Overview


 . . . as this day wee celebrate his Ascension to thee, bee pleased to  accept our endeavour of conforming our selves to his patterne,  in raysing this place for our Ascension to him. Leane upon these Pinnacles, O lord as thou diddest upon lacobs Ladder , and hearken after us.
Bee this thine Arke, and let thy Dove, thy blessed Spirit,  come in and out, at these Windowes: and let a full pot of thy Manna, a good measure of thy Word, and an effectuall preaching thereof, bee evermore preserved, and evermore bee distributed in this place . . . . . 
And in these walles,  to them that love Profit and Gaine, manifest thou thy selfe as a Treasure, and fill them so; To them that love Pleasure,  manifest thy selfe, as Marrow and Fatnesse, and fill them so; And to them that love Preferment , manifest thy selfe,  as a Kingdome, and fill them so;  that so thou mayest bee all unto all;  give thy selfe wholly to us all, and make us all wholly thine.

— The Rev. John Donne, Trinity Chapel, Lincoln’s Inn, the Feast of the Ascension, 1623

On the grounds of London’s Lincoln’s Inn, between the hours of 8 and 11 in the morning of May 22, 1623,  being the Feast of the Ascension, the Rt Rev George Montaigne, Bishop of London, and his staff conducted a worship service that constituted a service of consecration for Lincoln’s Inn’s newly constructed Trinity Chapel, opening it officially for use as a worship space by the members of the Inn. 

George Montaigne, Bishop of London. Engraving by George Yate, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

This website brings together a wide variety of materials documenting the Service of Consecration for Trinity Chapel. As we will learn, this worship service is one of the most fully documented worship services to take place in England in the early modern period. As a result, it gives us a remarkably detailed, almost minute-by-minute account of a worship service conducted by members of the Church of England in the post-Reformation period.

Unique to this event, there is both visual and written evidence of what took place.

The service Bishop Montaigne conducted consisted of the full set of morning rites, as directed by the rubrics of the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer (1604), that is, Morning Prayer (or Matins), the Great Litany, and Holy Communion.

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The Book of Common Prayer (1604), Title Page. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

On that day, which happened to be  the Feast of the Ascension, the Rev John Donne, Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, preached the sermon. Donne was an appropriate choice for preacher on this occasion because he had held the post of Preacher to the Inn from 1616 until he was appointed Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in 1621.

While at the Inn, Donne had been instrumental in the planning, fund-raising, and construction of Trinity Chapel. One of Donne’s sermons from this period, we are told, was “Preached at Lincoln’s Inn, preparing them to build their Chapel.” In fact, Donne was able to lay in place the cornerstone of the new building with his own hands. Donne’s contribution to the construction of Trinity Chapel is recorded in one of the chapel’s stained glass windows. Loosely translated, the Latin inscription reads, “I, John Donne, Dean of St Paul’s, caused this to be made.”

Donne’s transcript of his sermon survives, having been published by Donne soon after its delivery, Donne tells us, “in obedience to that which [members of the Inn] may call your request but I shall call your Commandment.”

The events of that morning were documented in a variety of venues and by a number of people.

The Archives of Lincoln’s Inn hold Bishop Montaigne’s Charter, or official account, of the occasion. This document consists of a listing of Bishop Montaigne’s official acts on this occasion. Also in the Archives is a detailed account of the Service of Consecration itself, including information about who spoke, and what they said, and where they stood at the time.

The Archives also contain accounts of the construction in the Black Books of the Inn’s administrative meetings, as well as the Bill from Price the Joiner for construction of the interior furniture, which also includes information about where inside the Chapel the furniture was located. This information has made it possible to reconstruct the original floor plan of the Chapel.

Two contemporary accounts of the service, and of John Donne’s sermon also come down to us, one of them from Francis Russell, who would inherit the title of the Earl of Bedford when his cousin Edward, husband of Lucy Harrington Russell, Donne’ friend and patron, died in 1627.

In addition, John Chamberlain reported on the Consecration service in a letter to his friend Dudley Carleton, dated May 30, 1623.

In addition to all this documentation of the Service of Consecration, Trinity Chapel itself is one of the most thoroughly documented buildings in the early modern period.

This documentation by visual record extends from 1623, found in the the stained glass in Trinity Chapel, to 1660 in Wenceslaus Hollar‘s birds-eye view of the Inn, to 1751, shown in George Vertue’s engraving, to the early 1800’s and beyond. Go here to review a series of images of Trinity Chapel from 1623 to the present day.

Trinity Chapel in 1623. Rendering by Jack McManus.

We have used all this data to reconstruct both exterior and interior models of Trinity Chapel as we believe it looked on May 22, 1623 at 10:00 in the morning. These images incorporate what we have learned from carful review of this body of evidence.

Trinity Chapel, the Interior, looking eastward in 1623. Rendering by Jack McManus.

For more extended discussions of many of the issues raised by the history of Trinity Chapel, please read earlier reviews of the evidence — “Situating Donne’s Dedication Sermon at Lincoln’s Inn, 22 May 1623,” in John Donne Journal 26 (2007), 159 – 239 and “Worship at Trinity Chapel, Lincoln’s Inn, London, 22 May 1623, in Anglican and Episcopal History (2012), 113 – 210. The essay in Anglican and Episcopal History was awarded the Nelson Burr Prize in Church History by the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church in 2013.

This site adds to the work published in those journals new and additional materials bearing on the Consecration Service at Trinity Chapel, as well as Donne’s role in the service, and the social and political context for this event.

Trinity Chapel, Lincoln’s Inn. Rendering by Jack McManus.