Monday, 18 September 2017

St George's Chapel: Windsor Castle, part 2

The College of St. George at Windsor Castle, in Royal Windsor, Berkshire, England, was founded by Edward III in 1348 as a body of priests and lay men who were dedicated to  daily prayer for the Monarch and all the faithful. Over 650 year later it still so remains, services, open to all, being held everyday of the year. The times of prayer, music, silence and readings follow a strict liturgical pattern through the week and throughout the church year. 

The chapel choir, comprising boys aged between seven and thirteen, sing regularly at eight services a week during term time and is described as 'an angelic joy' by one fortunate person who attended.  

Choir Practice
The boys attend St. George's School, situated just outside the castle.

The alms box
Pilgrims and visitors have visited the chapel since it was first built, many in the late 15th and 16th century coming to pray at the burial site of Henry VI, a very devout and pious man, considered by many to be a saint . There is a pilgrims' alms box that stands beside the the tomb that dates to c1480, and was made by John Tresilian.

Pilgrims were also attracted to the chapel by the Cross Gneth, which is now represented by a ceiling boss at the SE end of the chapel. The original, which disappeared in the 16th century, came about by a story being told of  a priest named Neotus, bringing back a piece of the one true cross to from the Holy Land to Wales, where it became a national treasure, before falling into the hands of of King Edward I in 1283. It was given to the chapel by Edward III after his creation of the Order of the Grater.

On my recent visit, I stood transfixed staring up at this ancient artifact, resplendent in it's colours of blue and red and covered with shimmering gold leaf. If I, a twenty first century woman with technology at  her finger tips, can find such power in this image, I can only begin to imagine how it would have appeared, in flickering taper light to my ancestors...

Cross Gneth

The architecture of the the chapel is not from the 13th century but from the two following centuries. When in 1348 Edward III founded the previously mentioned order of chivalry, The Order of the Garter, he also founded the 'college', not the college as we know it today but the group of clergy and laity who lived together as a community. His great great grandson, Edward IV ordered the erection of the present building and chose it for his eventual burial place, where he lies with his wife, Elizabeth Woodville. It is a spectacular example of perpendicular architecture, large windows and slender pillars giving and appearance of light and delicacy, added to by the pale colour of the Taynton stone. The fan ceiling with its numerous bosses and the friezes of stone angels lining the entire chapel draw the eye up.

The highlight of the visit for me was seeing the Hasting's Chantry in the North Quire, the resting place of William, Lord Hastings*, one time friend of Edward IV, executed on June 13th 1483 with no trial by the Duke of Gloucester. The chantry hosts an early 16th century painting of the martyrdom of St Stephen.  (William, Lord Hastings is the historical character I would most like to have met.) 

The martyrdom of St George.

In part 3 of this blog on Windsor Castle, I will be talking about the state rooms and apartments.

A floor plan of the chapel.

Key to numbered locations

1 - Nave - This is a good spot to view the slender Perpendicular Gothic columns which soar up to the fan-vaulted ceiling overhead. 

1a - Cenotaph of Prince Imperial - A memorial to the son of Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie of France, killed in the Zulu War in 1879. 

2 - Beaufort Chantry - The marble tomb of Charles Somerset (d. 1526) and his first wife. 

3 - West Nave Central - The richly decorated bosses in the roof above the nave bear the coats of arms of Henry VII, his family and court officials. 

4 - Urswick Chantry - This chantry chapel, built in 1507, commemorates Dean Urswick, confidant of Henry VII. In the chaple is a marble monument to Princess Charlotte, daughter of George IV, who died in childbirth in 1817. 

5 - Tomb of George V and Queen Mary 

5a- Rutland Chapel (not generally open to the public) - The chapel houses the tomb of George Manners, Lord Roos (d. 1513), and his wife Anne. 

6 - King George VI Memorial Chapel and Tomb 

7 - Hastings Chantry - Chantry chapel for Lord Hastings (d. 1483), who was executed by order of Richard III. 

8 - Edward IV's Tomb - The king (d. 1483) and Queen Elizabeth Woodville lie here. 

9 - Wrought Iron Gates - These intricate gates were designed to protect the tomb of Edward IV. 

10 - Tudor Oriel Window - The ornately carved wooden window was built by Henry VIII as a gallery for Katherine of Aragon. 

11 - Reredos and East Window - Built in 1863 as a memorial to Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria. 

12 - Garter Stalls - Most of the stalls were carved 1475-1483. Each stall bears the insignia of current Knights of the Garter. Brass and copper plates bear the arms of past knights from the 14th century to the present. 

13 - Royal Vault - George II, George IV, and William IV are buried here, with other members of the royal familiy. 

14 - Tombs of Henry VIII and Charles I 

15 - Roof Bosses - At the crossing are the arms of Henry VII and those of the Garter Knights 

16 - The Royal Stalls

17 - West Window - The stained-glass window, completed in 1509, portrays 75 royals, saints, and popes. 

18 - Bray Chantry - Tomb of Sir Reginald Bray (d. 1503). 

19 - Oliver King Chapel - Oliver King was Canon of Windsor (1480-1503) and later Bishop of Bath and Wells. He was secretary to no less than 4 kings, whose portraits appear on the opposite wall. 

20 - Edward III's sword - The battle sword made for King Edward, measuring 6 feet 8 inches long. 

21 - Oxenbridge Chantry - Chantry tomb of a canon of Windsor (d. 1522). Over the door of the chapel are an Ox, a letter 'N', and a Bridge. 

22 - Henry VI's Tomb - Henry was reburied here in 1484. The tomb was the scene of reported miracles, making it a pilgrimage destination. There is an alms box made of wrought-iron beside the tomb to receive the gifts of pilgrims. 

23 - Tomb of Edward VII (d. 1910) and Queen Alexandra 

24 - Lincoln Chapel - Within the chapel is the tomb of the Earl of Lincoln (d. 1585) and his third wife. This chapel was originally dedicated to Master John Schorn (d. 1314). 

25 - East Doors - Beautiful 13th century ironwork frames the doors (built 1240), which once formed the entry to Henry III's Chapel. 

26 - Dean's Cloister - The interior tracery of the cloister was built in 1352.

* In a later blogs I will be discussing Lord Hastings in detail and also discussing the painting and the possible reasons for it hanging in Hastings' Chantry.

Images from:
Choir practice

Burial site of Henry VI
The alms box
Cross Gneth

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