Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

DSC09938b_200Next week the remains of the Temple of Mithras will be open to public view once again. Unloved and open to the elements for almost fifty years, the development of its original site by the financial information giant Bloomberg presented an excellent opportunity to give this highly significant Roman building the type of home it deserves. Bloomberg, Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) and other partners have enthusiastically and painstakingly carried out a project which unearthed by far the largest number of ancient Roman artifacts from a single British site. The quality and variety of them are truly staggering. The survival of many of the perishable objects – typically wood and leather – is thanks to the muddy conditions in the vicinity of the lost river Walbrook. The most significant object of the dig must surely be a tablet from circa 53AD which mentions “Londinium”, the oldest known reference of this name.




There were Mithraeums in most urban centres of the Roman Empire. Its symbol was Mithras killing a bull with a knife.


This tablet is inscribed with the earliest known use of the word Londinium.

As someone whose degree strongly featured ancient Rome and who has visited the Eternal City many times over past decades, I’ve always been a bit sniffy about what I considered the paucity of London’s surviving Roman remains. With the best will in the world, there can be no comparison. The bits of Roman wall near the Tower and the ribbon along London Wall combined with the Roman bath house in Lower Thames Street hardly set the pulse racing. Perhaps that’s just me. But with this new development to add to the Roman amphitheatre installation beneath Guildhall Yard – only discovered in the 1990s – that has all changed very significantly indeed, I think.

Londinium was, after all, the beginning of this most historical of cities. Suddenly, with the addition of the London Mithraeum, we have, I feel, a truly weighty and credible Roman London collection for all visitors to enjoy and Londoners to be proud of.

We must thank and congratulate Bloomberg for not just paying lipservice to our heritage but for embracing it and wholeheartedly backing this project. An example for all businesses and developers to follow.

Find out more and book your free places at the London Mithraeum.


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by Dr Helen Szamuely

Alexander_Konstantinovich_Benckendorff225Ten men are buried in the Crypt of Westminster Cathedral, which can be visited by special permission: nine cardinals and one “civilian” the last Imperial Russian Ambassador, Count Alexander Konstantinovich Benckendorff (1849 – 1917), who had taken up his ambassadorial position in 1902 and held it to his death. As it happens he was the great nephew of the Countess, later Princess Lieven, wife of the nineteenth century Russian ambassador, whose own diplomatic activity is generally better known than her husband’s. Count Alexander was, unusually for a Russian official even of Baltic background, a Roman Catholic, having been brought up by his German mother Princess Louise de Croy. Through his own and his wife’s eminent Russian family the Shuvalovs, he was related to most of the Russian and a good part of European aristocracy. On the one hand this made life and career relatively smooth, on the other hand, it became a tragedy as public opinion hardened just before the First World War and during it. To take one example, the German ambassador to London in the summer of 1914, Prince Lichnowsky, the son of Countess Marie de Croy, was Benckendorff’s first cousin. The drive towards the war and Lichnowsky’s enforced departure (as a matter of fact, he opposed German policy) was a personal tragedy for these two men.

Benckendorff remains a divisive figure in Russian historiography, just as he was a divisive figure in his lifetime. He has been accused on not knowing any Russian, which is not true, and of being more anxious to promote the British point of view in Russia than the Russian in Britain, which has some basis in truth. His first languages were French and German but he did speak Russian and wrote to his children in that language. Diplomatic correspondence across the Russian corps was, in any case, conducted in French.

Having grown up in Europe, he was anxious to become a Russian landowner and acquired an estate in Sosnovka, spending every summer there with his family until 1914. His sons were sent to Russia to finish their education. The younger, Petr, joined the army fought in the Russo-Japanese war, re-enlisted in 1914 and was killed in 1915. The older, Constantine, went into the navy and survived not only the First World War but the Revolution, civil war and a stint in the Red Navy. In 1922 he married the harpist Maria Korchinska and in 1923 they came to England. As he said in his memoirs, Half a Life, they could not have known that they would never see their homeland again. Their sister, married Jasper Nicholas Ridley. Both marriages produced fairly eminent offspring.

Count Benckendorff was obsessed with the need for an Anglo-Russian Agreement and pursued this policy (backed by the French ambassador to London, Paul Cambon, often beyond his instructions from the Imperisal government. His friendship with the Empress Maria Fyodorovna gave him a special entrée to the British court and allowed him to communicate directly with King Edward VII, something that the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs found frustrating as they felt that Benckendorff was ready to accept any British policy whether it was directly good for Russia or not.

