|St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle|
|The Queen's Free Chapel of the College of St George, Windsor Castle|
|Denomination||Church of England|
|Previous denomination||Roman Catholicism|
|Heritage designation||Grade I listed|
|Deanery||Dean and Canons of Windsor|
|Diocese||Jurisdiction: Royal Peculiar|
|Precentor||Martin Poll (Chaplain)|
|Canon(s)||Mark Powell (Steward)|
|Canon Treasurer||Hueston Finlay (Vice-Dean)|
|Organist/Director of music||James Vivian|
|Music group(s)||Choir of St George's Chapel|
St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle in England is a chapel built in the late-medieval Perpendicular Gothic style. It is both a Royal Peculiar (a church under the direct jurisdiction of the monarch) and the Chapel of the Order of the Garter. It is located in the Lower Ward of the castle. St George's castle chapel was originally founded in the 14th century by King Edward III and extensively enlarged in the late 15th century. It has been the scene of many royal services, weddings and, particularly in the 19th and 20th centuries, burials. Although occasional monarchs and their consorts were buried at the castle from the 15th century it wasn't until the 19th century that St George's Chapel and the nearby Frogmore Gardens superseded Westminster Abbey as the chosen burial place for the British royal family. Windsor Castle is a principal residence of Queen Elizabeth II.
The running of the chapel is the responsibility of the dean and canons of Windsor who make up the College of St. George. They are assisted by a Clerk, Verger and other staff. The Society of the Friends of St George's and Descendants of the Knights of the Garter, a registered charity, was established in 1931 to assist the College in maintaining the chapel.
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.
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.
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 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 boarders 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 Queen Jane Seymour. A programme of repair was undertaken at St George's Chapel after the Restoration.
During his life and reign, King George III was responsible for reigniting royal interest in Windsor Castle, which had been much overlooked after the House of Hanover came to the throne of the United Kingdom in 1714. On 12 August 1776 the Royal Family first attended the Sunday morning service at St George's Chapel – which they called “the Cathedral”. George III was committed to St George's Chapel; he inspired and in large part funded an extensive restoration of the chapel from 1780 to 1790.
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.
By the early twentieth century, the bowing walls, cracked vaulting, decayed stone and stripped lead required urgent attention. In 1920 a much needed ten-year restoration project began at George's Chapel, overseen by the consulting architect Sir Harold Brakspear.
In the 21st century, St George's accommodates approximately 800 people for services and events.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The chapel has been the site of many royal weddings, particularly of the children of Queen Victoria. They have included:
The chapel has been the site of many royal funerals and interments. People interred in the Chapel include:
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