouth of which is pierced by his staff: in his left hand he holds a book. Remark the rich 'apparel' ornamenting his outer robe. The book, which is usually placed in the hands of Benedictine abbots, is supposed to represent the statutes of their Order. The difference between an abbatial and episcopal staff should also be noticed. The bishop's is generally much enriched, and turned to the right, or outwards, indicating an external jurisdiction; the abbot's plain, and twisted to the left, or inwards, denoting a domestic rule. On the wall above the effigy are the following lines: —

 p81  "Hos tres Abbates quibus est prior Abba Johannes

Alter Martinus, Andreas ultimus, unus

Hic claudit tumulus. Pro clausis ergo rogemus."

Three more effigies of early abbots, [Plate V], said to have been brought from the chapter-house, are placed under the south wall of this aisle. All hold the book of Statutes. The two easternmost (the lowest of which is a good example) are of early Decorated character. Another much shattered effigy is placed under the wall of the choir.

A plain black marble slab, close without the south door of the choir, marks the tomb in which the remains of Mary Queen of Scots rested until their removal to Westminster. The execution of the Queen took place on February 8, 1586/7; but it was not until July 30, 1587, that her body was brought from Fotheringay to Peterborough for interment. It was conveyed by torchlight, in a "chariot" covered with black cloth, and was met at the entrance of the cathedral by Bishop Howland, who conducted it in solemn procession to the vault prepared for it, in which it was immediately laid. On the following day a funeral service was performed, the Countess of Bedford being chief mourner. The Bishop of Lincoln preached; and the heralds broke their staves, and cast them into the vault. Twenty-five years afterwards the body, at the request of James I,​17 was removed to Westminster, under the care of the Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, and was  p82 interred where it now lies, Oct. 11, 1612. A lofty "herse," hung with black velvet, was erected over Queen Mary's resting-place at Peterborough, and was removed, with the body, to Westminster. John Chambers, the last abbot and first bishop of Peterborough, was interred in this aisle, near the grave of Queen Mary.

The aisle is disfigured by the backs of the choir-stalls. The extreme eastern bay of this and of the opposite aisle is Early English, and has slender vaulting-shafts, with a leafed boss in the centre of the roof. In the south wall is a good double piscina. The two bays thus formed chapels at the ends of the choir-aisles; the original Norman terminations of which, according to Mr. Paley, were square, and not apsidal.

XVIII. The so‑called New Building, [Plate VI], which now forms the eastern end of the cathedral, was commenced by Abbot Ashton in 1438, but not completed until the time of Abbot Kirton (1496‑1528). It is entered from the choir-aisle, through an arch with square ornaments, characteristic of Perpendicular work, in the hollow of the moulding. The Tudor rose, the pomegranate of Catherine of Arragon, the fleur-de‑lys, the rebus of Abbot Kirton (a "kirk" on a tun), and some armorial bearings, appear among these ornaments.

The New Building itself — the view across which, beyond the arch, is a fine one — is a long parallelogram of five bays, and forms, in effect, a third transept, extending across the eastern end of the church. A similar eastern transept existed at Fountains Abbey, and still  p83 remains at Durham, where the "Chapel of the Nine Altars," as it is called, was the work of Bishop Poore (1228‑1241). The want of shrine-room for the display of relics, in which Peterborough was especially rich, was no doubt the cause which led to the erection of this transept, which in almost all its details — groined roof, windows, exterior battlement, and buttresses — so closely resembles King's College Chapel at Cambridge, that, it has been suggested, "the same master-mind would seem to have conceived both."​18 The beautiful fan-tracery of the roof should especially be noticed. The arms on the bosses are those of England, Edward the Confessor, and Peterborough. The windows were originally filled with very fine stained glass. This has all disappeared; and the central east window alone is now filled with wretched harlequin quarrels, than which the simplest white glass would be infinitely preferable.

