Earth and Moon within Westminster’s Coronation Pavement

Our modern globes are based upon political boundaries and geographical topography yet they have geometrical predecessors, which described the world as an image, diagram or schemata. The original idea for the form of the world was summarised within a simple two dimensional geometry, like an eastern mandala or yantra.

Such a diagram was built into the Cosmati pavement at Westminster Abbey, built by Henry III and dedicated to the Saxon King and Saint Edward the Confessor. This exotic pavement became the focus for the Coronations of subsequent English then British monarchs.

Figure 1 Photo of the Cosmati Pavement at Westminster Abbey
[Copyright: Dean and Chapter of Westminster]

The Westminster Pavement (1268) was built by Roman Cosmati craftsmen in their unique style of mosaic roundels, but the diagram they realised was an ancient one, found throughout many parts of the known world. The diagram was probably developed in the third millennium BC, hence its widespread distribution as sacred art.

The Anglo-Saxon people of Edward the Confessor had a strong foundation in “dark-age” art and diagrammatic design, emerging as jewelry, illustrated books (The Book of Kells for example), Celtic knotwork and the habit of annotating schemata in the marginalia of hand-copied textual manuscripts. The Cosmati master(s) were brought from Rome, where many examples can be seen of their work.

In the 1970s, English Earth Mysteries author John Michell discovered an elegant “New Jerusalem” diagram describing the relative size of the Earth (11) and the Moon (3), the form of the Great Pyramid of Giza, the sacred number 3168 of temple boundaries, the “rounding of the square”, amongst other matters. His New Jerusalem diagram is the organizing idea found in the Westminster Pavement’s design, demonstrating the great age of the design.

For an introduction to the properties of circles, squares and the 11/3 geometry please go to this extract: 

The Ancient Model of the World

Figure 2 John Michell’s “New Jerusalem” diagram was a traditional schemata of great antiquity, apparently referred to in the outer rings of the Sarsen Circle of Stonehenge, and other constructs of sacred geometry. The perimeters of the square and outer circle are such as to incorporate the sacred perimeter number of 3168 (with prime factor 11) in their length. (see my Sacred Number and the Lords of Time. figures 8.5 & 9.6 and pp 200-205: The Geometer’s Gift)

Patterns on the floors of sacred places seem to have existed in England from early Christian times:  Michell writes, “Writing about Glastonbury, William of Malmesbury made a cautious reference to an apparently mystical mosaic design on the floor of the St Mary Chapel [there] where the old whattle church [of St Joseph] had stood.”

This church, then, is certainly the oldest I know in England, and from this circumstance deserves its name [vetusta ecclesia] … In the pavement may be seen on every side stones designedly inlaid in triangles and squares, and figured with lead, under which, if I believe some sacred enigma to be contained, I do no injustice to religion.

william of malmesbury

The Westminster Pavement is obviously based upon Michell’s diagram and hence belongs to a long tradition which could be 4,500 years old. We can overlay the pattern in its simplest form on the pavement as follows.

Figure 3 Superimposing the New Jerusalem pattern over the Pavement based upon obvious similarities of roundels and central diamond setting.
[image Copyright:Dean and Chapter of Westminster]

If the mean earth radius is taken to be 3960 miles,
divided by 11 this is 360 miles times 3 is 1080 miles,
whilst Allen [1983] gives the mean radius of the Moon
to be 1080.067 miles, a figure accurate to one part in 16,000!
The diameters are therefore also express the ratio of 11 to 3.

Attention first goes to the central concentric circles. The inner circle (in yellow) fits within the diamond, being the square’s in-circle, representing the mean circumference of the Earth within the Pavement. It is perhaps no accident Stonehenge, Avebury and Westminster Abbey are within the degree of latitude 51-52 degrees north, where the parallel of latitude equals that of each of the 360 degrees the mean earth would have, if the earth was did not spin and was a perfect sphere. The outer of the two circles passes through the centre of all four roundels outside the diamond. The roundels represent the Moon whose size, is 3 units to the mean earth’s 11 units (across the inner circle). If one of the four roundels were to roll around, just touching the inner circle, its center would describe the outer circle. Michell has pointed us to a medieval doctrine of the sublunary sphere which was considered the limits of the domain of the Moon, with the Earth as the centre. The Earth is then shown, in miniature within it’s mean, as the central roundel, imaging the Earth surrounded by sublunary stars in a band repeating the outer circle in miniature. This reduced repetition can be achieved by quadrature as in figure 4.

Figure 4 The Application of Repetition by Scale within the Pavement
[image Copyright:Dean and Chapter of Westminster]

The four roundels within the inner circle, surrounding the centre, are almost certainly the four elements: Fire and Earth, and their mediating duality; Air and Water. The outer square shown in figure 4 defines the diamond that would sit within the frame of the whole pavement. This use of Quadrature within the Westminster Pavement’s design, its metrology, the symbolism of the four elements will follow in a later post. 

Looking East …

This same geometrical form is fundamental to the sacred iconography of a number of religions. A surprising result is obtained when the same rules are applied over a Buddhist mandala: the interplay of squares and circles defines the composition surrounding a central image.

Figure 5 A Mandala of the Buddha conforming to the same design elements as the Westminster Pavement

It seems that, as in the Westminster pavement, mandalas express spiritual centers using the same sacred geometry, an underlying framework of Quadrature in which: a diamond within a square can have a square within it that is half as big as the original.  As successive squares become available, their in-circles, and circles equal in perimeter to that square, form an annular ring upon which visual objects (like the roundels) can be placed. These are then like a moon relative to the central image.

Therefore …

Visual elements placed upon a circle, equal in perimeter to a drawn square, (consciously or subconsciously) hark back to the 11 to 3 ratio in size of the Earth to the Moon in a traditional sacred geometry. Once established, in late prehistory, this formal arrangement passed to later cultures, as a primorial geometrical form for their own sacred images, incorporating their own religious iconography.