Imatges de pÓgina

westering moon, and, sauntering along in a silent contemplative mood, enjoyed a treat of which the noon-day visitor can form no adequate conception. It afforded what may be truly called a "night at St. Alban's," and seemed to address us in the words of the poet—

"Ye, whose high spirit dares to dwell
Beyond the reach of earthly spell,
And tread upon the dizzy verge
of unknown worlds, or downward urge,
Thro' ages dim, your steadfast sight,
And trace their shapes of shadow'd light;
Oh! come with meek, submitted thought,
With lifted eye by rapture taught,

And o'er your head the gloom shall rise
Of monkish chambers, still and wide,
As once they stood: and to your eyes
Group after group shall slowly glide,
And here again their duties ply-
As they were wont, long ages by."

The entrance to Lady-chapel from the north, of which a view has been already given at page 80, is particularly characteristic and picturesque. The massive square tower, showing at intervals its Roman materials and ancient masonry, throws a solemn and stately grandeur over the scene. It seems, while we look upon its scars, as if covered with hieroglyphics which embody the sacred and political history of a thousand years, during which it has been a cherished landmark to the pilgrim, a home to the weary, and an object of sanguinary contention between rival armies.

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The great western entrance has a very imposing aspect, and conveys to the spectator's mind those ideas of ecclesiastical magnificence which can only be inspired by the noblest constructions of art—such as are here presented to his contemplation. It consists of a projecting porch, elaborately orna-. mented, niched and pillared, and subdivided into numerous compartments, upon which the artist's chisel has been most skilfully employed.

"Beside this porch, on either hand,
Giant buttresses darkly stand,
And still their silent vanguard hold
For bleeding knights, laid here of old;
And Mercian Offa and his queen,
The portal's guard and grace, are seen.



This western front shows various style,
Less ancient than the central pile.
It seems some shade of parted years
Left watching o'er the mouldering dead,
Who here for pious Henry bled;

And here, beneath the wide-stretch'd ground

Of nave, of choir, of chapels round,
For ever-ever rest the head."


Over the entrance is the magnificent window, shown in the steel plate: it occupies nearly the whole breadth of the nave, and through its numerous mullioned and transomed squares, pours a flood of light upon the long Gothic aisles as far as the high Altar. To see the interior of the church to the greatest advantage, the spectator should take his station at this entrance, and at that hour after mid-day when the light and shade are brought into strongest contrast.

In the south Aisle, nearly opposite the steps leading into the Chapel of St. Alban, is the subject of the annexed cut. It is an oblong table of stone, covered with a massive slab of dark marble, which is considered to be of a rare and precious quality. It is marked with several small crosses, rudely traced, and, as we were told by our cicerone, is the original Altar-table of the Monastery, which, after the suppression of the latter in 1539, was removed from the choir.


This Aisle, including the exterior of Abbot Whethamstead's monument on the left-that of Duke Humphrey in the distance the entrance to the shrine of the patron saint between, and with the outer doorway arches, windows, and altar on the right, is one of the most interesting scenes in the church. Standing by this altar of a thousand years, the lines of the French poet possess a force which in any other situation would be scarcely felt:



Les arcs de ce long clôitre, impénétrable au jour,
Les degrés de l'autel usés par la prière,

Ces noirs vitraux, ce sombre et profond sanctuaire,

Où peut-être des cœurs, en secret malheureux,

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A l'inflexible autel se plaignoient de leurs nœuds,
Et, pour des souvenirs encore trop pleins de charmes,

A la religion dérobaient quelques larmes-
Tout parle, tout émeut dans ce séjour sacré !

The Gate-House, with its ponderous oaken doors still closing the lofty pointed archway, is a massive and cumbrous pile of building, and has all the rude


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strength of a fortress crowned with embattled walls. It stands parallel with the west end of the church, at the distance of about one hundred and fifty feet, and formed the original grand entrance to the Abbey-court, which was bounded, at the distance of about three hundred feet, by a lower gate leading to the Abbey Mills. Both these gateways were originally crowned with turrets. The smaller gate has long since disappeared; and the larger fabric, which still survives the shock of centuries, has undergone many alterations in recent times, as is sufficiently apparent in the view annexed. The massive oak doors, still firm on their hinges, are good specimens of ancient carpentry. This gate is said to have been built in the reign of Richard the Second, and is every way characteristic of that age of treason and feudal splendour. The lower apartments were appropriated to malefactors under the jurisdiction of the Lord Abbot; and, with the exception of the order having been reversedby converting the upper rooms to a similar purpose-it is still the prison for the borough and liberty of St. Albans.