The manner in which the Norman choir-apse is squared, so as to adapt it to the New Building, should be remarked. The Norman shafts and Norman wall of the apse remain; and at the side of the entrance-arches these shafts are fitted with Perpendicular capitals. Portions of the Norman stringcourse, much weather-worn (for it must be remembered that before the erection  p84 of the New Building the apse was uninclosed), may also be observed — as well as the Decorated tracery still remaining in the closed windows, north and south. "The body of the aperture in the three easternmost is left open, and continued down to the ground in the form of lofty archways, though the lower parts are now blocked by the modern altar-screen, as they were formerly by steps leading from the back of the high altar. The marks of these steps may yet be seen in the south-eastern archway, within the chapel, as well as the hinges of folding-doors, by which the retro-choir, or space behind the high altar, was enclosed."19

 p85  XIX. Under one of these arches at the back of the apse is a small monument of considerable interest [Plate VII]. This was long supposed to be the stone erected by Godric, Abbot of Crowland, over the monks of Medeshamstede (the ancient name of Peterborough), who, with their abbot, Hedda, were slaughtered by the Danes in 870. They had already destroyed Crowland, and were assaulting Medeshamstede, when the brother of the Danish Jarl, Hubba, was killed by a stone thrown from the walls. In revenge, after an entrance had been forced, the Jarl, with his own hand, slew the Abbot and all the surviving monks. The abbey was plundered and burnt. After the Danes had left the country, a few of the Crowland monks returned to their ruined monastery, and chose Godric for their abbot. Having arranged his own community as far as possible, he visited Medeshamstede, where he collected the mangled bodies of the monks — eighty-four in number, says the pseudo-Ingulphus — and interred them in one large grave, over which he raised "a pyramidal stone, three feet high, three feet long, and one foot broad, on which were cut the images of the deceased abbot and his monks." Every remaining year of his life, it is said, Godric paid a visit to this stone, and pitched a tent over it, in which he said masses  p86 during two days, for the repose of those buried beneath.

This story, it should be remarked, rests solely on the spurious narrative of Ingulphus, the Chronicler of Crowland; and although the tomb agrees very closely with the measurements given above, it was demonstrated by Mr. M. H. Bloxham, at the meeting of the Archaeological Institute at Peterborough in 1861, that it is work of the early part of the twelfth century. It is a mass either of Purbeck, or of a somewhat similar marble, full of minute shells. Large holes have been bored in it, three on one side, and two on the other, probably for the purpose of fixing candlesticks. On either of the upright sides are six much-worn figures, the details of which it is very difficult to distinguish. All have the nimbus — a plain circular beading round the heads of all, except one of the figures on the east side, which has the cruciform nimbus distinctive of our Lord, indicated by double lines proceeding from the head to the exterior beading. The hair of a figure on the west side is arrayed in rays, or semicircles. The dress of all is alike — a long robe with a shorter sleeved vestment over it. The emblems they carry seem to vary: most have books; some bear palm-branches. All are under a circular arcade, with a kind of double leaf-ornament springing from the intersections. The sloping top of the stone is divided into four partitions, with rude sculpture of leafage and birds, one of which may perhaps represent a peacock, a favourite emblem of the Resurrection. Circles and knots  p87 of intersected lines mark the early character of the whole work. The two ends are plain, except that on the south side the date 870 has been carved in modern Arabic numerals.

This monument at all events deserves the most careful attention. The figures are in all probability those of the Saviour and His Apostles, who are usually represented as carrying books; although the dress is that of the twelfth century. It is not impossible, however, that the monument (which may in reality be that of an early abbot) is the actual stone described by Ingulphus, whose narrative has been proved to be a composition of much later date.

XX. On the adjoining wall is the monument of Thomas deacon (died 1721), founder of a charity-school at Peterborough, and in many other ways a benefactor to the city. He reclines on the summit of his sarcophagus, attired in a Ramillies wig, and resting one hand on a skull, whilst with the other he points to the record of this virtues behind him. The shattered monument west of this one was erected during his own lifetime by Sir Humphrey Orm, for himself and his family. Before Sir Humphrey's death his monument was reduced by Cromwell's troopers to its present condition. The effigy of an abbot, of Early English date, is placed in the recess behind the altar; and on the adjoining wall are the monuments of Bishop Cumberland (died 1718) and of Bishop White Kennett (died 1728. For both, see Part II.) Bishop Cumberland's volume, De legibus Naturae disquisitio philosophica — a  p88 refutation of Hobbes — is thus referred to in the inscription on this monument: —

"Macte, malae fraudis domitor, defensor honesti

Legum Naturae, justitiaeque pugil.

O quantum debent, quas laeserat Hobbius, ambas

Recta simul Ratio, Religioque, tibi!"

The lines are from a poetical address to the Bishop by Duport, Dean of Peterborough, whose own monument remains in the north choir-aisle.

Against the lower wall of the apse is a monument formed of fragments of various dates, which seem to have been arranged at a very late period as a memorial of some unknown person. The Perpendicular portions belonged to a shrine which contained relics of St. Ebba — the most important part of which now serves as a window in the gatehouse (§ III). St. Ebba was the instructress of St. Etheldreda of Ely, and the sister of Oswald of Northumbria, whose arm was one of the greatest treasures of Peterborough: (see Part II.)

