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Monument to the Great Fire of London

"The Monument"
Caius Gabriel Cibber
1677

London /  Monument to the Great Fire of London   London /  Monument to the Great Fire of London

Description

The Monument comprises a fluted Doric column of 36½ m (120 ft) high, built of Portland stone topped with a gilded urn of fire. It stands on a 12 m (40 ft.) high base.

The west side of the base displays a sculpture, by Caius Gabriel Cibber, in alto and bas relief.

Description of the relief by Robert Seymour in A survey of the cities of London and Westminster, borough of Southwark, and Parts Adjacent (London, 1733), vol. I, pp. 451-452.
  1. At the North End of the said Plain, is represented in Basso Relievo, the City in Flames, and the Inhabitants in a Consternation, with their Arms extended upward, and crying out for Succour.
  2. A little nearer the Horizon are the Arms, Cap of Maintenance, and other Ensigns of the City's Grandeur, partly buried under the Ruins.
  3. On the Ruins lies the Figure of a Woman crowned with a Castle, her Breasts pregnant, and in her Hand a Sword; denoting the strong, plentiful, and well-govern'd City of LONDON in Distress.
  4. The Sovereign (King Charles II.) is represented standing on an Anabathrum, or Place ascended to by (three) Steps, in a Roman Habit, providing with his Power and prudent Directions (as is expressed by the Inscription on the South Side) for the Comfort of his Citizens, and Ornament of his City.
  5. On the said Steps, stand, in the King's Presence, the Figures of three Women, that next his Majesty representing Liberty, having in her Right Hand a Hat, whereon is the Word Libertas, denoting the Freedom, or Liberty, given to those that engaged three Years in the Work.
  6. Another of the said three Women is Ichnographia, with Rules and Compasses in one Hand (the Instruments whereby Plans and Designs are delineated in due Proportion) and a Scrol partly unrolled in the other Hand, whereon such Designs aro to be drawn; and near this is a Bee-hive, the known Emblem of Industry.
  7. The third of the said Figures, represents Imagination, holding the Emblem of Invention, and having on her Head Wings, and small Children (as being swift and fruitful) and on the Border of her Garment these Words, Non aliunde; all which shew, that the speedy Re-erection of the City, is principally owing to Liberty, Imagination, Contrivance, Art, and Industry.
  8. And farther, to encourage the said Citizens, here is the Figure of Time, elevating the Woman in Distress, and Providence with his winged Hand, containing an Eye, promising Peace and Plenty by pointing towards those two Figures appearing above the Clouds.
  9. Behind the King (as it were Eastward) the Work is going forward, as Scaffolding, Labourers carrying Materials, &c.
  10. Partly within a camerated Cell, under the Sovereign's Feet, appeareth Envy, diabolically enraged at the Measures concerted, and the great Prospect of Success. He is endeavouring to renew the Disaster, by blowing Flames out of his Mouth towards the distressed City.
  11. On the fame Plain, South End from the King, is a Lion with one Fore Foot tied up and curbed by the Left Hand of Fortitude, in whose Right Hand is a Sword, under which Figures appears the Muzzle of a Cannon, which denotes this deplorable Loss and Misfortune to happen in Time of War.
  12. Between that and the King, is the Figure of Mars, with a Chaplet in his Hand, an Emblem, that an approaching honourable Peace would be the Consequence of the War.
From forty years later dates the description by John Noorthouck, A New History of London: Including Westminster and Southwark (Book 2, Ch. 10) (the numbers refers to Seymour's description):
That to which the eye is particularly directed is [3] a female, representing the city of London, sitting in a languishing pofture on a heap of ruins. [8] Behind is Time, gradually raising her up; and at her side, a woman, representing Providence, gently touches her with one hand, while, with a winged sceptre in the other, she directs her to regard two goddesses in the clouds; one with a cornucopia, denoting plenty, the other with a palm branch, the emblem of peace. [6] At her feet is a bee-hive, to shew that by industry and application the greatest misfortunes may be overcome. [1] Behind Time, are citizens exulting at his endeavours to restore her; [2] and beneath, in the midst of the ruins, is a dragon, the supporter of the city arms, who endeavours to preserve them with his paw; [1] still farther, at the north end, is a view of the city in flames; the inhabitants in consternation, with their arms extended upward, and crying for assistance. [4] Opposite the city, on an elevated pavement, stands the king, in a Roman habit, with a laurel on his head, and a truncheon in his hand; who approaching her, commands three of his attendants to descend to her relief: [7] the first represents the Sciences, with a winged head and circle of naked boys dancing thereon, and holding Nature in her hand with her numerous breasts ready to give assistance to all: [6] the second is Architecture, with a plan in one hand, and a square and pair of compasses in the other: [5] the third is Liberty waving a hat in the air, and shewing her joy at the pleasing prospect of the city's speedy recovery. [12] Behind the king stands his brother, the duke of York, with a garland in one hand to crown the rising city, and a sword in the other for her defence. [11] The two figures behind him are Justice and Fortitude; the former with a coronet, and the latter with a reined lion; [10] and under the pavement, in a vault, appears Envy gnawing a heart: in the upper part of the back ground, the re-construction of the city is represented by scaffolds and unfinished houses, with builders at work on them.
Description of the London Remembers site:
It shows a woman on the left (representing the City) languishing on some ruins. Winged Time supports her and a female figure points with a winged sceptre at the clouds which contain two more bare-breasted lovelies, one with a cornucopia (Plenty) and one with a laurel branch (Praise). Behind the group on the left are some figures waving their hands in distress and behind them, the cause, buildings with smoke and flames pouring forth. To the right of this group can be seen a beehive, symbol of industry. And is that the City dragon/griffon we see at the bottom left creeping out from under the ruins? The main figure in the group to the right is King Charles II standing at the top of some steps. He directs three more scantily-clad women down the steps towards poor City. They represent: Science brandishing a figure of many-breasted Nature and with a very strange headdress; Architecture clutching some plans and a pair of compasses, and Liberty waving her cowboy hat in the air. To the right of the Kings stands his brother, the Duke of York (the future King James II) clutching a garland, presumably destined for the City. Behind James are two more female allegorical figures: to the left Justice wearing a coronet and to the right Fortitude brandishing a sword in one hand while the other controls the leashed lion at her feet. Behind this group the reconstruction of the City progresses, with workmen scrambling over scaffolding. Below the steps on which this group stands, squeezed into an arched cavern is an ugly female figure, Envy eating her own heart.

