One of my personal obsessions is anything – and everything – related to
red wine and chocolate the Tudors. I don’t know why I’m drawn so strongly to this time period & family (it’s certainly not the corsets), but if it ties into the Tudors, I’m all over it. Philippa Gregory’s books? Read them all. The Other Boleyn Girl movie? Own it. The Tudors miniseries? Been streaming it since season one. I even spent an entire afternoon taking three tours (the audio, the guided, and self-led) at the Tower of London, where St. Thomas More was brought through the Traitor’s Gate. Being there – actually BEING THERE – was truly indescribable. So, you can imagine my crazy excitement when my husband and I were looking for a new parish and we (fortunately) ended up falling in love with a church right near our house. The name of our parish? Saint Thomas More Catholic Church. It was love at first sight.
As mentioned before, I’ve had several wonderful opportunities to travel outside the States with my job. During one of the trips, I had a one-day layover in London and – of course – had HAD to see the Tower. After all, it not only fed my Tudor obsession but it was where our patron saint was sent, kept, and beheaded. Today, on his feast day, I’d like to share some of the Tower of London photos I took with you.
The main entrance to the Tower looks quite a bit different today than it did hundreds of years ago. First of all, there is no longer a moat surrounding the outermost structure – it has long since been filled in with dirt and grass. There are also no archers tucked safely behind the stone walls, aiming an arrow at you through the small wall slit should you turn out to be an enemy. Nor is there any boiling oil in the cauldron within the door waiting to be poured on anyone making it past the archers.
The main entrance, however, wasn’t for everyone. Those unfortunate enough to be “sent to the Tower” often arrived at night, covered in a shroud of darkness, by boat through the Traitor’s Gate. As shown above, this gate is an entry into the castle directly from the water, and is the entrance through which most prisoners came…including St. Thomas More.
Located near the Traitor’s Gate is St. Thomas’s Tower. I can only imagine how many days and nights he must have gazed out this window, looking into the interior of the castle, lost in thought and prayer.
Just inside sits the Queen’s House, where many a royal woman was held prior to their trial. It’s said that the ghost of Anne Boleyn still walks the halls of this home. One wonders how Thomas More would react had he known that – shortly after his death – the marriage he opposed to the grave would be dissolved and the wife sent to the same fate as he.
In the middle of the tower, where the scaffolding once sat, is a monument to those beheaded on the Tower Greens. The Tower Greens were reserved for private executions, whereas those executed on Tower Hill took place in front of the general public. Thomas More, alongside Bishop Fisher, was found guilty of treason and beheaded on July 6, 1535 on Tower Hill. His final words, “The Kings Good Servant, but God’s First” seem to carry even more weight in today’s world.
Saint Thomas More is buried in the Anglican church, Saint Peter ad Vincula, just inside the walls of the Tower. He is buried with the others executed on Tower Greens, including Anne of Boleyn and her cousin Kathryn Howard (wives #2 and #5 to Henry VIII), as well as some of those executed on Tower Hill. The crypt is closed to the public.
In 1935, four hundred years after his death, Thomas More was canonized by Pope Pius XI in part for being a martyr of his faith. He continues to be a man for all seasons and reminds us each day to be “the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”
Note: this post links up at Catholic Carnival .