William Clavell Ingram.

Peterborough cathedral online

. (page 1 of 2)
Online LibraryWilliam Clavell IngramPeterborough cathedral → online text (page 1 of 2)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

■! terborough

The Very Rev.
Dean Ingram

Illustrated by
Herbert Rail ton


^^ GraceW and
^t% 'raW Hoover








Gift U.C. Library



■iVi\ fe+ * '





The Very Rev. Wm.
Clavell Ingram, d.d.

Dean of Peterborough

Illustrated by
Herbert Railton

London : Isbister ^ Co. Ltd.
15 y i6 Tavistock Street Covent Garden




Peterborough Cathedral

IN the case of each of our great cathedrals,
there is, generally speaking, some one
architectural feature which specially
marks it and for the beauty or peculiarity of
which it is chiefly celebrated.

The special feature which thus distin-
guishes the Cathedral Church of Peter-
borough is no doubt its great west front.
This it is that first attracts and arrests the
attention of the visitor as he enters the
Minster precincts through the arched gate-
way leading from the i[uaint old market-

This great facade, unique in its character


Peterborough Cathedral

and beauty, is, with the exception of the
eastern chapel, the latest portion of the
glorious Minster.

It would be almost impossible to exag-
gerate its beauty as seen on an autumn
evening with the setting sun shining full
upon it, revealing all the beauty of its out-
line, the loveliness of its proportions, and
all the depth and richness of its arches,
mouldings, carvings, and statuary. He who
sees it thus realises at once the fitness of its
ancient name " the Goldenborough," and as
he gazes upon the beauty of the scene he
instinctively feels convinced of the fact that
there must be a great history, a history full
of thrilling interest, a history of great and
lofty aspirations, of strong and noble self-
sacrifice and of deep devotion, a history that
led up to, and culminated in, the creation of
this marvellously beautiful structure.

And therefore, before dwelling more fully
and in detail upon the beauties of this
crowning effort of the great builders of

Peterborough Cathedral

Peterborough, we will go in search of that
history, and, passing to the south of the west
front, we will seek it in what is now known as
the Laurel Court, a large quadrangle, having
on the north side the whole length of the
nave of the vast Norman church, and on
the south, east, and west the remaining traces
of the cloisters which formerly surrounded
this great square. The windows of these
cloisters were, before their destruction by
Cromwell, filled, as indeed were all the
windows both of the church and the monas-
tery, with painted glass. In the windows
on the south side of the cloisters were
represented scenes from the Old Testament
Scriptures, on the east scenes from the life
of our Blessed Lord, on the north were
depicted figures of the kings from Peada
downwards, and on the west the history of
the monastery from its first foundation by
King Peada to its restoration by King Edgar.
In this last-mentioned series of windows
there were thirty-six lights, and at the bottom


Peterborough Cathedral

of each light the scene therein depicted was
described in verse as follows : —

King Penda, a Paynim, as writing seyth,
Gate yese five children of Christian feyth.

The noble King Peada, by Gods grace,
Was the first founder of this place.

By Queen Ermenyld had King Wulfere
These twey sons that ye see here.

Wulfade rideth as he was wont
Into the forest the hart to hunt.

Fro all his men Wulfade is gone
And suyth himself the hart alone.

The hart brought Wulfade to a well
That was beside Seynt Chaddys celh

Wulfade askyd of Seynt Chad
Where is the hart that me hath lad.

The hart that hither thee hath brought
Is sent by Christ that thee hath bought.

Wulfade prayed Chad, that ghostly leech,
The faith of Christ him for to teach.

Seynt Chad teacheth Wulfade the feyth,
And words of Baptism over him he seyth.

Peterborough Cathedral

Seynt Chad devoutly to Mass him dight,
And hoseled Wulfadc Christys knight.

Wulfade wished Seynt Chad that day
For his brother Rufine to pray.

Wulfade told his brother Rufine

That he was Christned by Chaddys doctrine.

Rufine to \\'ulfade said again,
Christned also would I be fain.

Wulfade Rufine to Seynt Chad leedeth
And Chad with lore of faith him feedeth.

Rufine is Christned of Seynt Chaddys
And Wulfade, his brother, his Godfather is.

Werbode, steward to King Wulfere
Told that his sons Christned were.

Toward the Chappel Wulfere gan goe
By guiding of Werbode, Christys foe.

Into the Chappel entred the King
And found his sons worshipping.

