During my recent trip to London I had the chance to visit the cell where St. Thomas More was imprisoned in the Tower of London, before he was beheaded. I believe he lived in the cell for some seven months. As an added bonus, I got to see his tomb as well, also within the Tower of London complex. The Tower is a relatively costly place to visit, but it’s well worth the money and I recommend it if you are ever in London.
Since neither More’s cell nor his tomb are open to the general public, I had to make special advance arrangements. His cell is located within a private residence (there are various people who live inside the Tower complex), and his tomb is located in the crypt of the Anglican church that is within the Tower. While visitors can go inside that church, they are not ordinarily able to go down to the crypt.
Here is the block of houses attached to the tower where the cell is:
Note the guard station – to the right of the guard there is a black door; that is the one we went in.
The door we went through:
The lettering above the door says “QUEEN’S HOUSE”, but I’m pretty sure that the Queen doesn’t live there…
From what others had told me, I imagined walking through someone’s sitting room and going down a secret passageway or something to get to the cell. Actually, it was just a brief walk down a normal hallway. Here is the view of the cell:
It was fairly spacious (because More had a lot of money), but that doesn’t mean that it was comfortable. It was probably infested with vermin and during the winter would have been quite cold.
The “Beefeater” who gave me the tour reminded me of the scene in the movie “A Man for All Seasons” when through the window of More’s cell you can see the changing of the seasons, with the autumn leaves etc. He said that that shot would have been taken through the window on the left there. Here is a shot through that opening:
Who knows if there were really trees out there during More’s time. In any case, he would have been able to look through this opening and see people outside and the Thames River.
Here are the trees that are currently visible through that opening:
Clearly not 479 years old.
Back in the cell, here is another corner:
Since it is not open for general visitors, they haven’t put a lot of effort into making it a museum-quality exhibit. For example, the image of More on the wall is cheaply-framed poster:
Remember my previous post about this image, here?
The “Beefeater” was kind enough to leave me alone for some minutes in the cell, so that I could say some prayers and reflect. I prayed for all my Facebook friends and all the readers of this blog, along with a few other special intentions. Afterwards, the guide surprised me by inviting me to go to More’s tomb also. Here is a shot of the side of the church, in the crypt of which is found his tomb:
Directly across from the residence in which is found More’s cell.
As I mentioned above, you can visit the church (which is dedicated to St. Peter in Chains) when you take your tour of the Tower. Anglican worship is still held there on Sundays as well. Anyway, we went down a separate entrance into the crypt, and here is his tomb as I found it:
Even though it says on the tomb that he was buried “here”, the Beefeater told me that he had originally been buried in the nearby church of All Hallows, but his tomb was moved after that church was bombed during the war. Perhaps they simply moved the original tomb inscription instead of having a new one made reflecting the translation of his relics.
So I knelt there and prayed for a few minutes as well. From there, I took my leave of my guide and exited the Tower (I could have stayed to see everything else, but I had to catch a train). As I left I took these photos of the outside of the tower of More’s imprisonment:
Those middle windows, sort of cross-shaped, are where his cell is, which takes up that entire level of the tower. Apparently St. John Fisher had been imprisoned at the top of the this tower, in an even more spartan cell.
That above photo was taken from within the Tower walls, while this one is taken just outside; you can see that More’s windows were just high enough to see over the wall:
Though I’m not sure if, during his time, the walls were the same as they are now.
St. Thomas More, pray for us!