By MAURICE P. FITZPATRICK
" BART'S." The name immediately brings to mind, especially for London ers, the great hospital and medical school, standing in the city of London. Strange it is to think that it had its beginnings in a vision seen by a priest whilst in Italy and wonderful to realise that it started its great work of healing as far back as the year 1123.
Rahere, as a young man held a position at the court of William Rufus. He later decided upon the religious life, became a secular priest and, some time after the year 1115, became a prebendary of St. Paul's Cathedral. Whilst on a visit to Rome, he contracted malarial fever. Rahere recovered, however and, during his convalescence, in thanksgiving, he vowed to build a hospital in London.
Shortly afterwards, he had a vision in which St. Bartholomew appeared to hint and requested that a church should be built as well as the hospital arta, apparently, he was also advised of the site for the foundation. This was to be Smithfield, a district. at this time, just outside the city of London. a marshy, desolate place and the scene of public executions.
On his return to London, Rahere became an Austin Canon. His next step was to obtain the help of his friend, Richard de Bel, Bishop of London, and together they approached the king, Henry I, with the plans for the hospital and priory to be built at Smithfield.
Royal Charter T"required permission was granted and work commenced upon the site in March of the year 1123. Four years later, a Royal Charter of Privileges confirmed the original grant and gave protection to all those who attended the Cloth Fair now being held near the site. This Fair was later to develop into a Carnival held annually for three days on and during the octave of the patron saint's feast. The Priory church was blessed on December 5, 1129 by Richard de Bel. By this time, of course, St. Bartholomew's Hospital was in existence. It began as a large hall with aisles on either side, one for the treatment of men, the other for women.
The Hospital was maintained by a Master and a number of Brethren who owed certain duties to the prior but were otherwise independent. Rahere remained the first Master until the year 1137 when he retired to the Priory where he died seven years later on September 20, 1144. It appears that he held the two offices of first Master of the Hospital and first Prior of the Priory.
THE Cottonian Collection in the British Museum contains a work entitled, " Fundarionis Ecclesiae Sancti Barthotomei". It is a charming. and simple book which starts by giving details of the early life of Rahere, a very complete account of the vision in Rome and the beginnings of the Priory at Smithfield. The greater part of the book, however, is given up to recording accounts of the miracles which occurred at the Priory at the intercession of St. Bartholomew. There are stories of the dumb, the blind and the crippled being restored to health and, in many cases, the names of the actual sufferers are recorded, A fact, made obvious from the reading of this book is that it was a regular practice, on the feast of St. Bartholomew and throughout its octave, to bring the sick into the Priory church to beg intercession for a restoration to health. When Rahere died in 1144, the only portions of the Priory completed were the present choir and ambulatory. the Lady Chapel and some domestic buildings. Thomas, a canon of the church of St. Oswyth became the second Prior. During his priorate, the transepts and the crossing were built but no further work appears to have been undertaken until the year 1230 when the building of the great nave was commenced and it was another 10 years before it was completed. Nearly a century later, the Lady Chapel was demolished and a new and what appears to have been a more resplendent chapel was built immediately behind the high altar. In the year 1405, a great deal of work was put in hand to enlarge and complete the Priory. The clerestory windows were given their present form. The Norman apse was partly removed and a straight wall built from one side of the sanctuary to the other. The cloisters too, were completed about this time and in 1420, the Hospital was separated from the Priory.
ANAME well remembered in the history of St. Bartholomew's is that of a canon who became prior in the year 1506, He carried out many alterations and improvements to the church but little, of course, remains today.
An unusual balconied window in the south wall of the choir, looking down directly on to the sanctuary is part of his work. His sign, a bolt passed through a tun is clearly inscribed upon the stonework. A door in the south ambulatory again showing this distinctive sign is another reminder of the work of Prior Bolton. A window neat this doorway contains a fragment of its original medieval glass and clearly visible is the tun passed through with a bolt.
With the advent of the suppression of religious houses under Henry VIII. St. Bartholomew's Priory suffered the same fate as the majority. The date of its suppression was October 25. 1539. The Priory was presented to Sir Richard Rich who immediately set about converting the Lady Chapel into part of his own residence. The. great nave was demolished and, eventually, the choir, which Was the main portion of the Priory remaining untouched. became a parish church,
WHEN Mary Tudor became queen the Priory was, to some extent, restored to its former purpose. It can be well imagined, however, how difficult this must have been considering the ruin that now remained of its former glory. William Perrin, a Dominican, became Prior at its restoration in 1556 and he remained until 1558, the year Mary Tudor died and Elizabeth came to the throne. The follow
jug year, under the new sovereign, St. Bartholomew's Priory was finally suppressed.
It is very difficult to recall another religious house in England which, during the years following, was converted into such a variety of misuses as this Priory of the Austin Canons. The Lady Chapel had already been turned into secular uses; it was later to be used as a printing house and finally as a fringe factory. After the Restoration, the north transept became a forge, the crypt was used as a coal and wine cellar. The cloisters became stables. The sacristy. at one period, served as a carpenter's shop and, in later years, a store for keeping hops. The south triforium arcade was, at one time, a Nonconformist