from J Bird, M Hassall & H Sheldon (eds) Interpreting Roman London: Papers in Memory of Hugh Chapman, Oxford: Oxbow Books, 1996, 1-9
THE TEMPLE OF DIANA
From the time that Hugh Chapman and I first shared an office in the Guildhall Museum we also shared an interest in the early antiquaries and archaeologists whose work laid the foundations for the present understanding of London’s archaeology, as well as in some of the more eccentric interpretations, past and present, of that archaeology. Later Hugh proposed a Museum of London exhibition which would (to quote his preliminary brief) ‘demonstrate that the scientific archaeological investigations conducted in the City in the 1980s represent the continuation of a tradition of investigation and interpretation that commenced over 400 years ago’. For various reasons that exhibition never took place. Meanwhile (by now a medievalist) I began to wonder how medieval Londoners themselves viewed the history of their city and interpreted the visible remains of its past. This paper, which touches on all these themes, is intended as a tribute to Hugh and a celebration of the interests we had in common.1
In 1634 Richard Corbet, bishop of Norwich, appealed in his diocese for funds for the repair of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. He pointed out that the cathedral had replaced a shrine of Diana; he invited his listeners to ‘see a mystery in the change: St Paul confuting twice the Idol: there, in person, where the cry was “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!”: and here, by proxy, Paul installed while Diana is thrust out’ (Longman 1873, 59). And the belief that Roman London was graced by a temple dedicated to Diana, standing on the site now occupied by the cathedral church of St Paul, is a persistent one. A contributor to a recent Guide to Legendary London prescribed a spiritual exercise to be carried out in the cathedral: visualise a figure of the goddess Diana/Artemis, ‘a tall brown- skinned lady dressed in skins and bearing antlers on her head. She is standing on the high altar and her powerful presence fills the cold, oppressive building’ (Wise 1990, 78). In occult circles it was considered that the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 took place at St Paul’s rather than at Westminster Abbey because of ‘the Dianic influence still embodied in the site’ (Wise 1990, 77-8). But not all 20th-century discussions of this supposed temple have taken a mystical turn.
In 1937 the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge published a short history of St Paul’s with reconstructions of its appearance at different periods – it was reprinted as recently as 1976 (Henderson 1937). The author and artist was Arthur Henderson, an architect who had accompanied a British Museum archaeological team to the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (the Biblical ‘Diana of the Ephesians’) (Anon 1957). In his St Paul’s book he illustrated a model of the Ephesus temple he had made for the British Museum (fig 1.1, top), and his researches clearly influenced his vision of a London temple of Diana (fig 1.1, below). No-one admiring Henderson’s drawings of the exterior and interior of this London temple or reading his description (‘it probably had a portico of four detached Corinthian capitals and pilasters along the sides’) would gather that it was a construct of his imagination, without archaeological evidence for its form or even its existence. A more orthodox modern archaeological approach has been to note the existence of a ‘tradition’ of a temple of Diana while emphasising the lack of evidence (Mortimer Wheeler, in Roy Comm Hist Monuments 1928, 43); the possibility was discussed in some detail by Gordon Home (1948, 206-8). Charles Roach Smith was not convinced, noting only that ‘Sir Christopher Wren imagined that a temple of Diana stood upon the site of St Paul’s cathedral. But he had no better reasons to support his hypothesis than the large quantities of bones of animals found there’ (Smith 1859, 48) – an unfair summary which attributes to Wren the views of others, as we shall see. In 1852 Roach Smith’s contemporary A H Burkitt addressed the British Archaeological Association on ‘Objects ascribed to the worship of Diana found in London’ (Burkitt 1853). His prime concern was a number of Roman lamps decorated with crescent moons, but he referred to the stone altar (found on the site of Goldsmiths’ Hall in 1830) which is carved with a figure in a short tunic, with bow and hunting dog (Roy Comm Hist Monuments 1928, 120; Merrifield, this volume, fig 12.4). This