The descriptions do not agree at some important points, especially about the figure to the right of the King: Seymour says it is Mars, where Noorthouck says it is the Duke of York

Overview of the 13 main figures:
 Seymour 1733Noorthouck 1773 / London Remembers
1TimeTime
2City of LondonCity of London
3ProvidenceProvidence
4ImaginationSciences
5IchnographiaArchitecture
6LibertyLiberty
7King Charles IIthe king
8not mentionedJustice
9MarsDuke of York
10FortitudeFortitude
11 (below)Envy, blowing flames out of his mouthEnvy, gnawing a heart
12 (cloud)PlentyPlenty
13 (cloud)PeacePeace / Praise

London - Monument to the Great Fire of London

Inscription(s)

Three sides of the base carry inscriptions in Latin:

  1. South: describing actions taken by King Charles II following the fire.

    carolvs ii c. mart. f. mag. brit. franc. et hib. rex. fid. d.
    princeps clementissimvs miseratvs lvctvosam rervm
    faciem plvrima fvmantibvs iam tvm rvinis in solativm
    civivm et vrbis svæ ornamentvm providit tribvtvm
    remisit preces ordinis et popvli londinensis retvlit
    ad regni senatvm qvi continvo decrevit vti pvblica
    opera pecvnia pvblica ex vectagli carbonis fossilis
    orivnda in meliorem formam restitverentvr vtiqve ædes
    sacræ et d pavli templvm a fvndamentis omni magni=
    ficentia extrverentvr pontes portæ carceres novi
    fierent emvndarentvr alvei vici ad regvlam respon=
    derent clivi complanarentvr aperirentvr angipor=
    tvs fora et macella in areas sepositas eliminaren=
    tvr censvit etiam vti singvlæ domvs mvris inter=
    gerinis conclvderentvr universæ in frontem pari
    altitvdine consvrgerent omnesqve parietes saxo
    qvadrato avt cocto latere solidarentvr vtiqve
    nemini liceret vltra septennivm ædificando immo=
    rari ad hæc lites de terminis oritvras eege lata
    præ scidit adiecit qvoqve svpplicationes annvas et
    ad æternam posterorvm memoriam h. c. p. c.
    festinatvr vndiqve resvrgit londinvm majore celerita=
    te an splendore incertvm vnvm triennivm absolvit
    qvod secvli opvs credebatvr

    Charles II. Son of Charles the Martyr, king of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, a most gracious prince, commiserating the deplorable state of things, whilft the ruins were yet smoaking, provided for the comfort of his citizens, and the ornament of his city; remitted their taxes, and referred the petitions of the magistrates and inhabitants to the parliament, who immediately passed an act, that public works should be restored to greater beauty with public money, to be raised by an imposition on coal; that churches, and the cathedral of St. Paul's, should be rebuilt from their foundations, with all magnificence; that bridges, gates, and prisons should be new made, the sewers cleansed, the streets made strait and regular, such as were steep levelled, and those too narrow made wider, markets and shambles removed to separate places. They also enacted, that every house should be built with party walls, and all in front raised of equal height, and those walls all of square stone or brick, and that no man should delay beyond the space of seven years. Moreover, care was taken by law to prevent all suits about their bounds. Also anniversary prayers were enjoined; and, to perpetuate the memory hereof to posterity, they caused this column to be erected. The work was carried on with diligence, and London is restored; but whether with greater speed, or beauty, may be made a question. Three years time saw that finished, which was supposed to be the business of an age.

