Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

field in an entanglement of men and horses, a confused mass of legs, arms, and heads, had been painted out; and on a piece of canvas paper stuck over this, Meissonier was patiently repainting the subject. He told me that the squadron was too much in the front and that the Imperial group did not in consequence stand out sufficiently. However, the picture as exhibited in 1873 had seemed so perfect a composition that not even the most severe judges had been able to find fault with it; yet Meissonier after a year's absence, on seeing it afresh, with rested eye and brain, at once detected where an improvement could be made, and simply explained to us that the three inches gained on the right would enhance the interest of the general effect. This reconstruction represented six months of assiduous work, which a less conscientious painter would have shirked. Such was his respect for his work, his solicitude for the future, and, it may be said, such was his anxiety about the opinion of posterity!

The glorious anniversary celebrated by this exhibition seemed to endow the master with renewed strength ; at the age of seventy-three he painted The Morning of Castiglione' and the following year, continuing the Epopee, he painted Rivoli.' At a still later date he sketched out · Les Fastes de la France' (the glories of France), the first conception for the monumental composition that he wished to display on the walls of the Panthéon, as an audacious contrast to his minute masterpieces. But the brush fell from the hand of the great artist, whose body was indeed conquered, but whose mind remained clear and strong, and whose enthusiasm for Art and for the Great Epopee he had striven to revive remained predominant to the end of

his days.

CHARLES YRIARTE,

THE ROMANCE OF

AN ANCIENT CITY CHURCH

CLOSE by the Tower of London, to name an ancient landmark, and to name the most conspicious modern one, immediately under the vast and hideous pile of buildings which bears the sky-sign of the Mazawattee Tea Company, lies one of the eight old churches of the City which escaped the Great Fire of London.

Any observant person issuing out of Mark Lane Station on the underground railway, exactly opposite, would now be struck by the graceful and dignified porch, with a chamber over it, which Mr. Pearson has recently added to the building, adorned with figures of the Blessed Virgin and Child, of St. Elthelburga, and of Bishop Andrewes; behind which rises the dull red brick tower-one of the few attempts at ecclesiastical building in the time of the Commonwealth. Danckerts' panorama of London, made in 1637, gives a pleasing impression of the former old tower, with its short spire. This was destroyed, a few years after that panorama was printed, by a great explosion of gunpowder in the adjoining street, which, while it killed some scores of people, is said to have deposited a little girl in a cradle, unhurt, upon the roof of the church.

The great fire of 1666 swept round the building, destroyed the parsonage-house which touched it, and burned the porch and the dial, but was there stopped. Its course was arrested by the efforts of Sir William Penn, the father of the famous Quaker, who was himself christened in Allhallows Barking, and was disowned by Sir William when he disowned the church of his baptism. Pepys, who lived in Seething Lane close by, records in his diary how his wife called him up at two in the morning, in alarm at the fire ' being come to Barking Church.'

As soon as you enter, you are struck with the old-world character of the place, which, it is to be hoped, will never be lost at the restorer's hands. The nave is Norman in character, though in the seventeenth century, for some reason, they raised and altered the capitals of the piers, and changed the shape of the arches supported by them. One pier and arch remain, to show what they all used to be, in a portion of the church which was for long used as a coal-hole, but is now made into an excellent choir vestry. The chancel, on the other hand, is a very pretty specimen of deeply moulded Perpendicular work—no doubt erected about the time of Richard the Third.

The first thing which catches the eye inside the church is the lofty oak pulpit of James the First's reign, with its noble soundingboard, or ' pulpit head,' as it used to be called, of twenty-five years later. The Vestry Minutes record in 1638 an injunction to the churchwardens to 'take care a new pulpitt hedd be made, in regarde that the old one is too small.' Those churchwardens did their duty well. There swings out from the half Norman half Perpendicular pillar the great carved hexagonal canopy, and on each face of it, in gilt letters, is a text. Inferior artists would have put a variety of nice texts on the different faces, but this artist found one good text, and he keeps to it. With quaint abbreviations, and a mixture of Greek characters with the Roman, he has written up—'Xpm prædicam crucifixum.' Whether the preacher in that pulpit looks south or west, or east, his one subject is to be Christ crucified.

Like most of the City churches, Barking Church has plenty of handsome woodwork besides the pulpit. There is a fine carved parclose at the back of the church behind the old pews of the parish officers, and another carved screen between the nave and chancel. The altar, which is enclosed by a handsome square balustrade of brass (put up in 1750), and is itself an excellent piece of oak carving, with an inlaid top, is backed by a good reredos, into which are let, along with oil paintings of Moses and Aaron, scrolls and festoons of lime wood from the hand of Grinling Gibbons, who also made the cover of the font. Upon the screen across the chancel stand up three of those sword-rests which form so marked a feature of the City churches, and which are so puzzling to the uninstructed visitor. In former times the Lord Mayor used to attend some church in the City in state every Sunday; and the parish to which the Lord Mayor belonged often testified its pride by erecting for him in his official pew a stand for his state sword. But no church in the City has such fine hammered Sussex ironwork as the swordrests in Allhallows Barking of the Lord Mayors John Chitty and Slingsby Bethell, and even these sword-rests are not so fine as the hand-rail to the pulpit, or an elaborate hat-peg close by, where some great merchant must have had his pew.

