Tag Archives: Wiltshire

Return to Edington

24 Jan

My blog has been quiet for the last few months, as I’ve been ensconced in North Carolina, at the National Humanities Center. I did take the opportunity on a recent visit back to England, on a cold and rainy January day, to visit Edington (Wiltshire) again and see the site of William Wey’s Jerusalem chapel.

Wey was a well-educated religious, born in Devon and educated at Exeter College, Oxford.  He spent much of his life working at the then recently-founded Eton College and retired to Edington, a small village with an Augustinian priory on the edge of Salisbury Plain. Wey undertook several pilgrimages: two to Jerusalem (1458, 1462) and one to Santiago (1456) and left a voluminous account of his travels, in English and Latin, together with a map and a will. In his will he left his designs for a Jerusalem chapel to be built, in perpetuity, at Edington. Unfortunately, nothing remains of the actual chapel, or installation.  See my blog post of March 12, 2012 for further details.

There may, however, be some clues to Wey’s chapel in the surviving structures and decorations at Edington. Here are a few more pictures of the church at Edington, showing the details of the site of chapel.

Exterior of the church, from the north-west, showing probably site of medieval chapter house and Calvary chapel

Exterior of the church, from the north-west, showing probably site of medieval chapter house and Calvary chapel

The exterior of what was probably the former doorway from the church's choir to William Wey's Jerusalem chapel

The exterior of what was probably the former doorway from the church’s choir to William Wey’s Jerusalem chapel

The likely site, accessed through the bricked-up door, of William Wey's Calvary chapel.

The likely site, accessed through the bricked-up door, of William Wey’s Calvary chapel.

The interior of the now bricked-up doorway to William Wey's Jerusalem chapel, with trinitarian device above.

The interior of the now bricked-up doorway to William Wey’s Jerusalem chapel, with trinitarian device above.

The choir of the church at Edington taken from the east, with a view of the doorway, to the right, into William Wey's Jerusalem chapel.

The choir of the church at Edington taken from the east, with a view of the doorway, to the right, into William Wey’s Jerusalem chapel.

Jerusalem in Wiltshire: ‘like a fortified mansion’

12 Mar

The Calvary complex stood to the left of the building.

Niklaus Pevsner, in his Buildings of Britain volume on the county of Wiltshire, described the Priory Church at Edington as being ‘so freely embattled that it looks like a fortified mansion’. Pevsner’s choice of words was apt, because in fifteenth-century Edington a complex was built to resemble Jerusalem: the heavenly mansion, so frequently depicted in medieval art as a fortified city with a crenellated wall.

Edington Priory was built in the 1350s, possibly as a college for priests. It then became an Augustinian priory. The building as it stands today is much altered from its medieval form, but it’s still a fascinating site, which once embodied a vision of Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre, built according to the designs of William Wey, a scholar, author and pilgrim. Wey visited the Holy Land in the 1460s and then, in his retirement in Wiltshire, set about building a mnemonic recreation of the sites he had seen. Wey had undertaken two pilgrimages to Palestine and one to Santiago in northern Spain.

William Wey’s chapel was ‘made to the liknes of the sepulkyr of owre Lorde at Jerusalem’. A detailed inventory of the chapel’s furnishing and decoration survives in a manuscript in Oxford (Bodleian Library MS Bodley 565): it shows that the installation had numerous hangings and painted-cloths, showing bible scenes (‘owre Lorde with a spade in his hande’, ‘the tempyl of Jerusalem’), relics (in particular, stones from the Holy Land), and furniture for the liturgy (candles, candlesticks, an osculatory, dishes and chalices). There was also a ‘mappa Mundy’ world map, velvet and silk vestments, and various books, including a copy of Wey’s own Itineraries. More theatrically, Wey had several topics depicted ‘in bordys’ – that is planks or panelling: lengths show- ing the measurements of Christ’s sepulchre, the height and width of its door, Christ’s footprint. In the Chapter House there were models of the Church of Bethlehem, the Mount of Olivet and the Valley of Jehoshaphat. Moreover, there was ‘the sepulker of oure Lorde with too howses’, apparently next to the ‘clokke howse’.

The ‘stage-set’ built at Edington shows the importance of ‘virtual pilgrimage’, of imaginary experience, of simulation, and of remaking in medieval Christianity. It now powerfully provides another kind of prompt to the imagination: in the drizzle of the Wiltshire countryside, we need to imagine the artefacts which once animated this quiet rural corner, as the edge of Europe was re-thought as the centre of the world.

The Calvary buildings probably stood in what is now the cemetery, outside the north wall of the Church. One entered this Jerusalem through this door, now bricked-up: Image

You’ll notice the little motif over the door, a delicate Trinity to mark the divinity of the place. This motif, and similar ones, feature throughout the church’s decoration and may have marked some kind of ‘route’, an imaginative pilgrimage, around the building.

An excellent article by Pnina Arad, published in February 2012, sheds a great deal of new light on Wey and his installation. Arad, focussing on the art-historical background of the Edington chapel, shows how Wey’s project was connected to English Easter sepulchres and also indebted to a map of the Holy Land in a medieval manuscript (Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Douce 389). See further Pnina Arad, ‘Pilgrimage, Cartography, and Devotion: William Wey’s Map of the Holy Land’, Viator 43:1 (2012), 301-22, with appendices of Wey’s inventory of the Calvary chapel’s fittings and the relevant maps.

Hello world!

11 Mar

Thanks for visiting my new blog!

I am a medievalist, teaching and researching at Birkbeck College, University of London. I’ve recently edited and translated Sir John Mandeville’s fourteenth-century Book of Marvels and Travels and, growing out of this, I’ve started a new research project, funded by the AHRC Research Network award and then by a Philip Leverhulme Prize, on western European representations of Jerusalem and the Holy Land in the period following the Crusades (i.e. 1291 – c. 1550).

The Latin Christian kingdom of Jerusalem was established by Crusaders in the Holy Land in the period 1096-9. Nobility, clergy, pilgrims, converts, and many others quickly established a state focussed on, and based around, the conquest of Jerusalem, building new castles, fortresses, cathedrals and cities. The Latin Kingdom was hugely important, but endured for only a short time: the last mainland Crusader town, the fortified city of Acre (Akko, Israel), was taken by the Mamluks in 1291. The Remembered Places project explores the European memory of the Crusades in the centuries which followed, thinking about the cultural consequences of the loss of the Latin Kingdom. As Jerusalem and the Holy Land once more came under Islamic control, European Christendom re-imagined its relationship to the holy sites, especially to Jerusalem, the ‘centre’ or ‘navel’ of the known world.

I’ll be using this blog informally to report on and discuss the many different versions of Jerusalem I come across in my research, and at the workshops and public lectures associated with the Remembered Places project. I’ll also be using it to get feedback on some my ideas and to share and store my photos of representations of Calvary, Jerusalem and other holy sites.

All photos on the site are taken by me, and can be used freely (though an acknowledgement to me, Anthony Bale, would be nice).