Saturday, 16 September 2006

New Monument to the Beheaded

As a child I loved visiting the Tower of London and was always fascinated by the plaque on Tower Green commemorating those who were 'privately' beheaded there (normally women of high rank), including Blessed Margaret Pole (Countess of Salisbury and the mother of Cardinal Pole) and three Queens of England (Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Jane Grey).

Blessed Margaret Pole

That plaque has just been removed and replaced by....a glass pillow. As its creator, Brian Catling, explains, 'it became clear to me that the essential image at the heart of the monument must be one of repose, a side step to the act of violence. The square glass pillow is a replacement for the block; a gesture of repentance.' This is set within two engraved circles, one with a poem (written by Mr Catling) and the other with the names of the executed. 'Before, people would come and stand in front of the small plaque that used to be here – they just stood and didn’t know what to do so I thought: 'let’s give them something to do', they now have to walk around it to read the poem – they have to engage with it.' Catholic pilgrims, of course, have never been at a loss of what to do - they could 'engage' with the hallowed spot by saying their prayers.

Tower Green, of course, is not to be confused with Tower Hill, outside the walls of the fortress, where most Tower executions took place, including those of SS Thomas More and John Fisher and Blessed William Viscount Stafford.



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