XXI. The north choir-aisle precisely resembles the south; the first bay being Early English, as in that. One of the original Norman window-openings has been preserved in this aisle, filled, however, with Perpendicular tracery and with modern stained glass. It over­looks a slab of blue stone, close to the north choir-door, beneath which still rest the remains of Queen Catherine of Arragon. We cannot do better than to appropriate the words of Mr. Paley, in contemplating "the humble grave of one to whose existence, though it may be but incidentally, this nation owes the  p89 greatest change that ever was brought about in it, and upon the accident of whose burial here depended the preservation of this fine abbey and its conversion into a cathedral church. There is no monument in England that can fairly be called more deeply interesting than this one, though few, indeed, of those who daily trample on it, and are fast obliterating the simple words, 'Queen Catherine, A.D. 1536' appear to entertain a thought about it. Not one of five hundred, we dare aver, recals her dying words in Shakespeare's 'King Henry VIII:' —

'When I am dead

Let me be used with honour: strew me o'er

With maiden flowers, that all the world may know

I was a chaste wife to my grave: embalm me,

Then lay me forth: although unqueened, yet still

A Queen, and daughter to a King, inter me.'

Many banners, with heraldic devices and royal achievements, hung above this tomb; and a lofty herse, covered with a black velvet pall marked with a cross of silver tissue, and enriched on the sides with the arms and badges of Arragon, remained on it until the destruction wrought by Cromwell's soldiers. Queen Catherine, the closing scene of whose life it is scarcely possible to imagine otherwise than as Shakespeare has painted it, died at Kimbolton Castle, in Huntingdonshire, Jan. 8, 1535, and was interred in this aisle with much of the state befitting "a queen, and daughter to a king."

XXII. Passing out of the cathedral we enter the  p90 churchyard on its north side; the gateway into which has, close adjoining it, a battlemented arch of entrance to the Deanery — built by Abbot Kirton, who completed the New Building. The same arms and emblems appear no it as on the bosses and ornaments of his work in the cathedral. His rebus — a kirk on a tun — is placed over the smaller door. The quiet beauty of the churchyard, well kept and judiciously planted, will at once attract the visitor. An excellent view of the exterior of the cathedral is obtained from it; the best general point being towards the north-east angle [Frontispiece], where the rich Perpendicular chapel, the Norman apse towering above it, and the many lines of towers and spires group most picturesquely, and are well contrasted by the surrounding foliage.

The group formed by the north-west transept, with its tower and gable, and the north spire of the west front, should be noticed soon after entering the churchyard. The transept-gables are Early English, of the same date and character as the west front, and of great beauty. The first stage of the north transept-tower above the roof is transition Norman, of the same date as the transept; the upper stage and pinnacles are Early English, but of considerably later date than the west front.

The windows of the nave-aisles (late Early English, § X), triforium (Decorated, § XVI), and clerestory (Perpendicular, § XVI), may here be well observed. Flat, pilaster-like buttresses run up between each bay — Norman as high as the stringcourse above the aisle windows,  p91 and Decorated above. The upper part may have been added when the aisle walls were raised. The Norman arcade above the aisle windows marks the height of the old wall; from which the roof sloped steeply backward. The parapet above the clerestory is a late Decorated addition.

The north front of the main transept deserves notice, since it contains the original Norman window-openings filled with Perpendicular tracery. On the eastern side, the door leading into the Lady-chapel (now destroyed) remains; and some arches which lined what formed its south wall may be traced under the single Norman window remaining in the north choir-aisle (§ XIV).

XXIII. The exterior of the eastern apse is much enriched, and very striking. Buttress-turrets, capped with spires, rise at its junction with the choir. An intersecting arcade passes round below the upper tier of windows; and in the parapet above, which is an addition of the early Decorated period, are circular medallions, enclosing trefoils, from which half emerge figures of kings and ecclesiastics. The manner in which the Norman windows were enlarged and altered (§ XVI) is well seen here.

The New Building has very massive, plain buttresses between each bay, on each of which is placed the sitting figure of an apostle. A rich and graceful parapet fills the space between. This has suffered much from time and decay; but the initials (R.A. — Richard Ashton, and R.K. — Robert Kirton) and devices (an ash-tree on a tun, and a kirk on a tun) of the builders  p92 may still be traced on it and on the buttresses. On the parapet are also the alternate monograms I.H.C. and M. (Jesus and Mary); and the stringcourse over the east window has the name Karton, (Kirton). On that of a window on the south side it is spelt backwards — Notrak.

