Henry VII Chapel

The Henry VII Lady Chapel, now more often known just as the Henry VII Chapel, is a large Lady chapel at the far eastern end of Westminster Abbey, paid for by the will of King Henry VII. It is separated from the rest of the abbey by brass gates and a flight of stairs.[1]

The structure of the chapel is a three-aisled nave composed of four bays. The apse of the chapel contains the altar, and behind that, the tombs of Henry VII and his wife as well as of James I. There are five apsidal chapels.[1]

The chapel is noted for its pendant fan vault ceiling.

The chapel is built in a very late Perpendicular Gothic style, the magnificence of which caused John Leland to call it the orbis miraculum (the wonder of the world).[2] The tombs of several monarchs including Henry VII, Edward VI, Mary I, Elizabeth I, James I, Charles II and Mary, Queen of Scots are found in the chapel.[3]

The chapel has also been the mother church of the Order of the Bath since 1725, and the banners of members hang above the stalls.

Canaletto - The Interior of Henry VII's Chapel in Westminster Abbey
Painting of the chapel by Canaletto


Henry7Chapel 09
Exterior of the chapel

In the 13th century, a movement toward devotion to the Virgin Mary inspired the building of chapels in her honour across Europe. Henry III’s Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey was part of this trend. In 1502, Henry VII planned a new chapel. The old one was demolished in 1502 and construction of the new foundation began January 24, 1503.[4]

Henry VII had three goals when planning his chapel. The first was to build a shrine to honour and hold the body of Henry VI, who was expected to be canonized.[5] Ultimately, canonization did not occur and Henry VII and his wife, Elizabeth of York, were interred in the tomb intended for Henry VI.[6] Second, Henry VII wished to dedicate a more elaborate chapel to the Virgin to replace the older, simpler structure; and third, he wanted a royal mausoleum for him, his family, and his heirs[4] at an important religious site that would enhance his legitimacy as king and his legacy.[7]

Henry VII allocated more than £14,000 for its construction between 1503 and 1509.[4] In his will, he stipulated that more funds were to be provided as needed. The final cost of the chapel is estimated at £20,000.[7] According to one nobleman, Lord Bacon, “He lieth at Westminster in one of the stateliest and daintiest monuments of Europe…So that he dwelleth more richly dead in the monument of his tomb than he did alive at Richmond or in any of his palaces.” [8]

In the eighteenth century, one observer commented that “[t]his chapel, it has been said, was designed as a sepulchre in which none but such as were of the royal-blood should ever be interred; accordingly the will of the founder has been so far observed, that all that have hitherto been admitted are of the highest quality, and can trace their descent from some or other of our ancient kings.” [9] In the intervening years, some people not of aristocratic descent, including Oliver Cromwell, were buried there, but during the Restoration of the monarchy many of those people were disinterred.[10]

Pendant fan vault

Westminster abbey16
Pendant fan vault of Henry VII's chapel at Westminster Abbey.

The Henry VII Chapel is best known for its combination of pendant fan vault ceiling. Andrew Reynolds refers to the vault as “the most perfect example of a pendant fan vault, the most ambitious kind of vaulting current in the perpendicular period.”[11] Notably, this ceiling was also the first to combine pendants with fan vaulting.

The fan vault is created by first dividing the ceiling into groin vaulted compartments. These groin vaults are created by the combination of arches along the wall and larger, transverse arches bridging the nave of the chapel. In the fan vault at the Henry VII Chapel, the compartments are nearly square in shape.[12] The compartments are then ribbed and paneled. Ribs, of the same curve and size, are cut from single pieces of stone and rebated so to best fit with the panels.[13] The curved ribs, extending from the same point on the wall, are spaced equidistant from each other, forming conoid shapes. The resulting conoids, however, require great compressive forces to keep shape.[12]

Spandrels usually provide pressure along the upper edge of the conoids.[14] In the Henry VII Chapel, these spandrels are replaced with hanging pendants. The pendants still provide the compression necessary to support the conoids and add complexity to the aesthetics of the room.

The pendants serve an additional structural purpose. The pendants are cut from single stones and inserted as wedge stones in the transverse arches.[14] By combining with the transverse arches, the pendants do not require additional structural support.

