10 sites commemorating the Great Fire of London – 8. St Paul’s memorial to John Donne…
September 28, 2016
As mentioned earlier, there are several memorials to the Great Fire of London at St Paul’s Cathedral – we’ve already mentioned one of them, the Resurgam, which can be found on the south side of the cathedral’s exterior.
Another can be found in a monument which actually commemorates the poet and priest, John Donne, a dean of St Paul’s who died in 1631 (incidentally, it’s not the only place he’s commemorated – there’s also a bronze bust of him outside the cathedral, placed there in 2012).
The marble effigy inside the cathedral, however, is significant because, erected within 18 months of his death, it is among the few monuments to survive the Great Fire of London. Located in the south quire aisle, the effigy, the work of Nicholas Stone, depicts Donne in his funeral shroud (he apparently posed for it while still alive, wrapped in a sheet).
The effigy was apparently saved by the fact that when the fire raged through the cathedral, it fell into the crypt. And, in a poignant reminder of the fire’s destructive power, if you look closely at the base you can still see scorch marks from the blaze.
It lay in the crypt among other remains of the Great Fire until the late 19th century when it was recovered and restored to its place in the cathedral above in a position close to where it had formerly stood in the Old Cathedral.