Guildhall and the Lord Mayor of the City

Guildhall and the Lord Mayor of the City (54)

This 15th-century building has been the home of the municipal power of the City area since the Middle Ages. In fact, having survived the Great Fire in the 17th century and the heavy bombings by the Germans in the Second World War, it is the only non-religious building prior to 1666 still standing in the area.

The head of the municipal government of the City of London is given the title of Lord Mayor, and has independent, though complementary, functions to that of the Mayor of London, who holds municipal power over the Greater London area.  The Lord Mayor presides over two governing bodies, the Court of Aldermen and the Court of Common Council, which are old guild structures responsible for running the City, informally known as the “Square Mile”. This historic centre of London is where today the prosperous financial district is based.

Since the XII century, every year a new Lord Mayor is elected. The ceremony, which is held in the Guildhall, takes place every 29th of September. After voting by a show of hands for the new Lord Mayor from among the members of the Court of Aldermen, the insignia of power are solemnly handed over in what is called the Silent Change.

In November, a beautiful and carnival-like parade takes place called the Lord Mayor’s Show. The cheerful parade takes the Lord Mayor from the City to the Courts of Law in Westminster to swear loyalty to the Crown. The Lord Mayor travels in a lavish carriage drawn by six horses. The gilded carriage was built in 1896, and is an exact replica of the one that was used since 1757.

As regards the architecture of the Guildhall, apart from the façade, it is noteworthy for what we can read on the coat of arms of London, “Domine, dirige nos”, Lord, direct us, over the Great Hall. This enormous room is the place reserved for ceremonies. This is where, for example, the trial of Lady Jane Grey took place, who was Queen of England for a few days in 1553 before being beheaded in the Tower of London at the orders of Mary I. In this imposing medieval hall, supported by ogival arcades, you will be able to admire the large windows, as well as the diverse monuments dedicated to national heroes such as Admiral Nelson, the Duke of Wellington or Winston Churchill. The Great Hall today hosts both banquets and meetings of governing bodies such as the Court of Common Council.

Beneath the Great Hall is the largest crypt of the London of the Middle Ages. Another interesting part of the building is the Old Library, which housed many volumes from the 15th century and an excellent collection of clocks and watches. The collection was divided up in 1974 and relocated in the Museum of London and in a new room built in the west wing of the Guildhall.

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