6 St George's Chapel - I
6 Part I. Of The Chapel of St George
This Royal Chapel is situated on the same site on which before stood a Chapel erected by King Henry I and dedicated to Edward the Confessor. The present Chapel was built by Edward III in the year 1337, a short time after the foundation of the College of the new established Order of the Garter; but King Edward IV, not esteeming the fabric sufficiently large and stately, improved the structure, and designed the present building, together with the houses of the Dean and Canons; and it was afterwards greatly improved, by Henry VII and Henry VIII.
St George's Chapel - from an engraving in 1749
The inside of this Chapel is universally admired for its neatness and gothic magnificence; the stone roof is esteemed a most excellent piece of workmanship; it is an ellipse, supported by pillars of ancient gothic architecture, whose ribs and groins sustain the whole ceiling with admirable beauty and elegance. Every part of this lofty ceiling has a different device, executed to great perfection; as the arms of Edward the Confessor, Edward III, Edward the Black Prince, Henry VI, Edward, Edward IV, Henry VII and Henry VIII. Also the arms of France and England quarterly, the Holy Cross, the shield or cross of St. George, the rose, portcullis, lion rampant, unicorn, fleur de lis, dragon, prince's feathers, etc, also the arms of Bourchier, Stafford, Hastings, Beaufort, Manners, and other noble families.
The West Front of St George's Chapel in 2002
There is currently an urgent appeal for funds to restore the structure in this area of the chapel.
Work is progressing in early 2007
It would but tire the reader to give a description of the various devices, and different representations that are on the several parts of the ceiling; I shall therefore only further point out to him, that in the nave or centre arch, are curiously designed and blazoned, the arms of Henry VIII, sovereign, and the several knights companions of the Garter, anno 1528, among which are the arms of Charles V, Emperor of Germany, Francis I, King of France, Ferdinand, Infanta of Spain and King of the Romans. The arms of the other knights companions; with those of the prelate, are regularly disposed. From the year 1776 to 1789, this beautiful Chapel was thoroughly repaired; the centre and side aisles, new paved with Painswick stone, the columns sides and ceiling cleaned; and the several arms already mentioned, painted, and properly emblazoned. The expenses of the repairs and additions to this Chapel, during the last mentioned period, amount to upwards of £20,000.
Footnote 1: Previous to this, a ground plan of the whole, i.e., of the grave stones was taken, in order to ascertain on any future occasion, the respective situations of the reliques which they once covered; but as many of these records of the dead, were greatly defaced by time, and the families to which others related being extinct, none but those that are most entire, or that belong to the most eminent persons, have been preserved; These are indifferently placed between the pillars that divide the centre from the side aisles; and in the centre of the aisles on each side the choir.
Footnote 2: The whole expense of the Chapter on the Chapel, from the year 1776 to 1789 amounted to £5883.6.11d. His Majesty's expense, I am well informed, was not less that £15,000.
Of the Choir
This choir, which was built by King Edward III and afterwards greatly ornamented in the reigns of Edward IV and Henry VII with curious carving - that show the genius and industry of the artists in those days - is set apart for the more immediate service of Almighty God; the installation of the Knights of the Garter; and as a repository of honour of this most noble Order of Knighthood.
It is separated from the body of the church, at the west end, by the organ gallery, under which, on each side of the choir door, facing the body of the church, were formerly seats or pews; but these, together with the organ erected soon after the restoration of Charles II, were taken down in 1789, and the organ, as before observed, removed to the parish church. The present organ loft is built of Coade's artificial stone, and makes a very considerable addition to the elegance of the Chapel; the roof and columns which support the loft, and form a light and beautiful colonnade, are in exact uniformity with the rest of the ChapeI, embellished with several devices peculiar to the Sovereign and the order; as the cyphers G.R.III within the garter; the George, the rose, a knight's cap and helmet, etc, etc. The stone work of this loft is said to have cost £1500.
The organ, erected by Mr. Green, for which we are told he received a thousand guineas from the King, is supposed to be superior to any in the Kingdom, particularly in its swell. The organ case was built by Mr. Emlyn, and is in the gothic style, corresponding with the canopies, etc.
The arrangements of the seats are well disposed for the service of divine worship, which is performed here every morning and evening.
On the right hand of the west, or principal entrance into the choir, is the Sovereign's stall, which was covered with purple velvet, and cloth of gold; and had a canopy, curtains, and cushions of the same, trimmed with broad gold fringe. This was removed in 1788, and a new one erected, under the direction of Mr. Emlyn, carved in a neat gothic style. In the centre, are the arms of the Sovereign, encircled with laurel, and crowned with the royal diadem; the whole surrounded with flower-de-luce, and the star of the order, with G.R.III properly disposed. The curtains and cushions are of blue velvet, fringed with gold. The Sovereign's banner is of rich velvet, and much larger than those of the knights companions, and his mantling is of gold brocade.