had been identified as a representation of Diana the Huntress and – in spite of the 300 yards which separates its findspot from St Paul’s – as confirmation of the traditional location of Diana’s temple. Thus an engraving of the altar decorated the title page of Dean Milman’s authoritative Annals of S Paul’s Cathedral – though the Dean himself expressed doubts about the story (Milman 1869, 5-8) (fig 1.2). The relationship of this figure to the ‘hunter-god’ from Southwark is discussed by Ralph Merrifield elsewhere in this volume; it can no longer be drawn into any discussion of the worship of Diana in Roman London. Yet Diana’s temple has held a long and honourable place in London’s archaeological literature, particularly during the period of intense antiquarian activity of the late 17th and
early 18th centuries that followed discoveries made after the Great Fire of London – though few would have gone as far as John Selden who derived the name of London from Llan-Dyn, supposedly ‘temple of Diana’ in Welsh (cited by Maitland 1756, 18), or ‘Mr Tho Price of Llanvilling in Montgomeryshire’ who provided John Aubrey with the etymology ‘Llundain ie Imago Dianae’ (Aubrey 1980, 498). William Stukeley’s reconstructed plan of Roman London, drawn in 1722, is apparently the earliest attempt to produce such a plan; prominent in the western half of the city are the ‘Lucus & Templum Dianae’, ‘the grove and temple of Diana’ (fig 1.3: Stukeley 1724,112, pl 57). Stukeley obviously knew that Diana was worshipped in wooded places and must have had in mind the sacred grove at Nemi (Cary et al 1949, 274). Meanwhile, Dr John Woodward of Gresham College had acquired for his collection a bronze figurine of Diana (fig 1.4: Malcolm 1802-7, vol3, 509-12 and pl opposite 61), found near St Paul’s, between the Deanery and Blackfriars. This he took as evidence for the temple, alongside finds of ‘Tusks of Boars, Horns of Oxen, and of Stags’ (which he considered favourite sacrifices to the goddess) and ‘the Representations of Deer and even of Diana herself, upon the Sacrificing Vessels’ (Woodward 1713, 31-2). Our trust in the latter evidence is shaken by the realisation that the ‘sacrificing vessels’ of Woodward and his contemporaries – ‘embossed with various Figures and Devices, of the Colour of the modern red Portugal Ware, some brighter like Coral, and of a hardness equal to China Ware, and as well glaz’d’ (Wren 1750, 266) – are what we would call samian ware, a domestic tableware on which figures of deities and animals are not uncommon. Woodward’s confidence is in contrast to views expressed by Sir Christopher Wren. Wren stated (according to the biography compiled by his son) that he could find no trace of Diana’s temple, nor any bones of sacrificed animals: ‘having changed all the Foundations of Old Paul’s, and upon that Occasion rummaged all the Ground thereabouts, and being very desirous to find some Footsteps of such a Temple, I could not discover any’ (Wren 1750, 266, 296). But Wren’s pragmatism could not prevail against the romantic speculations of his contemporaries, who could cite William Dugdale’s magnificent history and description of the medieval cathedral for three pieces of evidence for the existence of Diana’s temple: 1 near the cathedral was a structure called ‘Diana’s Chamber’; 2 ox-skulls thought to be the remains of pagan sacrifices had been found on the site; 3 an ‘ancient writer’ recorded that, in the days of Diocletian’s persecution of the early Christians, idols had been set up in Christian churches and Diana was worshipped in
London (Dugdale 1658, 3). The last is Dugdale’s own contribution, with its unexpected implication that a Roman church had stood on the site before being used for the worship of Diana. Its source we shall return to later. Dugdale credited his first two arguments to the 16th-century antiquary William Camden. Camden wrote (in Philemon Holland’s translation of his Latin original of 1586): ‘That there stood of old time a Temple of Diana in this place some have coniectured, and arguments there are to make this their conjecture good’ (Camden 1610,426). The ‘some’ who conjectured thus are unidentified; it was clearly a view with which Camden concurred, however. Camden also cited three pieces of evidence. Two we have met already in Dugdale – Diana’s Chamber and the discovery of ox-skulls. Diana’s Chamber appears a number of times in the records of St Paul’s: ‘domum quae fuit Diane’ in 1220/22, ‘Hospitium Deane’ in 1407-8, ‘Camera Diane alias Segrave’ in 1452 and ‘Camera Diane’ in 1480 (Roy Comm Hist Manuscripts 1883, 4-5), as well as ‘camera which is called Rosamunde’ in 1309 (Roy Comm Hist Manuscripts 1883, 49) and ‘Domus Dyane vel Rosamunde’ (Kingsford 1923, 40-1).2 It was a large stone building, standing north of St Benet’s church in Paul’s Wharf Hill (Benet’s Lane), on the south side of Great Knightrider Street; it was the property of the Dean and Chapter and usually a residence for St Paul’s canons (Kings ford 1923, 40-1). Its odd name has never satisfactorily been explained; the alternative ‘chamber of Rosamund’ seems to have led to speculation, reported in John Strype’s edition of John Stow’s Survey of London, that Henry II’s ‘fair Rosamund’ was hidden in this building by her royal lover under the alias ‘Diana’ (Stow 1720, bk 3, 225). The name cannot be traced back before 1220, and it would be at the very least unwise to suggest it reflected medieval knowledge of the worship of Diana in the vicinity. Camden also reported that ‘in the church-yard, while Edward the First reigned, an incredible number of Ox-heads were digged up, as wee finde in our Annals, which the common sort of that time made a wondering at, as the Sacrifices of Gentiles [heathens]’ but that ‘the learned know, that Tauropolia were celebrated in the honour of Diana’ (Camden 1610,426).3 There are two accounts of the same event by Camden’s contemporary John Stow. In his Annales Stow wrote that Bishop Ralph Baldock (1306-13) had contributed large sums, during his life and by his will, for the building of a chapel on the south side of St Paul’s, and that ‘in digging the foundations of this work was found more than an hundred heads of Oxen and kyne’ (Stow 1592, 327); in his Survey of London (1598) that it was in 1316 that ‘more than an hundred scalpes of Oxen or Kine’ were found (Kingsford 1908, vol 1, 333). Neither account matches Camden’s dating of the discovery to Edward I’s reign (1272-1307), but the difference is probably not significant. Unfortunately, though Stow credits in a marginal note ‘W Paston’, it has not proved possible to identify his source. Yet the account is circumstantial enough to be credible. For Stow, unlike Camden, this discovery ‘confirmed greatly the opinion of those which have reported, that of olde time it had been called the Temple of Jupiter’ (Stow 1592, 327; cf Kingsford 1908, vol 1, 333) – a view with which the learned Bishop Stillingfleet concurred 100 years later when he commented that the hilltop on which St Paul’s stood was the ideal location for a Roman Capitol (Stillingfleet 1704, 547). Faced with evidence of ritual in a Romano-British context, an archaeologist today might well seek an explanation in native Celtic belief rather than in the classical Roman pantheon; this was an option not open to Stow and Camden, who relied on classical authors for their view of the Roman past. Nor is it surprising that their hypotheses, Diana or Jupiter, differ. Camden’s third point centred on an odd ceremony which he had himself watched as a boy: ‘a stagges head sticking upon a speare-top, (a ceremony suiting well with the Sacrifices of Diana) carried round about within the very Church in solemne pompe and procession, and with a great noise of Horne-blowers’ (Camden 1610, 426). Camden seems to have realised his argument was weak; he recognised that (as Stow and Dugdale confirmed) this event was one of those strange quit-rent ceremonies which enlivened medieval property transactions (Kingsford 1908, vol l, 333-5; Dugdale 1658, 16-17): the annual presentation to the Dean and Chapter of St Paul’s of a doe and a fat buck secured for the Baud family property in Essex, and had done so since the time of Edward I (Simpson 1894,234-7). Camden’s plea that ‘surely this rite and ceremony may seeme to smell of Dianas worship and the gentiles errours, more than Christian religion’ might carry weight with those who see relics of paganism everywhere in Christian cult and symbolism; yet the ritual was clearly not continued from pre-Christian times, nor is its connection with Diana evident. Nor was it unique: each year Henry III presented the monks of Westminster with eight stags from Windsor Forest, their delivery announced by two hornblasts before the high altar (Westlake 1923, 48). It certainly cannot be a primary piece of evidence for what Camden admits is merely a hypothesis. But what of the ‘ancient writer’, cited by Dugdale, who referred to sacrifices to Diana in London? If anything this must be the inspiration (direct or indirect) of Camden’s ‘conjecture’, though he does not cite it. Dugdale’s source was a manuscript in the Cottonian
