ADDRESSES: Office—Westminster Abbey Library, East Cloister, London SW1P 3PA, England.
CAREER: Westminster Abbey, London, England, keeper of muniments.
(Editor) Leiston Abbey Cartulary and Butley Priory Charters, Boydell Press (Ipswich, Suffolk, England), 1979.
(Editor, with Christopher Harper-Bill) Stoke by Clare Catulary: BL Cotton Appx. XXI, three volumes, Boydell Press (Ipswich, Suffolk), 1982–84.
Angevin England: 1154–1258, Blackwell (Cambridge, MA), 1994.
(Editor, with Anthony Harvey) The Funeral Effigies of Westminster Abbey, Boydell Press (Rochester, NY), 1994.
(Editor) Charters of St. Bartholomew's Priory, Sudbury, Boydell Press (Woodbridge, Suffolk, England), 1996.
(Editor, with Lindy Grant) Westminster Abbey: The Cosmati Pavements, Ashgate Publishing (Burlington, VT), 2002.
(Editor, with Tim Tatton-Brown) Westminster Abbey: The Lady Chapel of Henry VII, Boydell Press (Rochester, NY), 2003.
(Editor, with C. S. Knighton) Westminster Abbey Reformed: 1540–1640, Ashgate Publishing (Burlington, VT), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: An historian with a strong interest in medieval and early modern art and architecture, Richard Mortimer is also an expert on Westminster Abbey, where he is the keeper of the muniments. In The Funeral Effigies of Westminster Abbey, edited with Anthony Harvey, the authors examine the medieval portrait effigies of medieval kings and queens that were carried at their funeral processions as well as the tradition of creating beautifully dressed wax figures that began with Charles II. He also discusses the creator of the statues of national heroes, such as Admiral Horatio Nelson, that were designed to satisfy the curiosity of a public willing to pay to see their image. "It is obviously essential reading for those interested in the personages whose effigies survive, and for historians of costume," concluded Jennifer Loach in the English Historical Review.
In Westminster Abbey: The Cosmati Pavements, co-edited with Lindy Grant, Mortimer and his fellow essayists examine the history of the glass, marble, and stone pavement laid down in the Great Sanctuary during the thirteenth century. The Roman look of the Pavement in a building otherwise northern French and English in its inspiration has long fascinated art historians, and the essays examine the work in the context of similar pavements in England, as well as providing descriptions of how it was constructed and conserved. In addition, essayists look at the interplay between biblical and cosmological symbolism in the inscriptions that reveals a sophisticated interest in numerology and calendrical analysis. "The essays are accompanied by numerous drawings and photographs which make this volume essential for any understanding of this unique mediaeval survival," according to a Contemporary Review contributor.
More recently, Mortimer has co-edited Westminster Abbey: The Lady Chapel of Henry VII. The last great example of medieval architecture, the chapel is the culmination of three hundred years of gothic style. The burial place of fifteen kings and their consorts, the chapel provides a vivid representation of the transition from medieval to Renaissance tombs in England, as well as numerous examples of gothic sculpture. The book also provides a short history of the cult of the Virgin in the twelfth century and an explanation of the restoration the chapel underwent in the 1990s.
In addition to his work on the famed and magnificent Westminster Abbey, Mortimer has also edited Charters of St. Bartholomew's Priory, Sudbury. A contrast to the Abbey in many ways, St. Bartholomew's was a small, backwater priory usually housing a prior and two monks; at one point, the monks actually considered trading in their lands and priory house for a few shops in London. Fortunately for the collection, they decided not to, and the 130 surviving charters provide a look at the economic and social structure of a medieval religious house and its surrounding borough.
While much of Mortimer's work focuses on the specialized details and manuscripts that focus on specific cultural objects, he has also produced a general study suitable for use as a textbook. Angevin England: 1154–1258 covers the politics, sociology, and economics of this important period in England's development. "This is, generally speaking, rather a well-written and thoughtful work, with a range of interesting and scholarly material," noted English Historical Review contributor H. Ridgeway. "The pace is brisk, but all chapters avoid superficiality and display a good eye for the essential points."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Review, August, 2003, review of Westminster Abbey: The Cosmati Pavements, p. 125.
English Historical Review, April, 1997, H. Ridgeway, review of Angevin England: 1154–1258, p. 436; April, 1997, Jennifer Loach, review of The Funeral Effigies of Westminster Abbey, p. 465; June, 1998, Nicholas Vincent, review of Charters of St. Bartholomew's Priory, Sudbury, p. 716.
Journal of Ecclesiastical History, January, 1998, Gervase Rosser, review of Charters of St. Bartholomew's Priory, Sudbury, p. 163; October, 2003, Julian Gardner, review of Westminster Abbey: The Cosmati Pavements, p. 752.