Leonard Street, EC2A

Place Name

This name originally only applied to the eastern section from Tabernacle Street (which in the late 18thCentury was Tabernacle Place and Tabernacle Walk). The western part was Tabernacle Row. It was named after the parish of St Leonard’s, Shoreditch, which was founded in the 12thCentury. Leonard was said to be a 6thCentury Frankish noble, who was converted to Christianity along with the king, Clovis I, at Christmas AD496. He asked the king if he could have the right to free prisoners who he found worthy, and this was granted. Despite being offered a position as bishop, he turned it down to become a monk. According to legend, Leonard became a hermit in the forest of Limousin, where he gathered a number of followers. Through his prayers the queen of the Franks safely bore a male child, and in recompense he was given royal lands at Noblac. The story goes that prisoners who invoked him saw their shackles break before their eyes. Many came to him afterwards, bringing their heavy chains and irons to offer them in homage. A considerable number remained with him, and he often gave them part of his vast forest to clear and make ready for the labours of the fields, that they might have the means to live an honest life. By the 11thCentury a cult had developed around him, following the release of Bohemond I of Antioch, the leader of the First Crusades, in 1103 from a Turkish prison. Leonard is the patron saint of prisoners and women in labour.

 

 

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