Collection (now British Library Cotton Claudius A viii) which contains extracts by a 15thcentury Westminster monk, Richard Sporley, from the history of Westminster Abbey compiled by his colleague John Flete in 1443 (Robinson 1909, 30-1). The passage Dugdale quoted concerns the foundation not of St Paul’s but of St Peter’s, Westminster. It tells how during the Diocletianic persecution (a commonplace of medieval historical writing) the earliest Christian churches were converted to pagan use; the church at Westminster became a temple of Apollo. Later came the Angles and Saxons, destroying churches and spreading paganism. ‘Thus belief in the old abominations returned everywhere; the Britons were driven from their homeland; London sacrificed to Diana and suburban Thorney [Westminster] made offerings to Apollo’ (Robinson 1909, 35). The pairing of Westminster and London with the brother and sister Apollo and Diana is emphasised in sonorous Latin: ‘immolat Dianae Londonia, thurificat Apollini suburbana Thorneia’. The suggestion that Apollo was worshipped at Westminster appears in other writers; but Diana is found only in this rhetorical flourish, apparently the sole medieval text to link the goddess to London. Flete’s book is a compendium of earlier documents. The section under discussion came, he claimed, from ‘a certain very ancient book of chronicles in the ancient language of the Angles or Saxons’ (Robinson 1909, 34). Leaving aside the practical difficulty a 15th-century monk would have in translating from Old English and the dubious air that must surround any original that sounds so like that ‘certain very ancient book in the British language’, the fictitious volume from which Geoffrey of Monmouth claimed to derive his knowledge of King Arthur and the pre-Roman British kings (Thorpe 1966, 51), the source remains a puzzle. J Armitage Robinson, who traced most of Flete’s sources, could not identify this one; he noted internal evidence (a reference to King Saberht of the East Saxons as a founder of the abbey, a story not found elsewhere before the mid-12th century) that suggested it was, in the form it reached Flete, quite late (Robinson 1909, 2-3). It was no more than historical speculation, and was no doubt influenced by the work of that great fabricator of legendary British history, Geoffrey of Monmouth. Geoffrey’s History of the Kings of Britain (c 1138) was an inspiration to all other medieval writers on early history (Kendrick 1950). In the document used by Flete the part played by the fictional King Lucius in introducing Christianity to Britain, the Diocletianic persecution and the expulsion of the Britons from their homeland could all have come, directly or indirectly, from Geoffrey’s History. So indeed could the temple of Apollo (for it was on such a temple in Trinovantum (London) that Geoffrey’s flying king Bladud fell to his death (Thorpe 1966,
81)) and the identification of Diana as a deity worshipped by the Britons. It was, according to Geoffrey, an oracle of Diana which had directed Brutus, eponymous founder of the British nation, to seek a home for his exiled Trojan people on an island in the western ocean; and Brutus had promised to dedicate temples to the goddess in the new land (Thorpe 1966, 64-5). It is hardly necessary to comment that Geoffrey had no special knowledge of pagan Celtic religion. The oracle of Diana is a purely literary invention based on Virgil’s Aeneid – the inspiration for most of Brutus’s adventures; according to Virgil (Aeneid III, 90-170), Trojan Aeneas had similarly been directed to seek a new home for his exiled followers by an oracle of Diana’s brother Apollo (Faral 1929, vol 2, 79-81; Tatlock 1950, 261). For the worship of Diana in London the works of both Flete and Geoffrey of Monmouth are unreliable evidence. They surely imply, however, that the idea of a classical goddess once worshipped in London would not be entirely out of place in medieval times, at least in educated and literary circles. The learned certainly knew of Diana as a pagan deity; for some medieval attitudes towards Diana and illustrations of her see Camille (1991, 101-14) on ‘Deformations of Diana as a Gothic goddess’. And the medieval identification of Diana as the witches’ goddess and/or the leader of the ‘Wild Hunt’ or of a cavalcade of the dead was discussed by Rose (1989, 106-22). Yet there seems to have been no specific link made between Diana and the site of St Paul’s. Indeed, something very different is suggested by a late 14th-century poem in honour of St Erkenwald (7th-century bishop of London whose shrine in the medieval cathedral was a focus of pilgrimage) (Morse 1975). As prologue to his account of an otherwise unrecorded miracle performed by St Erkenwald – I have discussed its ‘archaeological’ significance elsewhere (Clark 1980) – the anonymous poet described how St Augustine and his missionaries had converted heathen shrines to Christian use and in London had rededicated to St Paul
