The Text on the Monument

Posted by Ian McDiarmid, City of London Tour Guide on Thursday, March 11, 2021 Under: Art

The Text on the Monument

The Monument was built between 1671-1677 to commemorate the Great Fire of London of 1666 which ended up destroying four-fifths of the city. It is a column standing on a very large pedestal, some 20 feet high, much of which is covered in dense Latin writing.

This goes unremarked today, partly because so few of us read Latin. Then as now only a minority of people would be able to read it, even if in the 17th century Latin was a more important language and in theory if you were a gentleman it was something you were familiar with. The texts are aimed at the educated and the powerful, and they are aiming to make a political point.

The pedestal has three sides which have writing on them, and on the fourth, which faces towards the West there is a sculpture by Caius Cibber depicting the fire. Opposite the sculpture, that is on the Eastern side, there is a list of the men who were lord mayors at the time of the construction at the Monument. They are flatteringly known as prefecti, a rather grand-sounding translation, making clear a link with Rome, established by Cibber’s sculpture which shows Charles II and James Duke of York in Roman dress.

The Northern side of the monument has a text in Latin describing the progress of the fire. And then the other side, the Southern side has a list of all of the things that Charles, and to a lesser extent, his brother James have done to rebuild London.

This list claims that they transformed the old city of wood into one built of stone, with new broad streets designed on a geometrical and pleasing basis. This is an exaggeration of what they actually achieved, but it contained sufficient truth to make a plausible allusion to the emperor Augustus.

Augustus produced a long list of his achievements known as the Res Gestae Divi Augusti (The Things Done by the Divine Augustus). This was a huge piece of epigraphy that was ordered to be set up in all the big cities of the empire.

There was one version of it, for example, on Augustsus's mausoleum. One large part of his achievements, which takes up a considerable amount of text, concerns his rebuilding of Rome. One of the claims made by Augustus is that he found Rome a city built in brick, and when he finished with it, it was a city of marble.

The Monument thus draws a parallel between Charles II and Augustus because Charles is rebuilding London in the way that Augustus rebuilt Rome. Charles is being associated with a great figure from Roman history, but it is also important because Augustus is the first of the emperors who claimed that he brought peace to Rome after a long civil war.

This is a very close, convenient parallel for Charles. He was restored to the throne in 1660 after a period of civil war, and after a republic. He is advertising the benefits of his rule by saying that he, like Augustus has, has brought peace after a period of turmoil. He is also saying that as with Rome under Augustus it is worth his subjects giving up many of the restrictions on the powers of a prince that many still wanted in order to have peace and stability.

If you want to find out more about the Monument listen to podcast available on:

In : Art 

Tags: art  city of london  stuart 
comments powered by Disqus


"online bookings' cpd #earthrise 17th 1830s 18thcentury 1930s 20th 50th a abbey adele afternoon afternoon tea age ages alastair ancient and animals annie anniversary apps architecture arsenal art arts attack autumn awards baker bank bankside barbican barrier bathhouses battersea bazalgette bear beasts becket bells bexley bishopsgate black blackfriars blackout blitz bloomsbury bombers book books borough bowie breakfast brewery brick bridge britain british bronze bronze age brunch buckingham burger burlesque buses cab cabaret cake canal canary captain care carl carol caroline carols cathedral cemetery cenotaph century chapman charles charlton cheap cheapside cheese childhood chips chiswick chocolate christmas church city city of london clapham clerkenwell cocktails coffee coffeehouses common company concert corporate covent covent garden covid-19 cream crime cross crown cruise crystal danson david davy day december dental deptford dick dickens dinner dinosaurs do dock dockland museum dragons dreamtime druitt earth east eat eating eats ecommerce edward edwardians edwin egypt elizabethan end engineering era ernst event events exhibition exhibitions facebook fair fairytale fall family fantastic farringdon fashion february festival film finance fire first fiscus florence folklore food for francis free friars frost gallery galliard garden george georgian georgians german germany gibb gift girls globe grade great greenhithe greenwich group guided guides gun half hall halsk handel harle harry potter hats havering havering hoard hawksmoor hazel heroes hidden highbury hill hilton history holloway homes hooke hot hotel house housing how humphry i ian ianmcd ice ice cream icelandic ii iii in india inigo isaac islington italian iv jack jack the ripper jack's james jenny jewels john johns jones joseph katharines kelly kenneth kew gardens kids kidstours killer kim king kings kingston lambeth lane lewis lights limestone literature liverpool locations londinium london london bridge london's londoners londonhistory lunch lutyens macaulay magnus management maritime market markets martyr mary match matilda maufe mayfair mcdiarmid measure medical medieval memorial middle military millennium mock-tudor modern modernist montague month monument moorgate mosaic murder murderers museum museum of london docklands music musicals mystery n7 national gallery national history museum ned new newcomen news newton nhs nichols night nightingale nurse of old street oliver open opera paddington palace palaces pancakes pandemic panoramic park parties path pauls people philip photo photograhy photography photos pizza places plague plantation plays plumstead podcast poetry pokemon polly poor pop poplar port poverty prince priory private tours pub public pubs purbeck qe2 queen queenhithe quirky railways recording regency reid religion rembrandt renaissance restoration ripper river road rob robert roman romans roundhouse royal saga saints salute saxon school. science sculpture scupture seacole second serial servants sewers shakespeare shoreditch siemens sir slave slavery small smartphone smith smithfield smithfields soap soho somme south southbank southwark spitalfields spy squirrels ss st statue stories stow street strike stuart stuarts studios subscription suffragettes sugar summer susan sydenham tate taxi tea ten term terror thames thamesmeade the theatre thiepval things things to do thrifty thriftytheatre to toothbrush tour tours tower trade travel truman tudor tudors tumblety twelfth twentieth twist und underground update v&a ve victims victoria victorian victorian london victorians viking virtual vouchers wales walk walking walks wall war water werner west westend westminster wharf wheeler whitechapel wilde wildlife willelm william windrush wine winter women wood woodland woolwich world wyatt york zachary 1666 1888 2019 2020





Site by Hazel  |  Photographs by Hazel or Ian