Our modern globes are based upon political boundaries and geographical topography yet they had geometrical predecessors which described the world as an image, a diagram or schemata. By some act of intuition, an original Idea for the form of the Earth had become established as a simple two-dimensional geometry, very like eastern mandalas.
Such a diagram came to be built into the Cosmati pavement of Westminster Abbey, this installed during the reign of Henry III as a gift from the Pope and one or more Cosmati master craftsmen. It was 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. Its presence at the heart of English then British king-making is part of what is called the Matter of Britain, one of many Mysteries as to the meaning of its design.
The Westminster Pavement was built in 1268 using the Cosmati signature style of mosaic roundels, these developed from Orthodox designs, witness the north-eastern corner (top-right) which has has a Cappadocian cross within its roundel. But the overall design was more ancient still, being found in many monuments of the ancient and even prehistoric world, which may explain its widespread distribution within sacred art (see fig.2).
The Anglo-Saxons of Edward the Confessor had strong “dark-age” art and diagraming skills, seen in their jewelry, armour, woodwork. This was carried forward in the illustrated books (The Book of Kells for example), knotwork and the habit of annotating schemata in the marginalia of hand-copied textual manuscripts. The Cosmati master(s) appear to have blended a local cosmological geometry into the Westminster Pavement using their own style of working.
In the 1970s, English Earth Mysteries author John Michell re-discovered this elegant “New Jerusalem” diagram which presented 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. And this diagram is the organizing idea found in the Westminster Pavement’s design, demonstrating the great age of the design as implied by the inner monument of Stonehenge.
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
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.
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  gives the mean radius of the Moon
to be 1080.067 miles, a figure accurate to one part in 16,000!
Their diameters therefore express the ratio of 11 to 3.
Attention first goes to the central concentric circles: the inner circle (in yellow) fits within the diamond, this 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 center 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.
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 metrologyThe application of units of length to problems of measurement, design, comparison or calculation., the symbolism of the four elements will follow in a later post.
For more on the Westminster Pavement interpretation, see Chapter 7 of Sacred Geometry: Language of the Angels.
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.
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.
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.
3 thoughts on “Earth and Moon within Westminster’s Coronation Pavement”
I have long suspected that the Westminster Cosmarti pavement had a model of the solar system within it. Those patterns are indeed appear symbolic on the four corners, then around the outside, I suspect reach is related to a planet, by a numercial count. Then as you noted by your geometry, the squared circles in your diagrams. So thanks for your article.
So early days in my reading but I just wanted to thank you for your work.
David, Thanks for telling me about your intuitions. I hope to follow up soon with some new aspects of the pavement, involving planets. best regards Richard
I have a new book which includes much on this geometry and a chapter on English sacred pavements.
Details are here
Hope you read on and do stay in touch as and when.
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