The mickle minster therein [which] a mighty devil owned, and the title of the temple was taken from his name. (Morse 1975, 55, ll 27-8)
The poet did not reveal this mighty devil’s name – he may have had in mind Woden or Mercury, the chief of the Saxons’ gods according to Geoffrey of Monmouth (Thorpe 1966, 156-7). If he had heard of Diana in this connection he would surely have added her to his meagre pantheon of pagan deities: the Sun, Apollo, Jupiter, Juno and Mahomed (Morse 1975, 55, ll 19-22).4 If these verses are anything more than literary romancing they reflect a contemporary belief that there had once been pagan worship on the site of St Paul’s – but no certain identification of the god there worshipped. The view that Christian churches stood on the sites of pagan temples was a medieval
commonplace. Bede had after all recorded Pope Gregory’s advice to Augustine’s mission to convert pagan shrines to Christian use ‘if they are well-built’ (Colgrave & Mynors 1969, 106-9), and Geoffrey of Monmouth insisted that the missionaries invited by the legendary King Lucius had done the same many years before: ‘they dedicated to the One God and His Blessed Saints the temples which had been founded in honour of a multiplicity of gods’ (Thorpe 1966, 125).5 It is perhaps irrelevant whether this belief reflected reality in any way, as it may at Yeavering (Hope-Taylor 1977, 278); but it provided the rationale for identifying the ox-skulls found during building works as ‘sacrifices of the gentiles’. ‘Archaeology’ is a recent study; yet a curiosity about the past, an awareness of its physical remains and a readiness to relate them to the known or assumed facts of history are nothing new. The ‘Temple of Diana’ is not a legend, but one of a number of speculations about the site of St Paul’s. It was William Camden’s reputation, and the later support of such names as Dugdale and Stukeley, that was to ensure that the Temple of Diana became archaeological orthodoxy for some two centuries, outweighing the alternative views of those who, like Stow, espoused the cause of Jupiter. Each generation has interpreted this site in the light of its own preconceptions. But perhaps only in the late 20th century could we expect to see the image of Diana raised once more on the cathedral’s high altar – if only as a spiritual exercise.
APPENDIX: ‘AN HUNDRED HEADS OF OXEN AND KYNE’ It would be unsatisfactory to leave this subject without comment on the one piece of archaeological evidence from the site – the ‘incredible number of Ox-heads’ dug up at the beginning of the 14th century. A modern archaeologist might first seek an explanation in butchery or industry (as for the ‘horn-core pits’ of 18th-century London: Cherry 1980, 206-7, pl 1). Yet ‘ritual deposits’ of animal carcasses or skeletons, particularly heads, are well known in prehistoric and Roman contexts (Merrifield 1987, 30-48); the medieval identification of the St Paul’s finds as ‘sacrifices of the gentiles’ should not be dismissed. In the context of the City of London (and of this volume) one might expect to find parallels in the Roman period; and though most ‘votive burials’ of animals or animal heads/skulls in pits, shafts or wells in this period apparently comprise one or two specimens, there are examples of larger groups. The most notable is in the well-known series of ‘ritual pits’ at the Roman fort at Newstead, where Pit LXVI contained 13 ox skulls and 8 horse
skulls (Curle 1911, 132; Ross & Feachem 1976). Yet the numbers from St Paul’s, if correctly reported, are exceptional. It would be wise to look more widely for a parallel.6 For example, excavation in 1986 of a round barrow at Irthlingborough (Northants) revealed ‘at least 185 skulls’ (184 domestic cattle and one aurochs) ‘and a smaller number of mandibles, shoulder blades and pelves of cattle.’ (Davis & Payne 1993, 12). Here we have a quantity of skulls similar to that from London in a context whose Beaker-period date is confirmed by radiocarbon dating (Davis & Payne 1993, 15). The bones lay not in a pit, however, but within the body of the burial mound; the authors suggest a variety of scenarios by which they may have come there, but their ‘ritual’ nature is evident (David & Payne 1993, 19). For the Iron Age, Wait (1985, 149) concluded that cattle skulls predominated as ‘special animal deposits’ (to use his neutral terminology) – particularly on hill-fort sites. And finds made in excavations in 1936 on a hill-top enclosure at Harrow Hill, Sussex, seem to fit this pattern. The excavator estimated remains of ‘between fifty and one hundred [cattle skulls] from our small cuttings alone’ and hinted at ‘mass slaughterings to propitiate Celtic deities’ (Holleyman 1937, 250). However, Davis & Payne (1993, 20) noted that the attribution of the bones to the Iron Age is uncertain. One might make the same comment on the site as a whole, for only a few scraps of datable pottery were found. Indeed its name indicates that the hill was known as a sacred place to the Anglo-Saxons (Mawer & Stenton 1929-30, 165); Wilson has discussed the distribution of the place-name ‘Harrow’ (from Old English heargh) and has suggested that a heargh ‘occupied a prominent position on higher land and was a communal place of worship for a specific group of people, a tribe or folk group, perhaps at particular times of the year’ (Wilson 1985, 181). Perhaps the finds from Harrow Hill reflect worship not by Iron Age Celts but by the local South Saxons (Copley 1958, 162-3). An apparent ritual deposit of cattle heads of Anglo-Saxon date was discovered by Brian Hope-Taylor at Yeavering – the site of a royal centre of the Anglian kings of Northumbria. The excavator argued that one long-lived building on the site (D2) was a shrine or temple. Within it a shallow pit some six feet long ‘was entirely filled with animal-bones, the great bulk of which represented oxen (with an overwhelmingly high proportion of skulls)’ (HopeTaylor 1977, 98-100). Hope-Taylor drew attention to one of the few documents that throw light on the actual practices of the pagan Anglo-Saxons: the letter of 601 sent by Pope Gregory to the mission in England, in which he commented on the sacrifice of cattle to the gods (Hope-Taylor 1977, 278; Colgrave & Mynors 1969, 106-9).7 Thus, there are parallels for the St Paul’s find in a number of periods. Though we may
dismiss the Temple of Diana as antiquarian speculation, there seems to be evidence of ‘pagan’ ritual taking place on or near the site of St Paul’s Cathedral. It could be attributed to the prehistoric or the Roman period, or to the pagan East Saxons; to a time before the original foundation of St Paul’s in 604, or to the period of apostasy after 616, when the East Saxons drove out the bishop and, according to Bede, reverted to pagan worship (Colgrave & Mynors 1969, 152-3). The difficulties of interpreting an archaeological discovery are much magnified when it is one that was made nearly 700 years ago!
1 I first addressed some aspects of this subject in a brief presentation to the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society in 1980, and in more detail in a paper ‘St Erkenwald and the Temple of Diana’ to the ‘Medieval London’ seminar at the Institute of Historical Research (University of London) in May 1981.
2 I am grateful to Tony Dyson for providing me with a number of references to the Camera Diane.
3 The learned seem to have been misinformed; the taurobolium, a ritual involving the slaughter of a bull and the drenching of the worshippers in its blood, was associated not with Diana but with Cybele (Cary et al 1949, 246—7).
4 However, the author may have been aware of Westminster’s claim to a shrine of Apollo, for he wrote that it was to St Peter that the temple of Apollo was rededicated.
5 Alan Smith (1970, 34-5) has pointed out how closely Geoffrey’s story of King Lucius is modelled on Bede’s account of the actual events of the mission to the English in the time of King Ethelbert.
6 I am grateful to Jon Cotton and Jean Macdonald for advice on some sources for what follows; I take full responsibility for my interpretation of them. I recognise the dangers I face as a medievalist in commenting on matters of Celtic religion or ritual.
7 In the light of the current view that the population of Anglian Northumbria was largely of Celtic origin (Yorke 1990, 86) and the excavator’s own assessment of Yeavering as ‘Anglo-British’, with a native sub-Roman phase preceding the Anglo-Saxon phases, it might be asked whether this deposit may represent a continuation of Celtic rather than Germanic ritual. However, a recent reassessment of the site has suggested that the earliest
buildings ‘might be attributed equally well to a 6th-century Anglo-Saxon as to a postRoman British context’ and that the settlement was Anglo-Saxon ab initio (Scull 1991).
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