Finding God will be easier than you ever imagined
The Christian faith has certainly made its presence felt in Europe’s medieval metropolises – and not just in their holiest shrines and vaulting cathedrals. Take a walk around any number of city centres and you’ll find that their layouts are heavily influenced by their designers’ piety.
Take Chester, for example. According to the monk Lucian, its two main roads meet in the middle of the city to form a cross. At the ends of both roads you will find a city gate, each protected by a patron saint: St John, St Peter, St Werburgh and St Michael.
At Bamberg, on the advice of a German imperial official, you can trace the position of the four churches located around the main cathedral and see how they create a cruciform shape at the heart of the city.
Perhaps, though, you would simply prefer to marvel at the magnificent new cathedrals and shrines that are being built in many of
Europe’s cities. In Milan, one 13th-century writer tells us, there are 200 saints’ shrines and around 480 altars.
William FitzStephen recommends London, not only to see the wonderful cathedral of St Paul but also to soak up the piety of its inhabitants. FitzStephen claims you will see excellent holy plays, and citizens joyously celebrating saints’ days and charitably offering alms to the poor.
If you don’t want to bump into any heretics, your best bet is Venice, a city free from such troublemakers – or so a Venetian chronicler boasts.
In some European cities – such as Chester, shown above in a map – the two main roads meet in the centre to form a cross