Wulfere in woodness his sword out drew
And both his sons anon he slew.

King Wulfere with Werbode yoo
Burying gave his sons two.

Peterborough Cathedral

Werbode for vengeaunce his own flesh tare,
The devil him strangled and away bare.

Wulfere for sorrow anon was sick,
In bed he lay a dead man like.

Seynt Ermenyld, that blessed Queen,
Counselled Wulfere to shrive him clean.

Wulfere contrite hyed him to Chad
As Ermenyld him counselled had.

Chad bade Wulfere for his sin
Abbeys to build his realm within.

Wulfere in hast performed than
Brough that Peada his Brother began.

Wulfere endued with high devotion

The Abbey of Brough with great possession.

The third Brother, King Etheldred,
Confirmed both his Brethren's deed.

Saxulf that here first Abbot was

For ankerys at Thorney made a place.

After came Danes and Brough brent
And slew the monkys as they went.

Fourscore years and sixteen

Stood Brough destroyed by Danes teen.

Peterborough Cathedral

Seynt Athelwold was bidden by Gods lore
The Abbey of Brough again to restore.

Seynt Athelwold to King Edgar went
And prayed him to help him in his intent.

Edgar bade Athelwold the work begin
And him to help he would not lyn.

Thus Edgar and Athelwold restored this place,
God save it and keep it for His grace.

Here we have a very concise history of
the first and second Saxon churches, each
of which in its time stood upon the site of
the present building. But inasmuch as it is
the verses only that are preserved to us by
the historian, and the painted windows, alas !
no longer exist to illustrate them, the story
needs to be told at somewhat greater length.

The history of the monastery given by
Gunton as recorded in "Swapham," by Hugh
Candidus, and by Walter of Wittlesea, and
others, is briefly somewhat as follows :

Penda, King of Mercia, had three sons —
Peada, Wulfere, and Etheldred ; and two
daughters — Kyneburga and Kyneswitha.

Peterborough Cathedral

Penda died about fifty years after the
death of St. Augustine, and he was succeeded
on the throne of Mercia by his eldest son
Peada, who was at that time a Christian.
Peada had as his adviser a Christian priest
named Saxulf, who afterwards became the
first Abbot of Peterborough, and eventually
Bishop of Lichfield in succession to St.
Chad. By the advice and under the influ-
ence of Saxulf, Peada determined to build a
church and found a monastery to the glory
of God and for the furtherance of the
spreading of Christianity in the kingdom of

The spot fixed upon for this purpose was
near to a deep pool in the river Nene at the
edge of the great marsh or fen, a spot which
became known first as Medeshamsted, and
afterwards as Peterburgh.

Here Peada began to build in A.D, 656.
His reign, however, lasted but a short time,
for four years later his Queen Afleda, " for-
getting," as the record says, " the glorious




,2- ' ». \ Cs^-,:,-^'



Peterborough Cathedral

memory of her ancestors — Oswald, the
martyred King of Northumberland, her
grandfather ; King Oswie, her father ; and
King Alhfrid, her brother — betrayed him to
death at the Paschal P'east."

His brother Wiilfere succeeded him in
A.D. 660.

Some years before this Wulfere had been
converted to Christianity by the Scottish
Bishop Finanus, and had married a Chris-
tian wife, Ermenylda, daughter of Egbert,
King of Kent ; but under the evil influence
of Werbode, his steward, he had lapsed into

King Wulfere had two sons, Wulfade
and Rufine, w^hom he had brought up as
heathens. At this time Wulfere had a palace,
and held his court, at Weedon in Northamp-

Wulfade, his eldest son, was much devoted

to hunting, and on one occasion outstripping

all his companions, he had followed a stag

which eventually took refuge near a cell


Peterborough Cathedral

where St. Chad for the time being had his
dwelhng. Near at hand was a well, and in
this well St. Chad hid the exhausted heast.
Wulfade, coming up, claimed the stag, hen
St. Chad replied that he was not a keeper
of beasts, but a shepherd of souls ; and he
was thus brought into contact with Wulfade,
whom he eventually converted to Christianity.
Wulfade, like St. Andrew of old, then sought
out his brother Rufine, and brought him to
the saint, and so to Christ, and the two
brothers were baptized by St. Chad at his
well, which a tradition has placed south-west
of the church which Peada had begun, within
what was afterwards the great cloister of the
Abbey of Peterborough, and is now known
as the Laurel Court.