The prince's stall is on the left hand of the entrance, and is not distinguished from those of the other knights companions; the whole society being, according to the statutes of institution, companions and colleagues of equal honour and power.
The stalls of the knights companions of the most noble Order of the Garter, are on each side of the choir, with the mantle, helmet, crest and sword of each knight set over the stall, on a canopy of ancient carving, curiously wrought; and over the canopy is placed the banner or arms of each knight, properly blazoned on silk; and on the back of the stalls, are the titles of the knights, with their arms, neatly engraved and blazoned on copper. These ensigns of honour are removed according to the succession of the knight in the order; and after his decease, and at the installation of his successor, (if not performed before by order of the Sovereign) the banner, helmet, sword, etc., of the deceased knight are, with great solemnity, offered up at the altar; but the plate of his titles remains in his stall, as a perpetual memorial to his honour.
Six new stalls have lately been added, and the whole of the canopies cleaned and thoroughly repaired.
A list of the present Knights of the Garter, with the arrangement of the banners, and other ensigns, will be annexed to the ceremonial of Installation, in the Appendix.
The carved work of the choir is worthy of remark, particularly the canopies over the stalls of the knights. On the pedestals of these stalls is carved the History of our Saviour's Life, from his nativity to his ascension; on the front of the stalls, at the west end of the choir, is also carved the History of St. George, and on a girth on the outside of the upper seats, is cut, in old Saxon characters, the twentieth psalm, in Latin, supposed to be designed as a prayer or petition for the royal founder, Edward III and the future Sovereigns of the Order of the Garter.
The carved work of this choir, as well as most parts of the ceiling, abound with a variety of imagery, and several figures of patriarchs, Kings, etc. Some of these were greatly defaced, and others totally destroyed, but the face of the whole is now nearly restored to its original state of neatness, and many parts added, depicting some well-known occurrences in the present reign.
The altar was formerly adorned with costly hangings of crimson velvet and gold, which, together with other furniture appropriated to the use of the altar, amounting to 3580 ounces of wrought plate, of the most curious workmanship, were, in 1642, seized, under colour of parliamentary authority, by Captain Fogg) on a general plunder of this royal foundation. This sacrilege was in a great measure compensated to the college, on the Restoration of King Charles II who, with the knights companions, subscribed liberally to supply the altar with all things necessary for its decent service and ornament. The royal example was also followed by many well disposed persons; and the altar plate, which is curiously wrought and gilt, was dedicated to the honour of God, and the service of the Sovereign, and knights companions of the Most Noble Order of the Garter.
King Charles II ornamented the altar with twenty-two panels of tissue and purple damask; it was likewise further decorated with two pieces of arras, one representing Christ and his Disciples at supper, given by Dr. Bryan, Bishop of Winchester, the other, Christ and his two disciples at Emmaus, from an original of Titian, and presented to the College by Lady Mordaunt, both of which were appropriated to the use of the altar, till the year 1707, when, on moving the wainscot in Urswick Chapel, was found a painting of the Last Supper; this had formerly been secreted, in the time of plunder, and being highly approved of by Sir James Thornhill, Verrio, and other eminent masters, it was repaired and affixed over the communion table, where it remained until the general repair of the chapel in 1788, when it was removed to the Parish Church. The repairs and alterations of the altar, made by His Present Majesty, will be lasting monuments of the flourishing state of the arts in these days. The painting of the Last Supper, together with the curious carved wainscot that surrounds it, was by the gracious desire, and at the sole expense of the King. The painting is by B. West, Esq., of which, those who only affect to be critics, pretend that the figure of Judas is too predominant; 'though real judges esteem the whole a masterly composition. The wainscot was designed by Mr. Thomas Sandby, and executed under the inspection of Mr. Emlyn, The various representations consist of the arms of Edward III, Edward the Black Prince, and those of the original Knights with the several ensigns of the Order of the Garter; also of pelicans, wheat, grapes, sacramental vessels and symbols, neatly executed, and disposed with infinite taste; forming independent of the exquisite workmanship, a most pleasing picture.
The objects that most generally attract the attention of strangers, on their first entrance into this Chapel, next the gothic magnificence of its architecture, is the brilliancy, and exquisite skill displayed in some of the principal windows: the first of these, as to the order of time, when it was brought into its present state, is the large West Window.
Footnote 3: This window was restored to the beautiful state in which it now appears, in the year 1774, at the expense of about £600, by the Dean and Chapter, under the direction of Dr. Lockman, who collected all the remains of the ancient painted glass that were dispersed through the different parts of the building.