At the time of the construction of the chapel, pendant vaults were very new; they were first seen in the Divinity School at Oxford.[15]

Other architectural features

The chapel’s architect is unknown, but it is believed that Robert Janyns the Younger was responsible for the design of much of the structure.[16] The structure of the chapel is a three-aisled nave composed of four bays. The aisles are divided by rows of mahogany stalls into the North, South, and Central aisles. All contain numerous monuments and floor stones dedicated to various nobles. Above the stalls, at the triforium level, are many sculptures. Interspersed between the sculptures are the heraldic banners of the Knights of the Order of the Bath. Above this is the clerestory, with three rows of smaller windows. The window tracery articulates four larger windows, one in each bay, each composed of these three rows of smaller lancet windows. As much of the original glass was destroyed during the English Commonwealth,[17][18] the East Window, over the centre apsidal chapel, as well as the Donor Windows (in the west), in the chapels themselves, are new additions, installed in 2000 and 1995, respectively.[1][19] In 2013, two new stained glass windows designed by Hughie O'Donoghue were installed on either side of the East Window.[20]

View of Henry VII's Chapel, Westminster Abbey from Old Palace Yard, 1780s
View from Old Palace Yard, in pencil and watercolour. Edward Edwards c. 1780s

The apse of the chapel contains the altar, and behind that, the tombs of Henry VII and his wife as well as of James I. There are five apsidal chapels. These chapels originally contained altars—they were screened off and intended for private prayer for members of the royal family—but their dedication is no longer known.[21]

Upon entering the chapel, one passes through a set of bronze gates, which are elaborately crafted and “illustrate the…intense determination of Henry VII to put to the forefront every possible indication of his claims to the crown of England.” [22] The gates are decorated with numerous royal crests that serve to legitimize his rule. Once inside, the mahogany stalls stand out to the viewer as they contrast with the light colored stone of the walls and ceiling. The stalls also contribute the verticality of the interior. They date from different times; while some are original others were added later to accommodate the increasing number of Knights of the Order of the Bath. The stalls were designated for all living Knights of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath. When a knight was installed, he received a stall that was subsequently adorned with his crest, coat of arms, and heraldic banner, the last of which remained in the chapel even after the knight’s death. These banners all remain to decorate the chapel. During the nineteenth century, there were too many knights to accommodate in the chapel and no more were installed until the twentieth century. Currently, only the most senior knights are assigned stalls in the chapel.[23]

The altar and Henry VII’s tomb were crafted by the same Italian artist, Pietro Torrigiano. The Henry VII tomb was created first, beginning in 1512. The tomb was sculpted by a Florentine Renaissance artist, thus, the style is atypical of English art. The putti on the corners are particularly uncharacteristic.[24] The altar was begun in 1517, but Torrigiano left the country before it was completed; Benedetto da Rovezzano finished its construction in 1526. Originally made of terracotta, white marble, and gilt bronze, it was destroyed during the Commonwealth.[3] The current altar is based on images of the original. Two surviving pillars and two newly constructed ones support the reconstructed altar.[1] Also significant are the aforementioned sculptures that adorn the triforium. The statues are of saints and the Apostles. According to Lindley, that “Henry VII’s will declares his trust in...‘Aungels, Archaungels, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostels, Evangelists, Martirs, Confessours and Virgyns’” is critical to understanding his motivation in building the chapel: “Henry’s belief in the efficacy of ‘mediacions and prayers’ in his progress through purgatory is crucial to his purpose.” [18] That is to say, he built the chapel and adorned it with numerous sculptures of important religious figures in part to ensure his acceptance into Heaven.

People buried in the Henry VII Lady Chapel

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Trowles (2008); p. 131
  2. ^ Brayley, Edward; Neale, John Preston (1818). The History and Antiquities of the Abbey Church of St. Peter, Westminster.
  3. ^ a b Lindley (2003); p. 208
  4. ^ a b c Lindley (2003); p. 203
  5. ^ Trowles (2008); p. 125
  6. ^ Lindley (2003); p. 205
  7. ^ a b Trowles (2008); p. 126
  8. ^ Farrar (1895); p. 33
  9. ^ Henry (1788); p. 33
  10. ^ Trowles (2008); p. 129
  11. ^ Tatton-Brown (2003); p. 205
  12. ^ a b Heyman (1996); p. 73
  13. ^ Leedy(1980); p. 26
  14. ^ a b Trowles (2008); p. 196
  15. ^ McDonnell (2008); p. 5
  16. ^ Lindley (2003); p. 204
  17. ^ Jenkyns, Richard, Westminster Abbey, 2011, p. 53, Harvard University Press, ISBN 0674061977, 9780674061972, google books
  18. ^ a b Lindley (2003); p. 207
  19. ^ "Sir John Templeton". westminster-abbey.org. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  20. ^ "Westminster Abbey to unveil newly-commissioned stained glass windows in historic Lady Chapel". westminster-abbey.org. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  21. ^ Farrar (1895); p. 30
  22. ^ Farrar (2008); p. 131
  23. ^ Trowles (2008); p. 127
  24. ^ Lindley (2003); p. 206