We now come, alas ! to a sad story of
violence, crime, and bloodshed.

Wulfere was informed by Werbode, his
heathen steward, that his sons had embraced
Christianity, and, enraged thereat, he was
led by Werbode to a little oratory which


Peterborough Cathedral

they had built at Weedon. Here he found
them at prayers, and with iiis own hand he
murdered them both.

Lut soon afterwards, overwhelmed with
the horror of his deed, and lilled with re-
morse, he, by the advice of his saintlv wife
Ermenylda, sought out St. Chad, confessed
his sins, re-embraced Christianity, and was
restored to the communion of the Church
by St. Chad ; and, as an act of expiation,
continued, at the saint's direction, the work
of building the monastery at IMedeshamsted
which had been begun by his brother Peada.

From this time Wulfere seems to have
had St. Chad as his constant adviser and to
have carefully followed his directions, the
saint continually encouraging him in the
performance of works worthy of repentance.
Walter of Wittlesea, a monk of Peterborough
and one of the historians of the abbey, tells
us that on one occasion "when St. Chad had
been praying with the King in his oratory,
the office being ended, the saint put off his
19 B

Peterborough Cathedral

vestment and hung it on a siuibeani; where
it remained suspended. Whereat King Wul-
fere was the more confirmed in the Christian

The two murdered sons, Wulfade and
Rufine, were held to have been martyrs for
the faith and were eventually canonised.

On Wulfere's death, he was succeeded by
his youngest brother, Etheldred, who, toge-
ther with his two sisters, St. Kyneburga (to
whom the church of Castor is dedicated)
and St. Kyneswitha, completed the monast-
ery, which was dedicated to St. Peter, and
of which Saxulf became the first abbot.

This building lasted till A.D. 870, when
it was completely destroyed by the Danes,
in the time of the seventh abbot, Hedda,
who was slain, together with all his monks.
The Abbey of Crowland was also partly
destroyed at the same time, but some of the
monks of Crowland had been more fortunate
than their brethren of Peterborough, for they
had been able to escape and conceal them-

Peterborough Cathedral

selves in the fen till the Danes were gone.
They then returned to their ruined abbey,
elected Godricus as their abbot, and he with
some of his community came to Medesham-
sted, gathered together the bodies of the
slaughtered monks to the number of eighty-
four, and gave them Christian burial on St.
Cecilia's Day, November 22, 870. He then
set up a memorial stone, which is still pre-
served in the eastern chapel, and to this
stone he and his monks came yearly as long
as he lived, to say mass for the repose of the
soul of Hedda and his monks.

In this condition of desolation the monas-
tery lay for some ninety years, nothing mark-
ing the site on which it once stood, except
the stone and cross which Godricus had
erected and a few large stones which Peada
had brought from the quarries at Barnack,
one of which is still to be seen in the church-
yard on the north side of the nave of the

At the end of that time, Athelwold, the

Peterborough Cathedral

Bishop of Winchester, set himself to the
rebuilding of the monastery. It is said to
have come about in this way. He had a
dream in which he was told to go into the
" Midland English " and repair the shrine of
St. Peter, and, as in the case of Nehemiah
of old, an intense desire to rebuild that
which had been broken down filled his
heart, and, like Nehemiah, he realised that
the first step to be taken was to make him-
self thoroughly acquainted with the work
that had to be done. Following, therefore,
the directions given him in his dream, he
came to Oundle, believing that to be the
place indicated. Here he is said to have
had a second dream in which he was directed
to follow the course of the river. This he
did till he came to Medeshamsted. Here
he found the few great stones which have
already been mentioned. He at once set
about clearing away the rubbish beneath
which the foundations were hidden, and
havin« laid them bare and satisfied himself

Peterborough Cathedral

that this was the place whicl^. he had been
directed to rebuild, he returned to Win-
chester to prepare for the work. Again, Hke
Nehemiah of old, he prayed that God would
touch the heart of the King and move him
to help in this great work. Edgar's Queen
saw the Bishop at his devotions, and learning
the object of his prayers, she brought the
matter to the King's knowledge, and moved
thereto by her, Edgar and many of his
nobles assisted Athelwold in his work, and
the church and monastery were rebuilt and
completed in a.d. 970.

The building being finished, it was conse-
crated, King Edgar, together with Dunstan
Archbishop of Canterbury, and Oswald
Archbishop of York, and a large body of
nobles, being present.