The high and distinguishing privileges enjoyed by the spiritual lords of this Abbey gave them precedence of every other in the kingdom. "The king," says Weever, "could make no secular officer over them but by their own consent; they were alone quit from paying that apostolical custome and rent which was called Rom-scot, or Peter-pence; whereas neyther kinge, archbishop, bishop, abbot, prior, nor any one in the kingdom, was freed from



the payment thereof. The Abbot also, or monk appointed archdeacon under him, had pontifical jurisdiction over all the priests and laymen, of all the possessions belonging to this church, so as he yielded subjection to no archbishop, bishop, or legate, save onely to the Pope of Rome. This Abbot had the fourth place among the Abbots which sate as Barons in the Parliament House." "Howsoever, Pope Adrian the Fourth, whose surname was Breakspeare, born hereby at Abbots-Langley, granted this indulgence to the Abbots of this monasterie, namely—that as Saint Alban was distinctly known to be the first martyr of the English nation, so the Abbot of this monasterie should at all times, among other Abbots of England, in degree of dignity, be reported first and principal. The Abbot and convent of this house were acquitted of all toll throughout England. They made Justices ad audiendum et terminandum,' within themselves, and no other Justice could call them for any matter out of their libertie. They made Bayliffes and Coroners; they had the execution and returne of all writs, the goodes of all outlaws, with gaole and gaole deliverie within themselves."-These particulars have been carefully embodied in a poem on the subject, from which we have already quoted. In the prosperous days of the Abbey, several apartments were built exclusively for the use of strangers. These adjoined the cloisters; and beyond them, in a separate range of buildings, were the king's and the queen's apartments.† But notwithstanding this preparation for visitors, and these indirect invitations, it would seem, on the authority of Matthew Paris, that some of the earlier "monarchs came too often, or at least with too cumbrous suites."


The princely state which the Abbots maintained in their style of living, in their table and retinue, partook much more of regal splendour than of religious restriction. The scene, as exhibited on a festal day in the Abbey, is thus effectively sketched by Mrs. Ann Radcliffe:

The stately walls, with tapestry richly dight,
Of the Abbot's banquet-hall, where, as on throne,
He sat at the high dais, like prince alone,
Save when a Royal guest came here,
Or papal Legate claimed a chair.

* Abbot Geoffrey de Gorham built a large and noble hall, with a double roof, to entertain strangers in; near which he built a fair bedchamber. Abbot John of Hertford built a noble hall for the use of strangers, adding many parlours, with an inner chamber and a chimney, (no common luxury in those times,) with a noble picture. He built also an entry, a small hall, and a most noble entry with a porch or gallery, and many fair bedchambers, with their inner chambers and chimneys, to receive strangers honourably.― Willis' Mitred Abbeys.



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Here marble platforms, flight o'er flight,

Slow rising through the long-lined view,
Showed tables spread at different height,

Where each for different rank he knew.
And, with pleased glance adown the hall,
Saw Bishops in their far-sought palle,
The Abbey's noble Seneschal;
Barons and Earls in gold array,
And warrior knights in harness gray.
There was the Prior's delegated sway;
The grave Archdeacon sat below,
And the hundred Monks in row and row,
Not robed in dismal sable they

Upon a high and festal day,

But all in capes most costly and most gay.
There too the Abbey Marshal shone;

And there, beside the Abbot's throne,
Chaplain of honour from the Pope alone."

The battles, of which the immediate vicinity of St. Albans has been the theatre, are familiar to every reader of history. In connection with our immediate subject, however, we may briefly advert to them as melancholy contrasts to that peace and religious tranquillity which were supposed to be the cherished inmates of this magnificent sanctuary.

The first battle.

It was now, says Newcome, when the first battle of St. Albans 1455. happened; the causes of which it is unnecessary to relate. Suffice it to say, that the king attended with his nobles, or such as were of his council, and a number of armed troops came down from London; and probably with the view that a treaty with the Duke of York might be carried on with less interruption or danger from the military. The duke was coming from the north; and brought with him 3000 men of that body which he had raised there, and took part in the great field on the east side of the town, called Key-field. The king's men had barricadoed all the avenues on that side. The cry among the Yorkists was, "Give up the Duke of Somerset ;" but no concession of this sort being made, the duke's men broke into St. Peter's Street; and being there met by the royalists, a dreadful conflict ensued; where, after many were slain, the king's party lost courage and fled, leaving their sovereign alone, and standing under his standard. He, perceiving himself thus deserted, walked away into a small house, that of a baker; and here the duke finding him, led him out, and conducted him to the Abbey, where he first placed him close to the shrine, whether for safety and sanctuary, or to induce him to return thanks for his safety. He then conducted him to the

* In the Archæologia, vol. xx. p. 519, is an inter- contemporary MS., communicated by John Bayley, esting account of the first battle of St. Albans, from a Esq., F.S.A., to which the reader is referred.

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