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ST PAUL'S CATHEDRAL LEY, London


This church alignment stretches for just under 3 1/4 miles WSW-ENE across the heart of Old London. It is a slightly modified Alfred Watkins ley, being extended to St. Clement Danes in the W, with the bearing altered a little. The orientations of all the churches approximate - sometimes very closely to the bearing of the ley, but do not coincide exactly.

St. Clement Danes (30998105) is situated at Aldwych (Alde Wyche or Old Village) in and at an angle to the Strand, as if pointing out the direction of the ley. The site has been used for a church from at least the time of the Danes, as indicated by the name, when a Danish colony was established there by King Canute. But it is believed that the site was settled by missionaries from Kent as early as the 6th century, a clear sign that it had a much earlier pagan significance. (Indeed, a Roman cemetery is known to have occupied the spot.) A stone church replaced a timber one in the Middle Ages. From 1189 to 1222 the church was in the care of the mysterious Knights Templars, who were responsible for the next point on the ley. There was a holy well on or near the site, but this was filled during the 19th century. It will be recalled that Watkins felt wells were usually the initial points of leys. The present structure is a restoration (instigated in the 1950's by the Royal Air Force) of Wren's 17th century building, itself a rebuilding of the earlier stone church.

The ley next reaches a quiet precinct called the Temple (31228108), which can be entered from Fleet St. The Order of the Knights Templars, founded in 1118 to safeguard the pilgrims' roads to the Holy City, was responsible for a number of round churches built on the model of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem. Of these the Temple Church, consecrated in 1185 by Heraclius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, was - and is the fines, and acted as the Templar's headquarters until their dissolution 1312. The area was then taken over by their rivals, the Knights Hospitallers, who leased the precinct to the lawyers, and the site has remained associated with the legal profession ever since.

The 'Temple Round' is one of the best examples in the country of the Transitional style, connecting the Romanesque and the Gothic, and Pevsner considers it one of the earliest Gothically conceived buildings in England. This is significant in view of the fact that the French author Louis Charpentier has associated the return of the Templars from Jerusalem with the birth of Gothic architecture, which he considers to have been not merely an aesthetic exercise but a means of embodying certain arcane information. The orientations of the church and of the ley are very close. In the south wall there is a magnificent 13th century effigy, in marble, of a bishop who is believed to be the Patriarch Hetaclius himself. His feet rest on a dragon which, it will be remembered, is a frequent symbol of earth energy connected with leys. The ghost of a man in a wig and gown has often been seen in the Temple precinct, sometimes by newspaper workers on their way home.

The ley continues on, and passes at a slight angle down Pilgrim St. before reaching the third ley point, St. Paul's Cathedral (32058115). The site crowns Ludgate Hill, one of the two hills on which London was founded. A cathedral was first built there in 604 by Bishop Mellitus. This was destroyed in 1087 and replaced with another, which in turn was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. The present building is of course Wren's masterpiece. Below all the Christian foundations, and to the N of them, various Roman remains have been unearthed. It is thought that a Temple of Diana stood on the site, and there may be a parallel here with the fact that St. Paul denounced the worship of Diana at Ephesus - the dedication thus symbolizing the Christianization of a pagan site. The magical Bladud, father of King Lear, is said to have crashed in an 'airborne vessel' on the top of Ludgate Hill. As chance will have it, the ley passes directly along the N aisle or 'North Alley' of the present building, which was once used as a sort of thoroughfare.

The next ley point is St. Helen's (33208128), Bishopsgate. The ley passes down the centre of this. The original church, as far as is known, was built in the middle of the 12th century, and part of that fabric is thought to be incorporated in the south wall of the parish nave. The area of this earlier church is probably contained within the parameters of the present building, which was built in the 13th century with structural additions up to the 17th century, and is part of a former nunnery, through which a passage went in ancient times. There is a tradition that a church stood on the site as far back as the 4th century. The dedication to St. Helen will be considered significant by some ley hunters, as in her pre-Christian form, Elen she was associated with road-building. St. Helena was the mother of the first Christian emperor Constantine. She was said to have been born in Colchester, daughter of King Cole, and the original church is supposed to have been erected in her memory by her son.

The ley continues for some distance, passing over a confluence of roads in the middle of Whitechapel High St. and on at a slant down the E end of Stepney, the fifth ley point. There was probably a wooden church on the site in Saxon times. St. Dunstan rebuilt the church at the end of the 10th century, but the church as it now stands was largely rebuilt in the 15th century. There is a Saxon rood stone in the E wall. St. Dunstan himself was a noted magician before his conversion to Chritianity.

Archives

The Whitechapel Cross Roads were found to be at (533887181356) and St. Dunstan’s Stepney at (535956181581).  Length 5km. Bearing 85.4°/265.4°.


StPaulsLine