Westminster Abbey: The Fisherman's Vision

One of the most beautiful of English legends relates the consecration by St. Peter in person of the Abbey of Westminster. The Thames, edged in early times by wide fenland on either bank, washed, at the point where the Abbey now stands, the shores of a small island known as Thorney, or Bramble islet.

Tradition declares that even before Sebert, the first Christian King of the East Saxons, built a church on Thorney, a temple to Apollo and a church founded by King Lucius had occupied the site.

Late on the Sunday night before the day appointed by Sebert for the consecration of his church by Mellitus, Bishop of London, a poor Thames-side fisherman, called Edric, was hailed on the Lambeth shore by a stranger who asked to be ferried to Thorney and back.

Edric, having fished all night so far without success, agreed to the request. While he lay idle in his boat in the darkness waiting for the return of his passenger, he suddenly beheld the windows of the new church spring into life. From it issued sounds of exquisite singing, and in the radiance encircling it arose a ladder, stretching up to heaven, upon which angels were ascending and descending.

Presently the stranger who had hired his boat returned and bade him cast his nets once more. Edric obeyed and was rewarded by a noble haul.

Before departing from him the stranger told him that next morning he must go to meet the King and the Bishop at the Abbey doors, bearing a salmon in his hand. He must tell them that St. Peter had already consecrated the church on Thorney as his especial property. Furthermore, he must in future give a tithe of all fish he caught to the Abbot of Westminster, and refrain from Sunday fishing.

Edric fulfilled his saintly passenger's commands, and, when Sebert and Mellitus asked for proof of his startling story, was able to convince them by showing them, within the new building, the moisture of holy water, crosses on the walls, signs of consecrated oil, the Greek alphabet traced in the sand, and the remains of the candles used in the miraculous illumination.

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