The floor of the church is all strewn with brasses, well known to antiquaries. So many people come to rub them, that since a small charge has been made, they bring in quite a little income to the restoration fund. The finest of them is a Flemish brass of the first half of the sixteenth century, representing, against a background of arches and foliage, a merchant named Evyngar and his wife, with their children ; and overhead an exquisitely graceful pietà. The few firm

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

lines of this brass, not like the conventional stiffness of most of the
other brasses, give a lifelike portrait of the good couple who lie below;
and the drawing, as has been well said, might have come from the
hand of Memling. There, as in most of the other brasses in the
church, rude hands have hacked out the request that the charitable
would pray for mercy on the souls of Andrew and Ellen Evyngar.

So much for the building of Allhallows Barking and its furniture;
now for something of its history. And first, why is it called Allhallows
Barking? All who read this paper must make a pilgrimage before
long to see the church; but, unless they have much time to spare,
they had better not take ticket for Barking town, as many pilgrims
to it have done before now. That would take them eight miles
away from the Tower of London and Allhallows. The connection
with the town of Barking is not geographical but antiquarian. Many
of the City churches past and present have surnames, like St. Benet
Fink, St. Andrew Hubbard, St. Margaret Moses, St. Martin Pomeroy.
These surnames are those of the lords on whose manors they stood.
Allhallows Barking takes its surname, not from a secular lord, but
from a great religious establishment with which it was connected.
The origin of the connection is not easy to trace, but it seems to have
been of this kind. One of the most celebrated English saints of the
seventh century, St. Erkenwald, afterwards Bishop of London, who
became the tutelary of the diocese, founded a convent at Barking in
Essex, and made his own sister, St. Ethelburga, the first abbess of it,
as may be read in Bede. It is presumed that the fifteen acres which
constitute the parish of Allhallows belonged to St. Erkenwald, and
that the manorial rights over them, and the tithes, were part of his
endowment for the magnificent foundation. At any rate, as far back
as the reign of Stephen the parish is called Barking Church; and
though at that time the advowson was in other hands--those of the
Cathedral Chapter of Rochester-it passed, or passed back, at an
early time to the convent at Barking, who founded the vicarage in
1387. Over the new porch of the church are carved the arms of the
See of London on the one side, and those of the convent of Barking
on the other, to commemorate its connection with St. Erkenwald and
St. Ethelburga. The name is one to be proud of, and old-fashioned
people who have lived long in Allhallows parish always boast of being
* regular Barking people. The abbesses of Barking were mitred
abbesses, only second to those of Shaftesbury. They were reckoned
as peeresses of the realm. One of the deeds by which Henry the
Second sought to make reparation for the murder of Thomas Becket
was to appoint his sister, Mary, abbess of Barking. The last abbess
was one Dorothy Barley, who surrendered her house to Henry the
Eighth. Only one gateway of it now stands; but I saw a man at
Barking some years ago who informed me that he had himself
pulled down another. When I told this to a friend, the friend

immediately asked, "Where did you bury him ?' and, indeed, I humbly crave forgiveness for having been so paralysed by this announcement that I did not lynch him then and there.

The chief interest of the place, however, in the middle ages lay rather in another direction than than of Barking Convent. The Tower of London was anciently not only a fortress, to overawe the proud city outside which it lay, it was also a royal residence. The Church of Allhallows profited by the neighbourhood of our kings. The first royal benefactor on record was the adventurous Richard Cæur de Lion. He was the founder of 'a fair chapel' on the north side of the church, which was destined for many years to be the most famous part of the building. It is maintained at Barking that the Lion Heart was deposited under the altar of this chapel, and that the so-called heart at Rouen is a fraud and an imposture. It is true that Matthew Paris, who is usually well informed, says that Richard willed that his heart should be buried at Rouen, and quotes an epitaph, * Neustria tuque tegis cor inexpugnabile regis ; ' but he does not say that it was actually done, and there is very high authority for the counter assertion. About one hundred years after Richard's death, the legate of Pope Honorius the Fourth in England, in a formal instrument granting special privileges to the chapel, says without any hesitation, his heart rests buried in the same chapel beneath the high altar;' and if he is not right, it may be asked what is the good of infallibility. In spite of unbelieving suggestions that the document in question (which may be found in Newcourt's Repertorium) is a forgery, it is patriotically maintained that the dust of the cor inexpugnabile' is at Barking.

The next King to show special favour to the Church of Allhallows was the greatest of the Kings of England, Edward the First. His religion was that of his own age, not of ours. Before his accession to the throne, Edward had a vision which assured him of good success in all his undertakings if he would erect a 'picture'—that is, a painted image-of the Glorious Virgin’and Child in this chapel of his uncle's. The picture was made and painted by a Jew in Billingsgate, named Marlibrun; and Edward vowed that while he was in England he would visit it five times every year, and would always keep the chapel and its ornaments in repair. This vow he religiously observed. The chapel of the Glorious Virgin Mary of Barking became one of the most favoured places of pilgrimage in England. In London, except perhaps St. Erkenwald's shrine in the Cathedral, and St. Edward the Confessor's at Westminster, there was nothing to rival it. There is a touchingly ironical reference to its popularity in a letter of the enlightened Sir Thomas More to Bishop Fisher, soon after he had entered the service of Henry the Eighth. Our Prince,' he says, “is so affable and courteous to all men, that every one who hath never so little hope of himself, may find somewhat whereby he may imagine

« AnteriorContinuar »