All text copyright Stephen Coates 2006 - 2015

A DREAM OF THE CITY

The ongoing upheaval in the middle East reminds me that London was once considered to be 'The New Jerusalem"
According to legend, the ancient founders of the city came from Palestine about 2500 years ago, a lost tribe fleeing a cataclysm. 
This was a convenient belief in mediaeval times - it made the city older and more significant than Rome upon whom Henry VIII had viciously turned.

And it explains the meaning of the lines in William Blake's poem Milton:


"I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land"


After the great fire in 1667,  Christopher Wren with Nicholas Hawksmoor and James Gibb planned to  rebuild the city actually as the New Jerusalem with St Pauls at the cosmic centre. They didn't manage to realise their dreams - their cosmically inspired geometric plan got lost in the labyrinthine archaic alleys and twisting patchwork of ancient ownership but they did manage to embed some of their occult ideas in the city fabric and, in Hawksmoor's case, in the buildings themselves.  Hawksmoor was a freemason, a sinister, secretive and strange man.  His churches are my favourites in the city.  Some, like St Mary Woolnoth, are deeply weird and Iain Sinclair believes Christchurch in Spitalfields actually exerts a malevolent force on the neighbourhood.  

But, when it comes to imaginary versions of the city, my favourite of course is the one depicted in Mary Poppins.  Walking up Ludgate Hill, I am always half expecting to see her bustling along with her umberella.

If you are a fan of St Pauls by the way, you may be delighted to know that there is a tiny version of it held in the hand of one of the strange statues on Vauxhall bridge. 

It is pretty difficult to see without falling into the river so mind how you go.

10 comments:

spillyjane said...

I am looking forward to spending some quality time at both St Paul's and St Mary Woolnoth in the near very near future. It pleases me greatly to be able to say this.

I will be sure to look for the miniature St Paul's held in the hand of the figure on Vauxhall bridge as well. A quick question -- who is the figure? Is it just a personification, or is it anyone in particular?

I will try my best not to fall into the drink while gawking at the statuary...but seeing as how I nearly drowned myself with a mouthful of tea last night, I won't make any promises.

What a way to go.

clerkenwell kid said...

Sounds like you got a lot on your plate there Jane

spillyjane said...

I really do. How I'll manage to do it all in the bit of time I have remains to be seen. I will do my best.

Dan Brown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan Brown said...

As a long time reader (and listener) I have to say that these little insights into the mysteries of London helped convince me it was a good idea to up root from the North and move here.

Cheers!

[/spelling]

nymphcat said...

Hey there, I've been a reader for a while. I share your love of this city it's mystery and myth.

You might find this interesting (well I hope you do) it's a slide show of the churches from the longer version of the oranges and lemons rhyme. Ignore the music I'm waiting for one of my friends to finish production on the track he's written for the whole project. The only church missing is St Johns in the tower as I couldn't face paying to go and see it! - History should be free in my opinion; and that is one of the reasons why I love London, the history is written on the street and the faces of the buildings and in the soul of us all.

Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Euad5_vWWX4

best wishes,
Clare.

clerkenwell kid said...

Thanks guys.

It's always nice to know there are fellow city lovers out there. I have this theory with London -it's actually probably true of any city:

You start off as a Visitor, after a time you make decision to stay and become a Resident, after another time the city makes a decision to have you - then you are an Inhabitant.

More soon

spillyjane said...

Re: your theory on London/cities -- I completely agree. I have noticed this phenomenon myself -- how one chooses a City but it's ultimately up to the City if it will choose you. I believe it is comparable to the difference between existing and Living, really. What it comes down to is love -- one's affection for their surroundings, for the spirit of the place in which they live.

As for the Souls of cities, that is undeniable. NYC, Chicago, Montreal, Vancouver, Detroit...all so different, all so differently lovable. Like people, really.

Michael S. said...

When will you perform in Israel? From London to Jerusalem:)

clerkenwell kid said...

As soon as we're invited. Actually we've been invited a few times but it never seems to come off.