Edgar restored and confirmed to the
monastery all its ancient possessions, and
also largely increased them, changed its name
from Medeshamsted to Brough, and it hence-
forth became known as "Gildenbrough or

Peterborough Cathedral

Goldenbrough, by reason of its fair building,
or in reference to its dedication, Peterbrough."

At this time Adulphus, King Edgar's
Chancellor, having recently been the unin-
tentional cause of the death of his own and
only son, retired from the world, gave all his
wealth to the abbey, and took the habit of a
monk, and very shortly afterwards became
abbot of the restored monastery.

This second Saxon church stood for
nearly one hundred and fifty years. But in
August 1116, John de Sais being then abbot,
it was entirely destroyed by fire. The fire
is said to have originated in the bakery, but
the flames soon spread to all parts of the
building, and during the fifteen days the fire
lasted, not only were the church and monas-
tery consumed, but also the village and
buildings which had at this period sprung
up outside its gates were all destroyed, and
very little was saved beyond the relics, the
sacred vessels and vestments, and a few other
treasures of the church.

Peterborough Cathedral

But great as this disaster was, good was
to come out of it, and a far more glorious
building than that of Edgar and Athelwold
was yet to rise from its ashes.

The next year Abbot John de Sais began
the work of rebuilding the church ; as the
Saxon abbots had been succeeded by Nor-
mans, so the Saxon church was to be re-
placed by the nobler and grander creation
of the Norman architect.

The foundation of the present church was
laid in the month of March A.D. 1117, and
during the next six years the present choir
was built. John de Sais died in A.D. 11 23,
and was succeeded by Henri of Anjou, a man
of restless and self-seeking character, who
for a time hindered rather than advanced the
work. After him came Martin de Bee, who
carried on the work which John de Sais had
so well begun, completed the choir, and
added the eastern aisles of the north and
south transepts, and so far finished the
church that the choir was consecrated in

Peterborough Cathedral

1 140; and now the monks, twenty-three
years after the fire, once more had a temple
wherein to worship, far grander and more
beautiful than any they had hitherto had or
had ever dreamed of. Martin de Bee died
in 1 155, and his successor was William de
Waterville, under whose rule the work of
building was vigorously carried on. The
north and south transepts were added, and
the great central tower was built.

In A.D. 1 177, Benedict, Prior of Canter-
bury, became abbot, and during the seven-
teen years that he governed the monastery
the magnificent nave of the church was com-
pleted from the central tower to the second
bay from the present west wall ; here he no
doubt intended to place a Norman west front
with two flanking towers. There are still to
be seen in the triforium and also in the piers
themselves clear indications of this intention.

The quaint roof of the nave, so far as his
building extended, was also no doubt the
work of the same period.

J-kV.cJ .p.


Peterborough Cathedral

Andrew succeeded Benedict in 1194, and
ruled for six 3'ears ; it was probably in his
time tiiat the last two bays of the nave were
added, and the lovely western transepts were
built, in which is to be seen in perfection
the blending of the two styles of architec-
ture as the Norman passes into the Early

Andrew was succeeded in a.d. 1200 by
Acarius, Prior of St. Albans.

The whole church from the choir to the
western wall was built between A.D. 11 17 and
A.D. 1 199 — that is to say, in eighty-two years
— and, with the exception of a few years in
the time that Henri of Anjou was abbot,
there was no break in the continuity of the
work, and .consequently it would be dilKcult
to find any building which more beautifully
and perfectly illustrates the gradual develop-
ment of style from the severe Norman to the
delicate Early English.

Now we come to the question of the west
front, the crowning effort of the great

Peterborough Cathedral

builders of Peterborough. Unique in its
character, unrivalled in design, marvellous
in detail, in its early perfection it must have
been beautiful beyond expression, and indeed
it still remains so after upwards of six hun-
dred years, for what it has lost of the bloom
of youth has been fully compensated for by
the greyness of age.

