…continued from post History Etched in Stone…
The first room you enter is the Great Chamber or Magna Camera. Restored to the days of the thirteenth century, this space once served as both a bedroom and unofficial throne room to Edward I. Yet another irony is revealed by the mere fact that commoners, most of whom are not even British, are now being allowed to walk freely through the bedroom of a king.
The room is rather large with helpful pamphlets and signs scattered throughout, pointing out the clues that archaeologists used to piece together the room’s various hidden features. One can see and touch the original fireplace. Rough cut white stones carefully forged together, ascend to the ceiling to form a powerful addition to the room. Imagination interplays with reality as you can almost picture the tall Edward, lost in thought, warming his hands to remove the chill from London’s moist weather. Today, a damp smell permeates the room and you are reminded that the warm fire that once burned here was extinguished long ago. The fireplace is now swept clean, but like the rest of the room, it bears the scar of a lost way of life.
One area of the room reveals the various stages of restoration in visual detail by leaving exposed several layers of wallpaper. Perhaps considered somewhat gaudy by today’s standards, the fine printed, yellowed wallpaper is a definite testament to medieval interior design. Its pattern, worn by time, still bespeaks of richness, especially when compared to the filthy poverty that was once a dark reality to Londoners in the late thirteenth century.
Proceeding into the Aula – the area of the king’s chambers that once served as a dining hall – the meandering tourist is greeted by costumed guides. On this particular visit, the guides point out the uses of parchment. Parchment was an ideal means of recording important documents in medieval times since it was guaranteed to last over 900 years – an eternity to people who were lucky to see the age of forty.
Windows from this room overlook the ever-constant flow of the Thames. Through the warped panes of glass, reality is once again distorted as the visitor views the same river that flowed in Edward’s time. Even though the water filling the river channel is forever anew, the river’s presence is constant. Much like the water of the river, the Tower of London’s inhabitants have changed throughout the ages, but its walls, like the banks of the river, remain steadfast in their purpose.
…to be continued…
-cover image from Wikimedia Commons.com