The Scoop | What does the White Tower tell us about Norman religion and culture?

Welcome to the Norman White Tower in London an Anglo-Saxon city I’m Bishop Gundulf and I helped build the Tower and this beautiful chapel just after the Norman Conquest You can find out more in a little sermon I’m going to deliver later but in the meantime Bienvenue a The Scoop Hail and salute me. Hold me off and scoop me Get me to the church on time What can the White Tower tell us about how the Normans behaved and what they believed Baptise your brain in the holy water of fact with our experts living it large in the House of the Lord Culture is cool St. John’s Chapel in the White Tower is a beautiful sanctuary It’s an expression of the Normans Christian beliefs and a statement of their wealth and style Let’s look at some of its most striking features The chapel is built partly from Caen stone quarried in Normandy and shipped all the way over to London The bright color of this stone would have stood out on the landscape of Anglo-Saxon London and inside the chapel was impressively decorated Capitals can be found at the top of columns Here are capitals in different styles Why’s that you ask? Well construction of the White Tower was paused in the 1080s during which the in stars of Norman architecture changed so the styles of capital changed to keep up with changing fashions Wait a minute! These paving slabs look about as new as my bathroom floor back in Brooklyn Is this chapel even old at all? That’s a good question detective. The chapel is very well preserved but it will have changed over the centuries and this floor wasn’t put in until the 1960s Shucks. So it’s newer than my bathroom floor Franklin can you not interrupt this report please? Hey I’m asking the big questions here And I’m asking big questions about your redundancy package [Gasps] Up here! Is what someone would be saying if they were standing up there in the triforium I’m not allowed because of health and safety but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun The triforium walkway was possibly used as a gallery by spectators to look down into the main space which was called the nave and the rounded outer wall of the chapel on the eastern side of the building would have been one of the first things people saw approaching London up the River Thames demonstrating the King’s religious devotion to the outer world adding to his political power Wait a minute! The glass in these windows doesn’t look old at all Franklin, don’t make me come over there It’s ok Jez. I’ve got this You raise a good point The window openings are original Norman but the glass is not So what would have been in these windows instead? It could have been wooden shutters or very thin horn from cattle animal Cattle it’s always cattle. Enough! We now have a special guest in the studio She’s called Adela and has come across the English Channel to speak to us Hello from the other side- I’m going to have to stop you there Adela for copyright reasons Adela you’re the daughter of William the Conquerer, Countess of Blois of France, but you are also referred to as Adela of Normandy and Adela of England You’re truly an international aristocrat Yes our Norman culture has spread far and wide That’s true. In England many of the words we still use in law and government come from Norman French You’re welcome Now Adela, why did London’s White Tower include a chapel in the first place? When my father conquered England he didn’t just want a strong military presence He wanted to say ‘Hello, it’s me–‘ Please stay on topic Adela -and impress the Anglo-Saxons with the grandeur of Norman culture The chapel shows this to the people and what’s more to stamp our superior Norman culture on England my father abolished slavery – or thralldom making all Anglo-Saxons free Free? You’re rolling in some deep delusion there Adela The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says that in 1094 many people were forced to build the White Tower for free Pah. That’s biased That Chronicle was written in the primitive language of Old English We Normans never bothered with it Instead we ruled England in the learned language of Latin But Old English was used by your father’s government for four years after the Conquest Well we couldn’t change everything all at once and besides that was only until the rebellions of 1070 when the Anglo-Saxons revealed themselves for what they truly were A nation of fools Those rebellions they broke my family’s heart Nevermind, I’ll find someone li- Thank you Adela That’s the end of the interview only because any longer would definitely mean we get sued Now to tie off this nearly bursting water balloon of fact and throw it at your mind Here’s Bishop Gundulf with his much anticipated sermon from the White Tower Wait a minute, Gundulf I’ve been studying an old text The Textus Roffensis The only evidence of your involvement with the construction of the White Tower and it turns out that the part mentioning you was added centuries later by a different writer! Were you involved in the construction
of the White Tower? Did you even go here? Oh my goodness Franklin D. Tective you’ve actually found a convincing piece of historical evidence After all this time I have? Oh boy This is the greatest day of my life I’m gonna get ice cream And you’re getting a sorbet of summary The White Tower’s chapel reflects the Normans’ Christian faith wealth and lavish building style compared to that of the Anglo-Saxons Its layout strengthened Norman power relations and confirmed the deep bond between religion and the monarchy But what do you think of all of this and what would you say are the most
important things the White Tower tells us about Norman religion and culture? Keep asking questions and follow your nose like it’s got its own snapchat Catch you on The Scoop side

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