Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Guildhall, City of London
Through another friend of Keith's we got a personal tour through the Guildhall of the City of London, one of the oldest structures of the city. The story is that Brutus came to London and defeated the two giants of the city, Gog and Magog. Then he shackled them to the gates of the city and left them to defend the city. Inside the Guildhall, we saw statues of Gog and Magog. As Karen said, well, I guess you have your Halloween costumes sorted... The Guildhall was a place for the trade unions (as they were then) to connect and lobby and exert power about the standards of their various trades. There was a set measure of length that anyone could use to measure against. And then, pointed out to me, was another in the metric system --"just so you know we're modern." As our tour guide wittily put it, the building had been 'redecorated by the Germans in 1940.' Since then it's been rebuilt with as much of the original stuff as possible. But someone had forgotten how to make glass so some of the windows, still there, are made from clarified cow horn. How resourceful! He showed us the place where official meetings would happen and where, as he put it, "her madge" would sit and where she would come in, etc. Apparently he's half Scottish and (according to Keith) this is his irreverent poke at the Royals. Later, when I was looking at a painting of a royal gathering, he said: "I think that's Liz One." Of course I immediately thought of Liz Gifford! Liz One to me! Then we went down to the old crypt which was from the 12th Century. It was under a very important building and so no one wanted to dig it up until.....oops! There's that dang Roman Coliseum. Eventually the city came to an agreement with the scholars and archeologists which was that they would excavate a portion of what used to be the coliseum, animate it, and let it stay open to the public. The rest would stay buried under prime London real estate. What we saw when we went down there was really incredible. There were almost holographic images of people wrestling (they chose the more gentle coliseum events to stage) and tiers of seats. When you walk into the room, you hear the sounds of crowds and you walk over hard glass coverings over remains of the actual--the ACTUAL--Roman stones of the ACTUAL Roman walls. AD 47 I'm sorry--I don't mean to be shouting at you. It's just so incredible to be looking at walls that were built thousands of years ago. Built so well, mind you, that we can still look at them! Anyway, my sense of wonder aside... I've seen other Roman remains, by the way, and they have the same affect on me.