St Paul's Cross - History

History

The first 'folkmoot' (or general assembly of the people) known to be held here was by John Mansell, a king's justice, on St Paul's Day in 1236, to announce to them that Henry III wished London to be well-governed and its liberties guarded. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the King attended the next such meeting we know of, in 1259, at which Londoners came to swear their allegiance to the latter and to his heirs (though under duress, as a royal army was holding the city gates at this time). They also gathered here later to swear allegiance to Henry's opponent Simon de Montfort.

A Richard Walker from Worcester, a chaplain, pleaded guilty to sorcery charges here in c.1422 but, after forswearing such practices and being arraigned by the Bishop of Llandaff (then John de la Zouche), he was marched to Cheapside with his 2 magic books open upon him, where the books were burnt and he freed without any other punishment. Reginald Pecock, Bishop of St. Asaph, attacked Lollardy from this cross in 1437 but himself did public penance there in 1447 (by which time he was Bishop of Chichester) before a mob of 20,000 and the Archbishop of Canterbury, throwing various examples of his own heretical writings into a fire. Thomas Netter also preached against Lollardy here. Jane Shore, mistress of King Edward IV was brought before the cross in 1483 and divested "of all her splendour".

Bishop Thomas Kempe rebuilt the cross in the late 15th century in grand architectural form, as an open air pulpit of mostly timber with room for 3 or 4 inside it, set on stone steps with a lead-covered roof and a low surrounding wall. From here was preached much of the English Reformation, along with many major events in London's history, with sermons preached here usually printed and thus redistributed to a wider audience. It was a speech here that triggered the 1517 Evil May Day anti-foreigner riots. Ultra-Lutheran Robert Barnes attacked Stephen Gardiner from it, and in 1566 Matthew Hutton, later Archbishop of York, preached here. The first sermon preached here after Catholic Queen Mary's accession (by Bishop Bourne) provoked a riot - a dagger was thrown at Bourne (but missed him, sticking in one of the side posts) and he had to be rushed to safety in St Paul's School. Thus, Mary's successor Elizabeth I kept the pulpit empty for a long time after her accession to keep the people from riot. However, when it finally came to Dr Samson's appearance at the Cross to announce Elizabeth's religious policy, the keys to the Cross's pulpit were found to be mislaid and, when the Lord Mayor ordered the door to be forced, it was found to be too dirty and badly maintained for use on this occasion. However, John Jewel was appointed the Cross's select preacher on 15 June 1559, and on 26 November that year challenged all comers to prove the Roman case out of the Scriptures, or the councils or Fathers for the first six hundred years after Christ.

The Puritans destroyed the cross and pulpit in 1643 during the First English Civil War. The cross (but not the pulpit) was reconstructed in 1910 out of funds from the will of Mr. H.C. Richards, KC, MP.

Read more about this topic:  St Paul's Cross

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