St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle facts for kids

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St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle
The Queen's Free Chapel of the College of St. George, Windsor Castle


51°29′02″N 0°36′24″W / 51.48376°N 0.60678°W / 51.48376; -0.60678Coordinates: 51°29′02″N 0°36′24″W / 51.48376°N 0.60678°W / 51.48376; -0.60678
Location Windsor
Country England
Denomination Church of England
Previous denomination Roman Catholicism
Churchmanship Anglo-Catholic
Website www.stgeorges-windsor.org
History
Dedication St. George
Architecture
Status Chapel
Functional status Active
Heritage designation Grade I listed
Style Gothic
Years built 1475
Completed 1511
Specifications
Capacity 800
Administration
Deanery Dean and Canons of Windsor
Diocese Jurisdiction: Royal Peculiar
Location: Oxford
Clergy
Dean David Conner
Precentor Martin Poll (Chaplain)
Canon(s) Mark Powell (Steward)
Canon Treasurer Hueston Finlay (Vice-Dean)
Laity
Organist/Director of music James Vivian
Music group(s) Choir of St George's Chapel

St George's Chapel is the church at Windsor Castle in England. The chapel is governed by the Dean and Canons of Windsor and is found in the Lower Ward of the castle. Windsor, England's premier castle, is the principal residence of the monarch.

The status of the Abbey is that of a Royal Peculiar. This means it is place of worship that falls directly under the jurisdiction of the British monarch, rather than under a bishop. The concept dates from Anglo-Saxon times, when a church could ally itself with the monarch and therefore not be subject to the bishop of the area. Technically speaking, it is not a cathedral, though it has a similar status. Many Royal weddings and other ceremonies with the British Crown have taken place there.

History

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St. George's Chapel (left) at Windsor Castle in 1848, showing the absence of the Queen's Beasts on the pinnacles (since replaced).

In 1348, King Edward III founded two 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 re-dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, George the Martyr and Edward the Confessor, but soon became known only by its dedication to St. George. Edward III also built the Aerary Porch in 1353–54. It was used as the entrance to the new college.

Windsor Castle, Quire of St George's, by Charles Wild, 1818 - royal coll 922115 257036 ORI 0
The Choir of St. George's Chapel, by Charles Wild, from W.H. Pyne's Royal Residences, 1818.

St. George's Chapel became the church of the Order of the Garter. A special service is still held in the chapel every June and is attended by members of the order. Their heraldic banners hang above the upper stalls of the choir, where they have a seat for life.

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The Horseshoe Cloister, built in 1480 and reconstructed in the 19th century

The period 1475–1528 saw a radical redevelopment of St. George's Chapel set in motion by Edward IV and continued by Henry VII under the supervision of his most esteemed counsellor, Sir Reginald Bray (later Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster), and by Henry VIII. The thirteenth-century Chapel of St. Edward the Confessor was enlarged into a cathedral-like space under the direction of Richard Beauchamp, Bishop of Salisbury, and 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 clerk epistolers and 13 choristers. The Choir of St. George's Chapel continues to this day and numbers 20. The choristers are borders at St George's School, Windsor Castle. In term time they attend practice in the chapel every morning and sing Matins and the Eucharist on Sundays and Evensong throughout the week, except on Wednesdays.

St. George's Chapel was a popular destination for pilgrims during the late medieval period, as it was considered to contain several important burials: the bodies of John Schorne and Henry VI and a fragment of the True Cross held in a reliquary called the Cross of Gneth. It was seized from the Welsh people by Edward II after his conquest along with other sacred relics. These relics all appear to have been displayed at the eastern end of the south choir.

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 pillage 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 after the Restoration.

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

In the 21st century, St. George's accommodates approximately 800 people for services and events.

