The Maughan Library, London in the 13th century: Domus conversorum

Everyone who has spent some time in London noticed the magnificent Maughan Library down Chancery Lane, the former Public Record Office. We know that there used to be the Domus Conversorum, a building serving as a residence and chapel for Jews who had converted to Christianity and which had been founded in the 13th century at the initiative of king Henry III. Unfortunately, there are no surviving “blueprints” as to what the Domus was like before it became the beautiful Victorian building that we can see today.

There is however, a piece of evidence that shows, in limited detail, what the Domus must have looked like in the 13th century when it was built. And this evidence comes from the chronicler Matthew Paris (1200-1259), a monk from the abbey of Bury St-Edmunds who is known today as much for his historical productions as well as his talent as an illuminator for most of his autograph manuscripts.

The image below is drawn from one of Matthew Paris’ Chronica Majora manuscripts, now in the British Library.

British Library MS Royal 14 C VII f. 121r
"de domo conversorum Londoniis constructa" - concerning the house of the converts in London having been built

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