The need for that agreement, in his view, was based on three main reasons: he feared Russia falling under German domination, he thought that only an Anglo-Russian agreement would stabilize the situation and keep peace between the two countries in Asia and Europe and, he hoped that it would promote liberal, Western ideas in Russia. One can argue whether the Anglo-Russian Accord of 1907, Count Benckendorff’s cherished plan for which he worked so hard contributed to the move towards the First World War or not but that is where Europe ended up much to his discontent. Not only were his hopes dashed but, to a great extent, the war was a personal tragedy for him, his family, his entire circle.

By the end of 1916 the news coming out of Russia disturbed Count Benckendorff even more. The war was becoming vrey unpopular, there were disturbances, revolutionary activity, shortages. Would Russia be able to continue fighting? Would she collapse under pressure? These questions clouded his last weeks. An early victim of the Spanish influenza that was to devastate Europe and the world, Count Alexander Benckendorff died in early 1917 and caused a diplomatic furore after his death. He had worshipped in Westminster Cathedral and had requested that he should be buried there. His reuqest was reinforced by the Tsar, Nicholas II, but rejected by the Cathedral, who pointed out that only cardinals are buried in the Cathedral’s crypt. The Count’s Requiem in the Cathedral was attended by member of both Royal families but the question of the burial was finally solved by Kind Edward Vii intervening with Cardinal Bourne. He pointed out that Russia, Britain’s staunch ally was having many difficulties and needed support. An agreement to bury Count Benckendorff in the Cathedral crypt would be such support; permission was granted.


Final resting place: the crypt beneath Westminster Cathedral.

Nathalie Ridley, the Count’s daughter, commissioned Eric Gill to carve a memorial slab,which was installed in 1939 and can still be seen. In simple elegant writing it says in English and Latin, the latter provided by Mgr Ronald Knox:


Count Alexander Philip Constantine Ludovic Benckendorff,
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotenitary
from the Emperor of Russia to the Court of St James.
August 1 1849 – January 11 1917.
May he rest in peace.

The new Russian government has an ambivalent attitude to the country’s history, both Imperial and Soviet. Nevertheless, the Russian Embassy now holds a Diplomats’ Day on February 10 and wreaths are laid on the graves of all ambassadors and chargés d’affaires who happen to be buried in Britain. A ceremony in Westminster Cathedral crypt ends with red, white and blue flowers decorating the gravestone of Count Alexander Konstantinovich Benckendorff, last Imperial Russian Amanssador and the only non-cardinal buried in the crypt of Westminster Cathedral.

This article was published in London Historians Members’ newsletter April 2017, less than two days before the author passed away in Charing Cross Hospital on 5 April. We shall publish other articles by Dr Szamuely about London-based Russians during the coming weeks. 

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Guest post by London Historians Member Caroline Swan.

main_9781445661117_1It’s a fairly common occurrence for builders to uncover disused burial grounds in London; it can feel as though the entire city is built on top of a vast graveyard. Many visitors and Londoners alike are fascinated by London’s multitude of burial grounds and London’s Hidden Burial Grounds will no doubt be of interest to those who have wondered where Londoners were laid to rest in the centuries before edge-of-town cemeteries and cremations became the norm.

Rather than focusing on London’s famous suburban Victorian cemeteries, such as Highgate and Kensal Green, Robert Bard and Adrian Miles take the reader on a journey through central London’s lost burial grounds, little patches of ground that today serve as parks or playgrounds, or have disappeared altogether. The authors clearly covered many miles whilst researching this book, visiting the featured sites and taking photographs, many of which are featured (in colour) in the book, alongside historic images and some wonderful photographs from the archives of Museum of London Archaeology.

This book draws extensively on two key nineteenth-century sources: Gatherings from Graveyards by George Alfred Walker (1839) and The London Burial Grounds by Isabella Holmes (1896). Both of these figures had an interest in improving the health of Londoners – Walker, a surgeon, wanted to see inner-city graveyards shut, as he was concerned that overcrowded burial grounds were the cause of high levels of disease and mortality in the areas surrounding them, while Holmes campaigned for disused cemeteries to be transformed into parks and playgrounds for the use of people with little access to outside space.