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St. George's Chapel in the Lower Ward at right

Queen's Beasts

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The Queen's Beasts shown atop the pinnacles

On the roof of the chapel, standing on the pinnacles, and also on pinnacles at the sides, are seventy-six heraldic statues representing the Queen's Beasts, showing the Royal supporters of England. They represent fourteen of the heraldic animals: the lion of England, the red dragon of Wales, the panther of Jane Seymour, the falcon of York, the black bull of Clarence, the yale of Beaufort, the white lion of Mortimer, the greyhound of Richmond, the white hart of Richard II, the collared silver antelope of Bohun, the black dragon of Ulster, the white swan of Hereford, the unicorn of Edward III and the golden hind of Kent.

The original beasts dated from the sixteenth century, but were removed in 1682 on the advice of Sir Christopher Wren. Wren had criticised the Reigate stone, the calcareous sandstone from which they were constructed. The present statues date from 1925 when the chapel was restored.

Order of the Garter

Garter Service

Order of the Garter 01
Emblem of the Order of the Garter

Members of the Order of the Garter meet at Windsor Castle every June for the annual Garter Service. After lunch in the State Apartments (Upper Ward of the Castle), they process on foot in their robes and insignia, down to St. George's Chapel for the service. If new members are to be admitted, they are installed at the service. After the service, the members of the order return to the Upper Ward by carriage or car.

St George's Chapel Garter Day
Members of the public outside St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, waiting for the Garter Procession

The Order frequently attended chapel services in the distant past, however they tailed off in the 18th century and were finally discontinued in 1805. The Garter Service was revived in 1948 by King George VI for the 600th anniversary of the founding of the Order and has since become an annual event.

Heraldry

St Georges Chapel Windsor Castle
Interior of the chapel

After their installation, members are each assigned a stall in the chapel choir above which his or her heraldic devices are displayed.

A member's sword is placed beneath a helmet which is decorated with a mantling and topped with a crest, coronet or crown. Above this, a member's heraldic banner is hoisted emblazoned with his arms. A Garter stall plate, a small elaborately enamelled plate of brass, is affixed to the back of the stall displaying its member's name and arms with other inscriptions.

On a member's death, the sword, helmet, mantling, crest, coronet or crown, and banner are removed. A service marking the death of a late member must be held before the stall can be assigned to anyone else. The ceremony takes place in the chapel, during which the Military Knights of Windsor carry the banner of the deceased member and offer it to the Dean of Windsor, who places it on the altar.

The stall plates, however, are not removed. They remain permanently affixed to the stall, so the stalls of the chapel are emblazoned with a collection of plates of the members throughout history.

Chantries

Castell de Windsor - Capella de Sant Jordi
Fan vaulting of the Choir of St George's Chapel, with the Garter banners on either side below.

St George's Chapel is among the most important medieval chantry foundations to have survived in England. The college was itself part of a medieval chantry, and there are a number of other chantry elements in the form of altars and small chapels in memory of various English monarchs and of a number of prominent courtiers, deans and canons. Special services and prayers would also be offered in memory of the founder. Henry VIII had originally intended another chantry to be set up in the chapel, despite the fact that his ecclesiastical changes led to the Reformation in England and the eventual suppression of chantries.

The much-admired iron gates in the sanctuary of the chapel as well as the locks on the doors of the chapel are the work of the medieval Cornish metalsmith John Tresilian. The status of the college as a royal foundation saved it from dissolution at the Reformation. As a result, many of the smaller chantries within the chapel were preserved. These are the only remaining chantries of their kind in England which have never been suppressed.