The central tower, as has already been said, dates about 1340. It has two windows on each side, with a blind arcade of rich tracery between and beyond them. At the angles are octagonal turrets. The tower was originally surmounted by a wooden octagon, "which perhaps bore, or was intended to bear, a timber spire, covered with lead."​20 The octagon was removed by Dr. Kipling (who became Dean of Peterborough in 1798). The turrets, which rise above the tower, were added at this time, and were evidently imitated from those (Norman with a Perpendicular battlement) at the ends of the great transept.

XXIV. Following the main walk of the churchyard, beyond the cathedral, eastward, the visitor will find himself in front of the arches of the Infirmary built by Abbot John de Caleto (1248‑1261). They are now built into the walls of the prebendal houses, and are among the chief surviving relics of the monastic buildings: their details deserve attention. A short distance east are some remains of the chapel of the Infirmary, dedicated to St. Lawrence; in the walls of one of the bishop's gardens are portions of the refectory; the kitchen of the infirmary is now the Archdeacon's  p93 house and the present deanery was the residence of the Prior.

A passage leads, west, to the Laurel Court, the site of the cloister destroyed, as has already been mentioned, by Cromwell's troopers in 1643. The original Norman cloister was apparently extended and altered in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries; some of its arches, however, remain in the western wall; the "cheese moulding" on one of which indicates its early date. At the south-west angle is a fine Norman doorway, the tympanum of which is enriched with foliage and twisted dragons. In the south wall of the cloister is a much enriched Early English doorway, once opening to the Abbot's Lodge — the present palace. Immediately opposite is the Abbot's door, opening to the nave of the cathedral.

A third cloister, of Perpendicular date, was built on the site of two earlier ones, and was that destroyed by Cromwell's troopers. Some portions of its lavatories remain. The stained glass in its windows is said to have ranked among the finest in England.

XXV. Returning to the Close, before the west front, the Abbot's gateway, on the south side, leading to what was once the abbot's residence, and is now the episcopal palace, should be especially noticed. It is of early Decorated character, with a groined roof springing from clustered shafts; an arcade lines its interior walls; at the angles are square turrets, in each of which is a niche containing a figure; a third figure is placed in the gable. The arrangement on either side  p94 of this gateway is the same. The statues on the north side are those of King Edward II, Abbot Godfrey of Crowland, and the prior of the abbey, wearing the Benedictine habit. On the south side are St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. Andrew, the three saints to whom the church was originally dedicated. Above the gateway is a room called the Knights' Chamber, in which guests of distinguished rank were lodged; the windows of this room are later than the gateway itself.

North of the main gateway, leading into the Close, is the chancel of a chapel of St. Thomas of Canterbury, originally founded by Abbots de Waterville and Benedict, — the latter of whom had been a monk of Canterbury at the time of Becket's murder, of which he wrote a narrative.​21 The chancel, which now serves as the Grammar-school, is very late Decorated, or rather early Perpendicular. The beautiful tracery of the east window deserves notice, as does the pierced cross on the gable above it.

On the north side of the cathedral is a singular earthen mound, known as the "Toot-hill," (A.-S., totten, 'to project,') said to have been the site of a tower built by Turold, the first Norman abbot, for the  p95 defence of his monastery. Similar mounds are found attached to Norman fortresses (as at Canterbury and Oxford). It has, however, also been conjectured that the mound was formed by the earth thrown up in digging the moat round the precincts.

The Author's Notes:

1 It is proper to acknowledge the great use which has been made in the following account of Mr. Paley's "Remarks on the Architecture of Peterborough Cathedral." London, George Bell, 1859.

2 These quarries became exhausted before the fifteenth century; for in Barnack Church itself, the alterations of that period are in a different stone, and not in the old Barnack stone of which the rest of the church is built.

3 F. A. Paley, "Remarks on the Architecture of Peterborough Cathedral," p33.

4 This consecration took place most probably in obedience to a decree of the Council of London (convened in the same year, 1237, by the Cardinal Otho, Legate of Pope Gregory IX), which ordered that all churches and cathedrals, "not having been consecrated with holy oil, though built of old," should be solemnly dedicated within two years. This consecration in obedience to a general order, is of course no evidence as to the date of the completion of the building; a remark which applies to many other churches consecrated at this period.