That it was added to the great church
" for glory and for beauty " cannot be
doubted, and to attempt to assign to it an
utilitarian purpose would be to detract from
its merit. It was built with the highest
motive and to serve the highest purpose,
namely, to beautify the house of God and
to do honour to Him, and to Him alone,
for even the name of the builder is un-

That it was built between 1200 and 1238
there can be no doubt whatever, for the
church was completed and consecrated in
A.D. 1 238, but during that period no fewer than
five abbots governed the monastery, namely,

Peterborough Cathedral

Acariiis, Robert de Lindsay, Alexander,
Martin de Ramsey, and Walter dc St. Ed-
munds, each of whom may have had some
share in the work. Probably, however, the
design was that of Acarius, who became
abbot on the death of Andrew, and who
had been Prior of St. Albans when John de
Cella was abbot there, and from him he
may have acquired much knowledge and
skill in architecture, and the execution of
the design begun by him may have been
finally carried out by one or more of his

The porch or parvise leading to the great
west door of the nave, and over which is a
large room containing the Cathedral library,
was built in between the two great piers of
the west front during the latter part of the
fourteenth century, and no doubt has served
the purpose for which it was probably
erected, of adding strength to the piers.

There is one other feature in the Cathe-
dral which calls for a word of explanation.

Peterborough Cathedral

The windows, originally small Norman
windows, have been considerably enlarged
since the church was built, and are now
filled with Decorated and Perpendicular
tracery. This was done in the fourteenth
century, and the whole of them were filled
with stained glass. All that was left of this
glass from its barbarous destruction by
Cromwell's soldiers is to be seen in the two
central lights of the choir apse.

The eastern chapel was added during the
latter part of the fifteenth century, and was
begun by Abbot Richard Ashton, and com-
pleted by Abbot Robert Kirkton. It is an
extremely beautiful building of the Perpen-
dicular period, but its beauties are to be
noticed rather in the interior than in the

With the early story of the monastery in
mind, we will now follow the line of the
cloisters, which will bring us to the ruins of
the infirmary of the abbey. This was a
magnificent Early English building, erected




•.;„ H '' ff^ ilsMfen^H : ^'^?^ : fife

," '\


Peterborough Cathedral

by Abbot John de Caleto in 1252, on the
south-east of the church. It consisted of
dormitories, great hall, chapel, and infir-
marer's lodge. Here the aged and iniirni
monks spent the few last years of their lives,
during which they were permitted certain
relaxations of the strict rule of the Order.
The infirmary was destroyed by Cromwell's
fanatical soldiers, and but little remains of
the building beyond the arches of the great
hall, parts of its aisles, and portions of the
infirmarer's lodge, the hall of which is a
most beautiful thirteenth-century room, and
now forms part of one of the canons' houses.
Leaving the infirmary to the right, we will
pass into the church through the small door
in the south transept, commonly known as
the IVJonks' Door. Inside the church, close
to this entrance, on the left, are some steps
which lead to an underground passage
beneath the south transept. This passage
follows the course of the foundations of the
second Saxon church, of which wc ha\'c

Peterborough Cathedral

already spoken as having been built by King
Edgar and St. Athelwold in a.d. 970, and
which was destroyed by the great hre of
A.D. 1116.

It was here that Hereward the Wake
passed his night of prayer and watching
before being knighted by his Uncle Brando,
the then abbot.

It is somewhat difficult to understand how
Hereward the Wake could have reconciled it
with his knightly vows and to his conscience
that he was justified in pillaging the monas-
tery, as he afterwards did at the head of the
Danes in the time of Abbot Thoroldus, his
Uncle Brando's successor. The fact that
he saved some of the treasures of the abbey
from falling into the hands of the Normans
served, no doubt, as a convenient excuse,
and poor as it was it seems to have been
one with which he was easily satisfied.

Some few years ago, when it was found
necessary to take down and rebuild the
great central tower of the Cathedral, these

Peterborough Cathedral

foundations and remains of the old Saxon
church were opened out, and upon the floor
was discovered a compressed layer of ashes,
some inches thick, manifestly the remains of
the great fire in which the church was
destroyed in A.D. 1116.

On ascending from thi^ underground
passage there are to be noticed three small
chapels, whicli form the eastern aisle of the
south transept. The first of these to the
south is known as the Chapel of St. Kyne-
burga, the eldest daughtei of King Penda.
It is to her that the church at Castor, as well
as this chapel, is dedicated. About the year
1000 Abbot Elsinus removed the bodies of
St. Kyneburga and her sister, St. Kynes-
witha, from the church at Castor, wliere they
had been first buried, to Peterborough, and
it is possible that they may have been event-
ually buried in this chapel, they having been
associated with their three brothers, Peada,
Wulfere, and Etheldred, in founding the
original monastery .j


Peterborough Cathedral

The next chapel — the middle one — is
dedicated to St. Benedict, the founder of


Online LibraryWilliam Clavell IngramPeterborough cathedral → online text (page 1 of 2)