Rutland Chantry

Anne of York and Sir Thomas St. Leger
Monumental brass in St Leger Chantry to Anne of York, Duchess of Exeter (1439–1476) and her second husband Thomas St Leger (c.1440–1483), founder of the chapel

The Rutland Chantry chapel, forming the northern transept of St George's Chapel, was founded in 1491 in honour of Sir Thomas St Leger (c.1440–1483) and Anne of York, Duchess of Exeter (1439–1476). Sir Thomas was Anne's second husband. She was the eldest surviving daughter of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, and thus elder sister of kings Edward IV (1442–1483, reigned 1461–1483) and Richard III (1452–1485, reigned 1483–1485). A monumental brass in memory of Anne of York and Sir Thomas survives on the east wall of the Rutland Chantry, the inscription of which records that the chantry was founded "with two priests singing forevermore":

"Wythin thys Chappell lyethe beryed Anne Duchess of Exetur suster unto the noble kyng Edward the forte. And also the body of syr Thomas Sellynger knyght her husband which hathe funde within thys College a Chauntre with too prestys sy’gyng for ev’more. On whose soule god have mercy. The wych Anne duchess dyed in the yere of oure lorde M Thowsande CCCCl xxv"

The chantry received its current name in honour of the earls of Rutland, descendants of Anne and Sir Thomas, their daughter, also Anne, married to George Manners, 11th Baron de Ros and their son, Thomas Manners, 1st Earl of Rutland. The tomb of George and Anne Manners is a prominent feature of the chantry. Their effigies are carved in English alabaster.

The chantry comprises five panels which represent the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Adoration of the Magi, the Temptations of Christ in the wilderness and the Miracle at Cana. They were commissioned from embroiderer Beryl Dean and took five years to complete. Only one panel is normally on display to the public, but the others may be seen on request.

Weddings

St George's Chapel, 10 March 1863
Wedding of the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra of Denmark, 1863

The chapel has been the site of many royal weddings, particularly of the children of Queen Victoria. They have included:

Burials

The chapel has been the site of many royal funerals and interments. People interred in the Chapel include:

Altar

  • George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Bedford, on 22 March 1479
  • Mary of York, in 1482
  • Edward IV, King of England (1461–1470; 1471–1483), in 1483
  • Henry VI, King of England (1422–1461; 1470–1471), reburied from Chertsey Abbey in 1484
  • the coffins of two unidentified children suggested to be the Princes in the Tower
  • Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV (1464–1483), on 12 June 1492
  • Princess Louise of Saxe-Weimar, niece of Queen Adelaide, in 1832
  • Edward VII, King of the United Kingdom (1901–1910), on 20 May 1910
  • Alexandra of Denmark, wife of Edward VII (1863–1910), on 28 November 1925

Choir

  • Jane Seymour, Queen of England, in 1537
  • Henry VIII, King of England and Ireland, in 1547
  • Charles I, King of England, Scotland and Ireland, in 1649
  • Stillborn son of Queen Anne (last monarch of the House of Stuart), in 1698.

Royal Vault

Near West Door

King George VI Memorial Chapel

  • George VI, King of the United Kingdom, died 1952. Interred 26 March 1969 following its construction.

Albert Memorial Chapel

  • Baroness Victoria von Pawel-Rammingen, daughter of Princess Frederica of Hanover, in 1881
  • Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, in 1884
  • Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, in 1892

Gloucester Vault

  • Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh, in 1805
  • Maria, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh, in 1807
  • Prince William Frederick, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh, in 1834
  • Princess Sophia of Gloucester, in 1844
  • Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh, in 1857

Other

  • William, 1st Baron Hastings (1431–1483), a nobleman and close friend of King Edward IV; in the north aisle of St George's Chapel, next to Edward IV.
  • Anne St Leger, Baroness de Ros (1476 – 21 May 1526) and her husband George Manners, 11th Baron de Ros (22 August 1465 – 23 October 1513) in the private Rutland Chapel
  • Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, in 1545
  • Christopher Villiers, 1st Earl of Anglesey, in 1631
  • Henry Somerset, 1st Duke of Beaufort (1629–1700) and his ancestors in the private Beaufort Chapel; the original monument by Grinling Gibbons was moved to St Michael and All Angels Church, Badminton, in 1878.
  • Very Revd Dr Penyston Booth (1681–1765), Dean of Windsor
  • Dejazmatch Alemayehu Tewodros, son of Emperor Tewodros II of Ethiopia, on 21 November 1879

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