5 F. A. Paley.

6 Handbook of Architecture, p869.

7 The large and lofty arches in the (Norman) west front of Lincoln may possibly have given the original idea to the architect of Peterborough. On a small scale, the west front of Peterborough was imitated at Snettisham, Norfolk. "The nave of Fredericton Cathedral is a copy of Snettisham, and this feature is not omitted. It is very well suited for a cold climate, and it has accordingly been repeated at Montreal." — A. B. Hope, English Cathedral of the Nineteenth Century, p247.

8 See it fully discussed in Mr. Paley's pamphlet.

9 The third pier, counting from the east, however, and others at the west end, have nook-shafts set in triangular recesses against the body of the masonry. The original plan may have been that they should have ranged alternately with the cylindrical, as at Ely. This may have been changed by Benedict.

10 Paley, p19.

11 Paley, p21.

12 The Rev. G. A. Poole, in a most valuable paper — "On the Abbey Church of Peterborough" — read before the Architectural Society of Northampton, in 1855 (and printed in their Transactions), maintains that Benedict was the builder of the entire nave and western transept, in accordance with the statements of the chroniclers. Mr. Paley's view will be found in his "Remarks on the Architecture of Peterborough Cathedral."

13 Mr. Paley suggests that the type of this tower still exists, in the fine central tower at Castor, four miles from Peterborough.

14 F. A. Paley.

15 This Lady-chapel must have been a magnificent structure, rivalling that of Ely, which is in the same situation. The lower part of the gable of the roof can be seen against the outer wall of the clerestory of this transept, and shews that the chapel was considerably higher than this side wall. The western bay of the aisle of the transept on the east side has an Early English window, which seems to shew the pattern of those of the Lady-chapel, also used in the south transept. There was the width of one bay between the Lady-chapel and the north aisles of the chancel, and a chantry chapel was erected in this space in the fifteenth century, of which there are traces in the wall of the aisle. There was a passage from the aisle to the Lady-chapel, of which the arch remains in the wall of the third bay.

16 F. A. Paley.

17 The King's autograph letter remains in the possession of the Dean and Chapter.

18 King's College Chapel was in building at the same time as this transept, and, as at Peterborough, the work was stopped for some time after its commencement. The foundations were laid in 1446: (at Peterborough, in 1438). After a long interval the building was recommenced in 1479, and completed about 1532: (Peterborough recommenced in 1496, and was completed in 1528).

19 Paley. "We have now gradually built up what may well be called a noble minster, and a glance at the plan thus completed will shew a Latin cross, the feet resting on two steps, and the head terminating originally in an apse, to which, however, a transept yet farther east has been added. Here, then, we have a cross of that form which is commonly found in old representations of the Rood, where the figure of the Crucified is attended by the Blessed Virgin and the Beloved Disciple, kneeling one on either side, on a step at the foot of the cross, while the inscription over the head appears on a scroll crossing the upper part of the tree. . . . . . . We have, then, in the ground-plan of Peterborough the highest and most completely developed symbolism of the doctrine of the Cross, of which a Christian Church is capable. . . . . I would rather suggest than assert, that the upper step of the two, which is found in all churches with a western transept only, as Wells, for instance, and Peterborough before the addition of the façade, is fairly to be assigned to the two sainted witnesses of our Lord's death; and that the yet lower step is to be assigned to the approach of the disciples generally. . . . And in the lowest place even, of this (p84)lower step, is well placed the galilee, the porch of penitents, and the court where their penance was to be awarded." — Rev. G. A. Poole, On the Abbey Church of Peterborough, (in the Transactions of the Architectural Society of the Archdeaconry of Northampton).

20 Paley.

21 After Benedict had been appointed Abbot of Peterborough, in 1176, "finding the great establishment almost entirely destitute of relics, he returned to his own cathedral, and carried off with him the flag-stones immediately surrounding the sacred spot (of Becket's murder) — with which he formed two altars in the conventual church of his now appointment — besides two vases of blood, and parts of Becket's clothing." — Stanley's Historical Memorials of Canterbury; from Robert of Swaffham.

Thayer's Note:

a The alignment of the chancel seems not to have been strictly followed in the later building of the nave, with respect to which the chancel apparently deviates slightly northwards: giving rise to the symbolic notion of the "weeping chancel", for which see "Ecclesiastical Symbolism in Architecture", in Andrews, Antiquities and Curiosities of the Church, p23.

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Page updated: 13 Dec 20