London’s Hidden Burial Grounds is divided into three main sections: “Plague Pits and Pest Fields,” “London’s Worst Nineteenth Century Burial Grounds,” and “Disused and Hidden Jewish Burial Grounds.” The chapter on plague pits and pesthouse grounds looks at sites from both of London’s famous plague outbreaks, in 1349 and 1665, as well as other sites of mass graves such as workhouse burying grounds. These sites are generally indistinguishable as burial grounds today – one of the featured burial grounds is now beneath a multi-story car park in Soho. Many of the Jewish burial grounds featured in the book’s final chapter are also hidden, but behind high walls and locked gates in unassuming corners of the East End.

The main part of the book is dedicated to the huge number of little churchyards and urban burial grounds that began to disappear during the nineteenth century. Many of the burial grounds used in London in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were profit-making ventures run by often unscrupulous owners who crammed thousands of bodies into spaces that were nowhere near big enough. George Alfred Walker’s investigations helped to uncover the horrific practices going on in many of these places; the famous scandals of Spa Fields and the Enon Chapel are recounted here, along with accounts of churchyards literally overflowing with the dead. Bard and Walker also include an account of a woman thought to have died of cholera who, not actually dead, broke out of her coffin en route to burial in Southwark. The horrors of these overcrowded graveyards makes for grim but compelling reading – it is hard to imagine the sights and smells that Londoners must have been confronted with when visiting any of these places.

London’s Hidden Burial Grounds sheds light on the often-overlooked history of burials in London before the advent of the “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries and their successors, and makes for a great guide to central London’s forgotten cemeteries. It is superbly illustrated with colour photographs, while an extensive bibliography includes a wide range of titles for further reading. The use of archaeological reports adds another dimension to the story, providing physical evidence to back up the often-lurid Victorian accounts of overcrowded, squalid burial grounds. All in all, it makes one grateful that the persistence of the likes of George Alfred Walker paid off and that the people of London are no longer forced to bury their loved ones in such dreadful places.

London’s Hidden Burial Grounds by Robert Bard & Adrian Miles, is published by Amberley, 2017. Cover price is £14.99.



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430 years ago today – also a Tuesday – Anthony Babington and six of his co-conspirators were executed. A guest post by Mathew Lyons.

On Tuesday 20th of September 1586, seven Catholic men were bound to hurdles in the Tower of London – one of them, a priest named John Ballard, on a single sled, the others two-a-piece – and were dragged westward on their final slow journey through the city’s autumnal streets to a hastily erected scaffold in the open fields ‘at the upper end of Holborn, hard by the highway-side to St Giles’, probably somewhere a little to the north west of what is now Lincoln’s Inn Fields, then known as Cup Field. The crowd gathered at the scaffold numbered in thousands. The authorities had fenced off the site to stop horsemen blocking the view, and had also raised the gallows ‘mighty high’, so that everyone could see justice being done.

The names of the men were – Ballard aside – Anthony Babington, John Savage, Robert Barnwell, Chidiock Tichbourne, Charles Tilney, and Edward Abingdon. (Seven more conspirators and their accomplices would die the following day: Edward Jones, Thomas Salisbury, John Charnock, Robert Gage, John Travers, Jerome Bellamy and Henry Donne, elder brother of the poet.) Most of them were minor courtiers, well-connected, wealthy; it was said they wore fine silks on this, their last day. Just a week before they had been tried at Westminster and found guilty of treason; six weeks before that, they had still been free men. But then had come intimations of arrest – one story is that Babington was alerted by catching sight of a message delivered to a dining companion named Scudamore and realising that Scudamore was, in fact, one of Walsingham’s men – followed by dispersal and desperate flight, Babington and four others taking to what was then still wild woodland beyond the city at St John’s Wood.


Contemporary illustration of the Babington conspirators.

The authorities searched the houses of some thirty known recusants around London. Almost all were outside the city walls in places such as Hoxton, Clerkenwell, Highgate, Enfield, Islington, Newington and Westminster. One conspirator, John Charnock, was captured on the road from Willesden, where he too had slept in the woods. Babington and his companions, hungry and fearful, disguised their clothing and cut their hair, smeared their faces with green walnut shells, and then – with watches guarding every road out of London – made their way cross-country to what they hoped would be a safe house near Harrow-on-the-Hill. Servants there noticed the strangers’ arrival, their oddness; furtive conversations and the gold lacework of a fine cloak over coarse yellow fustian doublets. The five were finally taken, hiding in the barn. Bells rang out across the city as news of their arrest spread; fires were lit and psalms sung, song and smoke rising together in the late summer air.

