On the 29th of June, 1910, at the consecration of Westminster Cathedral, a curious piece of ritual was performed called ‘The Ceremony of the Alphabet’, almost identical with a ceremony which had been witnessed by the London of a by-gone day at the dedication of Westminster Abbey in 1065. The Times of 29 June 1910 described the ceremony as follows:
‘On the floor of the spacious nave, from the main entrance to the sanctuary, were painted in white two broad paths, which connected the corners diagonally opposite, and intersecting at the centre of the nave formed a huge figure x, or St. Andrew’s Cross. Where the lines converged was placed a faldstool ; and here the Archbishop, still in cope and mitre, knelt in prayer, while the choir continued to sing the ancient plainsong of the “ Sarum Antiphoner ” … Meanwhile attendants were engaged in strewing the nave with ashes. This meant the laying of small heaps of the ashes, about two yards apart, along the lines of the St. Andrew’s Cross. Beside each heap of ashes was placed a piece of cardboard containing a letter of the alphabet–the Greek on one line and the Latin on the other. The Archbishop then went towards the main entrance, attended by the deacon and sub-deacon, and preceded by the Crucifix carried between lighted candles. Starting first from the left-hand corner Dr Bourne advanced along one path of the St. Andrew’s Cross, tracing with the end of his pastoral staff the letters of the Greek alphabet on the heaps of ashes ; and returning again to the main entrance repeated the process on the other path, tracing this time on the heaps of ashes the letters of the Latin alphabet. This curious ceremony is variously interpreted as symbolizing the union of the Western and Eastern Churches, or the teaching of the rudiments of Christianity, and as a survival of the Roman augurs in laying their plans for the construction of a temple, or as the procedure of Roman surveyors in valuing land for fiscal purposes’.