Westminster Abbey has served as the coronation, wedding, and burial place for the monarchs of England and Britain for nearly a thousand years.
Consecrated in 1065 CE, this building is very beautiful and one of the most famous buildings in the world – but it never became what it is today. It has been subject to the whims and fashions of the nobility, changing like a towering house whose halls cannot be trusted.
And new research shows that one such missing part was the grisly church, a sanctuary dedicated to the royal cult of Saint Erasmus of Formia, a martyr who was killed and gradually removed.
The chapel was demolished in 1502, and only a few remains. However, according to Abbey historian Matthew Payne, and John Goodall, a member of the Westminster Abbey Fabric Advisory Commission, it may have been a place of worship used by the ‘White Queen’ of England Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV.
Some of the evidence in their new paper are newly discovered documents, centuries old as a royal support, and an alabaster frame that was once part of a decorative screen called reredos.
“The White Queen wanted to worship there and it appears that she will be buried as the grant states that prayers should be said ’round the grave of our friend’ (Elizabeth Woodville),” explains Payne.
“The architecture, purpose and future of St Erasmus’ church must be respected.”
It is not known when the church was built. The first mention of this occurs in a grant made to the abbey by Edward IV. In it, he writes that the grant is for the singers “in the temple of Saint Erasmus which was newly built by the queen, attached to the church of Saint Mary of the monastery, for the good place of the king and queen and their lives after death.”
Saint Erasmus, also known as Saint Elmo, was a bishop who lived in the 3rd century CE and challenged the authorities. It is said that he was tortured in various ways, arrested, tortured again, burned alive (who, according to legend, survived), arrested and tortured again, and finally killed because his intestines were gradually injured around the storm. Good times. He is considered to be the protector of sailors, children, and those suffering from stomach ailments.
The cult around this saint was established in the 1500s CE, and became popular in the south of the country at the end of this century, with altars and statues dedicated to him in many famous churches. He also appeared in sculptures and paintings.
In the 1470s, the royal family’s devotion to Saint Erasmus was strong. Historians can only speculate as to why; perhaps it was related to the protection of their children, or the sea voyage that the king had successfully completed in 1971.
“But the dedication to Westminster was more important, because the abbey was one of only two religious buildings in England that boasted a saint,” the researchers wrote. “According to the monk historian John Flete, writing in the 1440s, the tooth of Saint Erasmus was among the items that King Offa is said to have given to the abbey.”
It was also a burial ground. In 1481, 8-year-old Anne Mowbray, the bride of Elizabeth’s son Richard, was buried there. (When the church of Saint Erasmus was destroyed by Henry VII to make way for the Lady Chapel, his coffin was moved and lost. It was not found again until 1964.) Sir Thomas Hungerford of Down Ampney was also buried there in 1494. , although why is not known.
Elizabeth and Edward IV were buried in Saint George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
Today, the alabaster reredos frame is all that visitors to Westminster can see of the chapel. It is a magnificent painting, beautifully painted, and historians believe that he once painted the infamous painting of the martyrdom of Saint Erasmus, which hangs behind the altar.
The evidence presented, the researchers say, suggests that further investigation into this lost English history is warranted.
“Little attention has been paid to this short church,” says Goodall.
“It is only rarely mentioned in the history of the abbey, although some elements of the reredos have survived. The structure of this structure suggests that the investigation of the original church was delayed.”
Research has been published in Journal of the British Archaeological Association.