And now the men were to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

Although the exact site of the gallows is unknown, we do know that it was chosen for symbolic purposes: the men had used these fields for secret meetings as they plotted to assassinate Elizabeth I and replace her on the throne with Mary, Queen of Scots. Indeed, much of their conspiracy seems local to this area, just beyond the city’s western edge where streets and houses seeped into pasture, and where, on warm spring days, women dried their washing out in the fields, weighting down the sheets with rocks and stones. If in some senses the locale emphasises the marginality of their deadly enterprise, it also perhaps hints at a fatal detachment from reality.

Two of the conspirators’ favoured inns were nearby: The Plough, which seems to have been close to Fickett’s Field, between Cup Field and The Strand, and The Rose Tavern, which was on the south side of the Strand itself, just without Temple Bar on the corner of Thanet Place, and well-known for its garden. (A character in Middleton’s Roaring Girls claims to ‘have caught a cold in my head… by sitting up late in the Rose Tavern’.) Savage, Charnock and Babington had rooms in Holborn, the latter at a place called Hern’s Rents, an address he shared – coincidentally or otherwise – with another would-be Catholic regicide, Edmund Neville, who also used to walk in the fields with his co-conspirator, William Parry. Just eighteen months earlier, Neville had betrayed Parry to Walsingham – and to the fate that now awaited Babington and his friends.

Francis Walsingham, circa 1585, attr. John de Critz the Elder. National Portrait Gallery.

Francis Walsingham, circa 1585, attr. John de Critz the Elder. National Portrait Gallery.

It was customary for a traitor’s death to come by hanging, and for the blood rituals to be enacted on his corpse. This day, however, was different. One after another, the men were left to swing briefly by the neck – until they were half-dead, an onlooker wrote – and then cut down from the gallows, still alive and conscious, and made to watch as the executioner hacked off their genitals and dug out their guts – and then eventually their hearts – with his knife. As their insides were cast into a burning brazier, each man’s body was then dismembered, and the severed head set above the gallows.

As the historian William Camden – a likely an eye-witness – noted, the day’s events were ‘not without some note of cruelty’

The first man to die, was Ballard, arguably the plot’s ringleader. The second, its lynchpin, was Babington. He alone of the men standing beside the scaffold awaiting their fate watched Ballard’s agony’s unflinchingly, coolly, not even deigning to remove his hat; the others turned away, fell to their knees and bared their heads in prayer. But when it was his turn to suffer, and he was pulled down breathing from the gallows to face the executioner’s knife, he cried again and again Parce mihi Domine Iesu, Spare me Lord Jesus.

A longer version of this article was first published in London Historians Members’ newsletter of December 2011. A pdf version can be found on our Articles page. Scroll down to December 2011. LH Member Mathew Lyons is a writer, historian and author of The Favourite, which relates the story of Elizabeth I and Sir Walter Ralegh.

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A guest post by London Historians Member, Christopher West.

DSC03440blogEntering the Docks from Tower Bridge Road, you will see the cast-iron grey Tuscan Columns which adorn International House- these were saved from the original Hardwick warehouses built for the Telford Docks, opening in 1828. Walk along the new waterside pathway and notice the original wall, complete with mooring rope rings, looking up at the grey columns and at the nearby historical Thames Barges.

Back in the 10th century, King Edgar gave this land to a group of knights who traded here, then in c 1147 the Royal Hospital of St Katharine was founded, on the orders of Queen Matilda, by the then proprietor, an Augustinian Priory at Aldgate, governed by a Master, three Brothers and three Sisters. Later, a Church was added and a community that became known as St Katharine’s Precinct developed. Some of the land was sold to allow the Tower Of London to build the East side of its moat and the precinct developed its own orchards, school, court, prison, factories, breweries and various types of housing. It had a ‘dokke’ at least from the 14th century.

Medieval Church of St Katharine by the Tower. Image by Jane Young.

Medieval Church of St Katharine by the Tower. Image by Jane Young.

Sadly and controversially, the ancient Royal Hospital, Church and more than four thousand people were removed in 1825, to make way for the new Telford Docks, which was built in a record three years, opening in 1825, trading in luxury items from all over the world. The Royal Hospital and Church were relocated at Regent’s Park, together with splendidly preserved relics, which are still in use at today’s Royal Foundation Of St Katharine at Limehouse. Throughout its history, Royal patronage has remained (usually the Queen) and today’s Master was appointed by the current Queen, continuing the tradition which has survived since the 12th century.