Large West Window
The window at the west end of the body of the church, is composed of 80 compartments, or lights, each six feet high, by one foot five inches wide; the whole beautifully ornamented with fine stained glass, consisting of a variety of figures, as patriarchs, bishops, and other canonical characters; St. Peter, St. Alexander, King Solomon, Edward the Confessor, Edward IV and Henry VIII. In many of the compartments is St. George's Cross, encompassed with the garter, this being the arms of the college; here are also the arms of the Bishop s of London and Bristol.
The next, as to magnitude and date, but which, as to its excellence, should have been first, is the Window over the Altar
Window over the Altar
The subject of this is The Resurrection; and is divided into three compartments. In the centre is our Saviour ascending from the Sepulchre, preceded by the Angel of the Lord, above whom, in the clouds, is a host of Cherubims and Seraphims, and among these is a portrait of their Majesties son, Octavius. In the front ground are the Roman soldiers, thrown in various postures with horror and confusion; and are grazing with terror and astonishment at Christ in his ascension.
In the right-hand compartment are represented Mary Magdalen, Mary the Mother of James, and Salome, approaching the sepulchre with unguents and spices, in order to anoint the body of their Lord and Master.
In the left-hand division, are Peter and John, who are supposed to have been informed by Mary Magdalen, that the body of Christ was missing, and are thereupon running with the greatest anxiety, astonishment, and speed, towards the sepulchre. This masterly performance was designed by B. West Esq., in 1785, and executed by Mr. Jarvis, assisted by Mr. Forest, between that period and the year 1788. In viewing this most splendid window, the spectator is at a loss which most to admire, the genius of Mr. West, in the design, or, the exquisite skill of Messrs. Jarvis and Forrest in the execution of it. The painting of this window we are told cost £4000.
Footnote 4: The idea of having 80 magnificent an ornament added to the most elegant gothic church, of its size, now existing, was first conceived by His Present Majesty, who ordered Dr. Lockman to propose a plan for putting it into execution, who, in consequence of that command, and knowing that the Sovereigns and Knights of the Order of the Garter, had always been applied to, and had graciously condescended to subscribe to any ornaments, tending to the magnificence of the place of their instalments, ventured, in 1/82, to propose a subscription by the Sovereign and Companions of the Order, the Dean and Chapter of Windsor, and also the Prelate and Chancellor of the Order of the Garter. This proposal was graciously accepted by His Majesty, who immediately sent Nine Hundred Guineas to Dr. Lockman, viz. 500 for himself, 200 for the Prince of Wales, 100 for the Duke of York, and 100 for the Duke of Clarence, with permission to apply, in His Majesty's name, as wishing success to the plan proposed. The Foreign Princes, who were Knights of the Garter, readily subscribed 100 guineas each, upon Dr. L's applying to their ministers or agents, and all the other Knights 50 guineas each; the Dean and Chapter 500 guineas, and the Prelate and Chancellor 50 guineas each. His Majesty has, since his first subscription, paid £500 and £700 to Mr. Jarvis, for alterations in the original design. The whole subscription received by Dr. L. amounted to £3347.10s. The last mentioned £700 paid Mr. J. is not included in this sum.
The next, which was in some degree included in the subscription plan, for that we have just described, is the
Windows containing the Arms of the Knights
In two of the windows near the Altar, one on the north, the other on the south side, are the arms of the Sovereign and Knights Companions, who subscribed towards the painting the East Window of the choir. The Sovereign and the Prince of Wales have their supporters couchant, but the supporters of the other Knights are not in these paintings. Over the arms of each Knight, which are encompassed with the star and garter, are his crest and coronet; beneath the arms is the George, pendant to a riband, on which is written the Christian name and title. These are on the south side.
G.R. III. 1782 William Henry, of Gloucester Ferdinand, of Brunswick Henry Frederic, of Cumberland Prince William Henry, of Brunswick Lunenburg Prince Charles,
Duke of Brunswick
Henry, Duke of Newcastle Hugh, Duke of Northumberland Charles, Marquis of Rockingham George, Duke of Marlborough Granville, Earl Gower Thomas, Viscount Weymouth William, Earl of Shelburne
On the north side are:
G.R. III. 1782 Frederic, Prince of Hesse-Cassel William, Prince of Orange Frederic, Bishop of Osnabruck Adolphus, Duke of Mecklenburg Thomas, Duke of Leeds George, Duke of Montague Francis, Earl of Hertford John, Earl of Bute Augustus, Duke of Grafton Sir Frederic North William, Duke of Devonshire Charles, Duke of Rutland
Thamesweb are grateful to MNC for typing the above from the original edition and to JGC for scanning and OCR work.
6 St George's Chapel - I
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