Westminster Abbey

Interactive Map

Central Roundel

The Central Roundel is part of the original scheme dating from 1268. This stone roundel was obviously chosen for its spectacular appearance. It is at the very heart of the pavement and is thought to represent the earth at the centre of the universe. The stone is a travertine calcium carbonate known as Alabastro fiorito, a fresh water limestone from hot spring deposits and from the Roman site of Pamukkale in Turkey.

 

See also:

John Maine RA: Aesthetics & Design

Dr Ruth Siddal: Geology of the Stones Part 1

Prof Warwick Rodwell Design Construction Part 2

Vanessa Simeoni: Excavation under the central roundel

Tombs, Ware and Wenlock

These two tombs contain the only existing burials in the pavement and form part of the original scheme dating from 1268. On the north side of the pavement is the burial of Abbot Richard de Ware, Abbot of Westminster from 1258 until his death in 1283. He was the person responsible for bringing Cosmati work to Westminster Abbey. On the south side of the pavement lies the tomb of Abbot Walter de Wenlock, Ware's successor, who died in 1307. 

 

See also:

Marie Louise Sauerberg: The Westminster Retable
Ned Scharer: Replacing the glass tesserae on the tomb tops
Ned Scharer: Roundup of the glass repairs
Paula Rosser: Cutting and laying the transparent glass
Ros Hodges: Glass repairs on the tomb tops
Sandra Davison: Types of glass and their use in the pavement
Vanessa Simeoni: Uncovering lost fragments of glass
Dr Marina Sokham: Laser cleaning
Prof Warwick Rodwell Design Construction Part 2

Inscription

There are just 11 letters left insitu in the pavement. Originally there were four separate inscriptions (see Dr Richard Mortimer's video on what the inscriptions mean for more information). Latten was used to make the inscription and is a medieval type of brass.

 

 

See also:

Prof Warwick Rodwell Design Construction Part 2
Cleaning & analysis of the metal inscription
Diana Heath: Microscopic analysis
Prof Warwick Rodwell: The layout of the inscriptions

Original Roundels

There are thought to be only two completely original incised Purbeck Marble roundels left in the pavement. However, there are several other original incised roundels that contain restored elements, but the two highlighted in the picture contain the remains of their original tessellated pattern. The design would have been chiselled out of the stone roundel and the coloured stone and glass pattern infilled bedded into the void on a lime mortar bed. It is thought that originally the layout of these roundels would have alternated from an intricate next to a plain roundel design. The restored roundels do not honestly demonstrate this sequence. 

 

See also:

Design & Construction of the Cosmati pavement
Cosmati pavement: Aesthetics and Design
Geology of the stones

Purbeck Marble

The geometric framework or matrix of the pavement is made from Purbeck Marble. It is unique to find Purbeck Marble used as the framework for a Cosmati floor. In Italy the framework for Cosmati work is always a white marble. Purbeck Marble is not a 'true' marble in geological terms, but like a marble it has the ability to take and sustain a fine polish and also possesses a 'figure' or a body pattern. Therefore Purbeck Marble geologically is a fossiliferous sedimentary limestone laid down in the Jurassic/Cretaceous period and consists of densely packed shells of tiny water snails (Viviparus) and, in smaller quantities, shells of the Unio freshwater mussel. Purbeck Marble is what is known as a 'problem stone'. It deteriorates in the presence of moisture due to its clay and pyrite content.

 

See also:

Prof Warwick Rodwell Design Construction Part 1
Prof Warwick Rodwell Design Construction Part 2
John Maine RA: Aesthetics & Design
Dr Ruth Siddal: Geology of the Stones Part 1
Caroline Rae and Abigail Weatherill: Retouching the Purbeck Marble repairs
Joe Goodbody: Cutting and laying new Purbeck Marble part 1
Joe Goodbody: Cutting and laying new Purbeck Marble part 2
Liane Heilmann and Lucy Ackland: Cement removal and consolidation
Paul Rosser: Applying mortar repair and texturing

The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Restorations

Over the centuries many areas of pavement have been restored with varying degrees of success. We easily recognise interventions from the 17th and 18th centuries due to the incongruous stone types used. During these periods original materials (e.g. the porphyries) were unavailable so the restorers used what they thought to be the closest match. It is interesting to look around the walls of Westminster Abbey and see those same restoration stones used within monuments dating from those periods.

 

See also:

Dr Richard Gem: Ethics
Sarah Staniforth: Ethics
John Maine RA: Aesthetics & Design

The Victorian Restoration

In the 1870's Sir George Gilbert Scott, Surveyor to the Fabric at Westminster Abbey restored the east section of the pavement, running north south. He successfully replicated the look of the original cocciopesto mortars, and was able to source matches for the original stone types. 

 

See also:

Dr Ruth Siddal: Geology of the Stones Part 1
Dr Ruth Siddal: Geology of the stones part 2
Dr Richard Gem: Ethics
Sarah Staniforth: Ethics