Builders Taylor Woodrow renovated the Docks, following the closure in 1968, first having to clear war damage and demolish derelict buildings. When pulling down the brick walls of a late 18th century warehouse, a grand wooden framework was discovered, so it was moved 70 metres and became the basis for today’s Dickens Inn. Modern offices were built in place of the Hardwick warehouses, including Commodity Quay, which housed two thousand commodity traders and Reuters News Agency. Ivory House (1852) was turned into luxury flats and numerous others were added surrounding the East Dock. Various shops and restaurants were built, creating the ‘Yacht Haven’, eventually becoming the sparkling Marina that we know and cherish. Still on show today are the Telford Bridge, numerous sculptures by Paula Haughney, (representing luxury items such as turtle shells, herbs, spices and exotic feathers), Wendy Taylor’s famous Timepiece and various other treasures.

Dickens Inn at St Katharine Docks

Dickens Inn at St Katharine Docks

Starbucks Coffee Shop is on the site of the ancient Hospital. It was built as the Coronarium, an all denomination chapel, again featuring original Tuscan Columns; unfortunately, after 19 years of use, it was closed, to reopen as a coffee shop. The mural in the window depicts a sketch of the intended new Docks c 1823.

Today, St Katharine Docks hosts boats from all over the World, as well as historical vessels which include the Royal Barge Gloriana, Havengore, which carried Churchill’s body in State, Flamant Rose, which belonged to Edith Piaf and the majestic Thames Barges.

Christopher West has written a book, The Story Of St Katharine’s, which chronicles the area from the tenth century to today.  He can be contacted on thestoryofstk@outlook.com.

St Katharine Dock today.

St Katharine Docks today.

St Katharine Dock today.

St Katharine Docks today.

St Katharine Dock today, view upriver.

St Katharine Docks today, view upriver.

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dick whittingtonWe all know the rags to riches story of Dick Whittington, his cat and his rise to become Lord Mayor of London. Also, we’ve heard or read about the great Victorian philanthropists such as Angela Burdett-Coutts, George Peabody, Andrew Carnegie. Octavia Hill. But Dick Whittington didn’t invent philanthropy in London and nor was the Victorian period an isolated beacon in a long dark history of nobody giving a damn. No, the City has a long tradition of benefactors through the ages and the act of founding, supporting, endowing has constantly taken place.

A new exhibition opening today at the ancient Charterhouse demonstrates this clearly. The institution itself is a perfect exemplar, for in 1611, business mogul Thomas Sutton made provision for a home there for 80 poor men (the “Brothers”) and a school for 40 poor children, both institutions which survive to this day. Daniel Defoe called it “the greatest gift that was ever given for charity, by any one man, public or private, in this nation.”

tomb of thomas sutton

The tomb of Thomas Sutton (1532 – 1611), chapel, Charterhouse.

Philanthropy: the City Story tells us of much besides. How the maintenance of old London Bridge from the very beginning in the early 13th century was underpinned by charity from the City, hence the Bridge House Estates, the umbrella body which has that role to this day, and much else besides; the story of Thomas Coram and his Foundling hospital; schools and hospitals for the less wealthy; food relief. And so on.

But while acts of charity themselves and philanthropy have been continuous, the types of people and institutions who undertaken them have constantly changed and especially so since the Tudor hey-day of Gresham and Sutton. With the growth of non-conformity, so grew an incredibly strong tradition of charity, Quakerism being an outstanding example. Similarly, over the years, London’s Jewish community – particularly as concentrated in East London – benefitted from the more successful among their numbers. But while much evolves, there are constants, the most obvious manifestation being our Livery companies, Corporate benefactors in the Middle Ages as today.

Angela Burdett-Coutts

Angela Burdett-Coutts

Christ's scholar. Christ's School in Newgate Street was a charity school on which many others were modelled.

Christ’s scholar. Christ’s Hospital in Newgate Street was a charity school on which many others were modelled.

But should there be a need for well-off people look after the less fortunate? Some would argue that in a “decent” society there shouldn’t be that requirement. It’s an ancient debate and it is not shirked here. Outgoing Lord Mayor, alderman Roger Gifford, notes that philanthropy is not entirely selfless, calling it in the City context “enlightened self-interest”, pointing out that the City’s success goes hand-in-hand with investment in community matters. Do you agree?

"£.s.d. The Religion of England". 1870. Many 19C Victorian radicals and reformers didn't believe society's problems could be solved with philanthropy.

