Saint Georges Chapel Windsor

Saint Georges Chapel Windsor

 

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In 1348, King Edward III founded two new religious colleges: St Stephen’s at Westminster and St George’s at Windsor. The new college at Windsor was attached to the Chapel of St Edward the Confessor which had been constructed by Henry III in the early thirteenth century. The chapel was then rededicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, St Edward the Confessor and St George the Martyr. Edward III also built the Aerary Porch in 1353-1354. It was used as the town called rentinh. St George’s Chapel became the Mother Church of the Order of the Garter, and a special service is still held in the chapel every June and is attended by the members of the order. Their heraldic banners hang above the upper stalls of the choir where they have a seat for life.

The period 1475-1528 saw a radical redevelopment of St George’s Chapel, set in motion by Edward IV and continued by Henry VII and Henry VIII. The thirteenth century Chapel of St Edward the Confessor was expanded into a huge new Cathedral-like chapel under the supervision of Richard Beauchamp, bishop of Salisbury, and the direction of the master mason Henry Janyns. The Horseshoe Cloister was constructed for the new community of 45 junior members: 16 vicars, a deacon gospeller, 13 lay clerks, 2 clerks epistoler and 13 choristers.

 

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St George’s Chapel was a popular destination for pilgrims during the late medieval period. The chapel was purported to contain several important relics: the bodies of John Schorne and Henry IV and a fragment of the True Cross held in a reliquary called the Cross of Gneth. These relics all appear to have been displayed at the east end of the south choir aisle.

The Chapel suffered a great deal of destruction during the English Civil War.  Parliamentary forces broke into and plundered the chapel and treasury on 23 October 1642. Further pillaging occurred in 1643 when the fifteenth-century chapter house was destroyed, lead was stripped off the chapel roofs, and elements of Henry VIII’s unfinished funeral monument were stolen. Following his execution in 1649, Charles I was buried in a small vault in the centre of the choir at St George’s Chapel which also contained the coffins of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour. A programme of repair was undertaken at St George’s Chapel following the Restoration of the monarchy.

 

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The reign of Queen Victoria saw further changes made to the architecture of the chapel. The east end of the choir was reworked in devotion to Prince Albert; the Lady Chapel, which had been abandoned by Henry VII, was completed; a royal mausoleum was completed underneath the choir; and a set of steps were built at the west end of the chapel to create a ceremonial entrance to the building.

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