Monday, March 28, 2011

Question from Anonymous - Conducting business in St. Paul's Cathedral

I read that people used to conduct business in St Paul's Cathedral during Tudor Times, just as they did when Jesus went into the Temple. Is this true and was it allowed?


Foose said...

It seems to have been a tradition! The entire nave of St. Paul's - "St. Paul's Walk" - was turned over to hawkers, peddlers and merchants, who set up booths, along with beggars and prostitutes. People set up advertisements. A horse fair was even held.

I couldn't find that any Tudor monarchs complained about the trafficking inside the Cathedral, and the clerics were surprisingly quiet too. I did find a 14th-century bishop railing against the practice.

One source I consulted suggested that cathedrals, because of their size and prominence, lent themselves to these types of activities, whereas a parish church would not. St. Paul's was strategically located in London's Cheapside district, and offered an irresistibly convenient extension to the marketplace, especially when it rained.

I think Tudor-era St. Paul's may have been a sort of "third space," where religious and secular concerns co-existed. (For modern people, a cathedral is a place set aside strictly for religious functions.) The Cathedral was also a major political locale, where Tudor monarchs habitually had their favorite divines preach at St. Paul's Cross, a wooden pulpit outside. Typically these clerics were primed to speak aggressively on the current Tudor line concerning the succession, the Divorce, upcoming Reformation legislation, the iniquities of the Pope, the Spanish marriage, and other topics that needed to be broadcast to Londoners with the goal of gaining popular support. The sermons attracted huge crowds, with the Cathedral's business activities possibly facilitating the dissemination of royal propaganda by providing a ready-made audience.

Marilyn R said...

I think that the cathedrals, by virtue of their size, were used much more by the community throughout medieval times for non-religious activities than we realise today. An example of a transaction, between Katherine duchess of Norfolk and Anne countess of Pembroke and others in the reign of Edward IV, can be found in the Berkeley Castle Muniments:

'Whereas Anne, John, Roger, John, Henry, John, John and Walter are bound by a bond made before Ralph Verney, knight, mayor and constable of the Westminster staple, to Katherine, in £60 for merchandise bought from her in the same staple, payable on 26 March 1476, Katherine wills that if Anne and the others pay £40, in the cathedral church of St. Paul in the city of London, viz. at the altar next to the image of the Crucifixion called le Rode of the Northdore on the said 26 March, between the hours of eight and eleven before midday, or on 6 May between eight and eleven, the bond shall be void.'