“£.s.d. The Religion of England”. 1870. Many 19C Victorian radicals and reformers didn’t believe society’s problems could be solved with philanthropy.

The other Big Question the show asks, directing it mainly at ambitious young professionals in the Square Mile: where are tomorrow’s philanthropists and where are they going to steer philanthropy in the years, decades, centuries into the future? Indeed Philanthropy: The City Story is merely an early step in a longer term project that will continue to develop these themes. In parallel, the Charterhouse will be used increasingly frequently until it will be open to the public with a new museum sometime in 2016. Fabulous news.

An engaging show, rich in history. Crucially, a quite rare opportunity to visit the Charterhouse and in particular its exquisite ancient chapel containing the tomb of Thomas Sutton. But the run is quite short, don’t miss out. There is also a series of free evening talks and debates associated with the exhibition.

philanthropy, the city storyPhilanthropy: The City Story opens today (30 October) and runs until 30 November. It is open Wednesday to Sunday from noon till 5pm. Entrance is free. The exhibition is a partnership between the Charterhouse, Museum of London, the City of London Corporation’s charity City Bridge Trust and City Philanthropy.

London philanthropy hot-spots map.

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As is the British way, most of this part of England is heavily skiving or otherwise having fun today and blaming it on what nowadays is called a “weather event”. Why should I miss out? This frivilous post has nothing to do with London, but does with history. Sort of. So please indulge me, or just skip this post.

Innocent X

Pope Innocent X by Velazquez (1650).

Last week we heard on the news that the Vatican has started its own cricket team.

Fondly recalling my undergraduate days at Royal Holloway it got me to thinking about my perfect Vatican XI. Deeply ensconced as I once was in Medieval Europe, the Crusades etc, some popes of note loomed large. Here goes.

My Vatican XI

1 Leo I (440 – 461) – Turned Attila and his Huns back at the very gates of Rome. Who better to open the batting?
2 John Paul II (1978 – 2005) – Steady bat, long time at the crease. Crowd-pleasing.
3 Gregory VII – (1073 – 1085) Hildebrand. Fearless, gregarious, extroverted. After a period or papal vulnerability, stamped the church’s authority over the Holy Roman empire in the person of the emperor Henry IV. Perfect for Number 3.
4 Adrian IV (772 – 795) (c) – as the only English pope, has to be skipper. Also 24 years in the middle a cracking innings for those times.
5 Nicholas V (1447 – 1455)
6 Pius II (1458 – 1464)
Near contemporaries, these highly cultured gentlemen were the first of the humanist popes who sponsored the rivival of ancient art, architecture and philosophy. So very stylish with bat in hand, though always vulnerable, not unlike David Gower, one imagines. Nicholas was in post when Constantinople finally fell to the Turks. Lacked the authority to do anything about it.
7 Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) (w)
Not a pope but one of the leading theologians in church history.  And smart, despite his nickname of Dumb Ox, owing to his bulk. So a large and deceptively nimble presence behind the stumps. And just the chap to come in after a bit of a middle-order collapse.
8 Julius II (1503 – 1513)
9 Innocent X (1644 – 1655)
10 Urban VIII (1623 – 1644)
Pace attack. These three no-nonsense, aggressive pontiffs perfect to keep the opposition on the back foot.  Led by Julius II, “the warrior pope”, he spent most of his reign pillaging Italy at the head of his mercenary troops. Constantly at war too with Michelangelo whom he got to paint the Sistine chapel. Innocent X. Check the Velazquez portrait (above), that’s all you need to know. Urban VIII. Patron of Bernini and scourge of Galileo. Famously melted priceless bronze decorations to make cannons. Over 20 years in the job so good man to wag the tail when needed.
11 Alexander VI (1492 – 1503) The Borgia pope, avaricious, sneaky, tricky, full of guile and deception, but enjoyed his fun too. Perfect spin bowler attributes.

Scorer: Girolamo Savonarola (1452 – 1498) Not a pope, but a firebrand Dominican preacher who held both religious and laity to account for slack moral practices – usuary, sumptuary, gambling, promiscuity, etc. Inspirational and popular till the fun-loving Florentines got bored with his puritanism and burned him in the town square. But good at keeping score, one imagines.

So there you have it. If I were back at boarding school playing pencil cricket instead of doing prep, this would be – in my opinion – a formidible Vatican XI.

List of popes.

Hat-tip to LH Member Deborah Metters @rosamundi for egging on this tomfoolery.

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