  2. East: describing when the Monument was started and brought to perfection, and under which mayors.

    incepta
    richardo ford, equite
    prætore lond. a. d. mdclxxi
    perdvcta altivs
    georgio waterman eq:pv
    roberto hanson eq:pv
    gvlielmo hooker eq:pv
    roberto viner eq:pv
    iosepho sheldon eq:pv
    perfecta
    thoma davies eq prævrb.
    anno dom.ni mdclxxvii

    Begun by
    Sir Richard Ford, knt.,
    being Lord Mayor of London, in the year 1671;
    carried higher by
    Sir George Waterman, knt.
    Sir Robert Hanson, knt.
    Sir William Hooker, knt.
    Sir Robert Viner, knt.
    Sir Joseph Sheldon, knt.
    finished by
    Sir Thomas Davies, being the town's Lord Mayor,
    in the year of the Lord 1677

  3. North: describing how the fire started, how much damage it caused, and how it was eventually extinguished.
    Translation:

    anno christi mdclxvi die iv. nonas septembress
    hinc in orientem pedvm ccii. invervallo qvæ est
    hvjvsce colvmnŠ altitvdo ervpit de media nocte
    incendivm, qvod vento spirante havsit etiam longinqva
    et partes per omnes popvlabvndvm ferebatvr
    cvm impetv et fragore incredibili. xxcix templa
    portas prætorivm, ædes pvblicas ptochotrophia
    scholas bibliothecas insvlarvm magnvm nvmervm
    domvvm ccdOOOO OOOcc, vicos cd. absvmpsit
    de xxvi regionibvs xv. fvnditvs delevit alias viii laceras
    et semivstas reliqvit vrbis cadaver ad cdxxxvi. ivgera
    hinc ab arce per tamesis ripam ad templariorvm fanvm
    illinc ab evro aqvilonali portvs secvndvm mvros
    ad fossæ fletanæ capvt, porrexit adversvs opes civivm
    et fortvnas infestvm erga vitas innocvvm vt per omnia
    referret svpremam illam mvndi exvstionem

    velox clades fvit exigvvm tempvs eandem vidit
    civitatem florentissimam et nvllam
    tertio die cvm iam plane evicerat hvmana consilia
    et svbsidia omnia coelitvs vt par est credere
    ivssvs stetit fatalis ignis et qvaqvaversvm
    elangvit

    In the year of Christ 1666, the second day of September, eastward from hence, at the distance of 202 feet, (the height of this column) about midnight, a most terrible fire broke out, which, driven on by a high wind, not only wasted the adjacent parts, but also places very remote, with incredible noise and fury: it consumed 89 churches, the city gates, Guildhall, many public structures, hospitals, schools, libraries, a vast number of stately edifices, 13,200 dwelling-houses, 400 streets; of 26 wards, it utterly destroyed 15, and left 8 others shattered and half burnt. The ruins of the city were 436 acres, from the Tower by the Thames side to the Temple church, and from the north-east gate along the city wall to Holborn-bridge. To the estates and fortunes of the citizens it was merciless, but to their lives very favourable, that it might in all things resemble the last conflagration of the world.

    The destruction was sudden; for in a small space of time the same city was seen most flourishing, and reduced to nothing. Three days after, when this fatal fire had baffled all human counsels and endeavours in the opinion of all, as it were by the will of Heaven it stopped, and on every side was extinguished.

    In 1681, the words "but Popish frenzy, which wrought such horrors, is not yet quenched" were added to the end of the inscription. The words were chiselled out in 1830.

Translations from John Noorthouck, A New History of London: Including Westminster and Southwark (1773) (British History Online). These translations are not identical with the ones on the plaques on the monument, as transcribed on the London Remembers website.

Information Sign

Wooden board:

THE MONUMENT

this monument designed by sir christopher wren was built to commemorate the
great fire of london 1666, which burned for three days consuming more than
13,000 houses and devastating 436 acres of the city. the monument is 202 ft in
height, being equal to the distance westward from the bakehouse in pudding lane
where the fire broke out. it took six years to construct 1671-1677. the balcony
is reached by a spiral stairway of 311 steps and affords panoramic views of
the metropolis. a superstructure rises from the balcony and supports a copper
vase of flames.
the allegorical sculpture on the pedestal above was executed by caius gabriel cibber.

[opening times and charges]

ST MAGNUS THE MARTYR

fish street hill, to the south, leads to st. magnus the martyr (a wren church),
alongside which, is the ancient footpath which led to the first london bridge.

Annotation

The monument was designed by Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke. Its height marks its distance from the site of the shop of Thomas Farynor, the king's baker, where the Great Fire began.

Sculptor

Sources & Information

Tags

  • Charles II (King of England)
  • Cibber, Caius Gabriel
  • Commemorative Needle Column or Obelisk
  • Dragon
  • Envy
  • James II (King of England)
  • Justice (Justitia)
  • Liberty
  • London (allegory)
  • Mars / Ares
  • Praise
  • Providentia
  • Science (allegorical figure)
  • Strength (Fortitudo)
  • Time (allegory)
  • Location (N 51°30'36" - W 0°5'9")

    Item Code: gblo154; Photograph: 8 August 2014
    Of each statue we made photos from various angles and also detail photos of the various texts.
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    © Website and photos: René & Peter van der Krogt