  • Farrar, Dean and others (1895), Westminster Abbey and The Cathedrals of England. Philadelphia:John C. Winston & Co.
  • Henry, David. (1788) “An historical description of Westminster Abbey, its monuments and curiosities,” London, Eighteenth Century Collections Online, Gale Group, http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/ECCO
  • Heyman, Jacques (1996). Arches, Vaults and Buttresses. Variorum. ISBN 0-86078-597-1
  • Leedy, Walter C. (1975) “Design of the Vaulting of Henry VII’s Chapel, Westminster: A Reappraisal.” Architectural History 18, 5–96.
  • Leedy, Jr., Walter C. (1980). Fan Vaulting: A Study of Form, Technology and Meaning. Arts + Architecture Press. ISBN 0-931228-03-4
  • Lindley, Phillip. (2003) “Henry VII Chapel, Westminster Abbey.” In Making Medieval Art, edited by Phillip Lindley. Donington: Shuan Tyas. ISBN 1-900289-59-8
  • McDonnell, Joseph. (2008) “Stone, stucco and papier mache:fan vaulting from Henry VII’s chapel, Westminster Abbey, to Monkstown parish church.” In Studies in the Gothic Revival, edited by Michael McCarthy and Karina O’Neill. Portland: Four Courts Press. ISBN 1-84682-022-7
  • Tatton-Brown, Tim (2003). Westminster Abbey: The Lady Chapel of Henry VII. Boydell and Brewer. ISBN 1-84383-037-X
  • Trowles, Tony (2008). Treasures of Westminster Abbey. Scala Publishers, Ltd. ISBN 1-85759-454-1

External links

Coordinates: 51°29′57″N 0°07′36″W / 51.4993°N 0.1266°W

Burial places of British royalty

These burial places of British royalty record the known graves of monarchs who have reigned in some part of the British Isles (currently includes only the monarchs of Scotland, England, native princes of Wales to 1283, or monarchs of the Great Britain, and the United Kingdom), as well as members of their royal families.

Donald Buttress

Dr Donald Reeve Buttress, LVO, OBE is an architect based in St Albans, Hertfordshire. He co-founded the Manchester-based practice Buttress Architects, where he remains a consultant.

From 1988 to 1999 he was Surveyor of the Fabric of Westminster Abbey, and is now Surveyor Emeritus. During his time there he was involved with the completion of the external restoration, particularly the repair of the West Front and the Henry VII Chapel.

Buttress also designed the Queen Mother Memorial on The Mall, London, unveiled in 2009, with sculptures by Philip Jackson, re-built the burnt-down chapel at Tonbridge School, and directed the design of Cathedraltown, a 200-acre town in the city of Markham, Ontario, Canada.

Edgar Stuart, Duke of Cambridge

Edgar Stuart, Duke of Cambridge (14 September 1667 – 8 June 1671) was the fourth son of James, Duke of York (later James II of England) and his first wife Anne Hyde. He was second in the line of succession to the English and Scottish thrones.

Edgar was born on 14 September 1667 at St James's Palace and baptized there with the Duke of Albemarle, the Marquis of Worcester, and the Countess of Suffolk as sponsors. The name "Edgar" had ancient roots in both the English (Edgar the Peaceful) and Scottish (Edgar, King of Scotland) monarchies. On 7 October 1667 he was created Duke and Earl of Cambridge and Baron of Dauntsey. His elder brother Charles had died at the age of six months in 1661 before the patent for the title of Duke of Cambridge was passed and another brother, James was formally created Duke of Cambridge before his death in 1667 at the age of three. Edgar’s titles became extinct until the birth of another son, also named Charles, in 1677.

His mother was ill for months following his birth and never fully recovered, though she gave birth twice more to daughters who died before their first birthdays; she died on 13 March 1671. Edgar died at Richmond Palace on 8 June 1671 and was entombed in the royal vault in the Henry VII Chapel in Westminster Abbey on 12 June 1671, his coffin placed atop that of his mother.

Elizabeth Cavendish, Countess of Devonshire

Elizabeth Cavendish, Countess of Devonshire (1619 – 19 November 1689) was the wife of William Cavendish, 3rd Earl of Devonshire.

She was one of the twelve children of William Cecil, 2nd Earl of Salisbury, and his wife, the former Lady Catherine Howard.On 4 March 1639, she married the Earl of Devonshire. The couple had three children:

William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Devonshire (1641–1707)

Charles Cavendish, who died unmarried on 3 March 1671.

Lady Anne Cavendish (c. 1650–1703), who married firstly Charles, Lord Rich, son of Charles Rich, 4th Earl of Warwick, and secondly John Cecil, 5th Earl of Exeter, on 2 May 1670; she had nine children by the latter.They lived at Chatsworth, then an Elizabethan house. A Royalist, the earl left the country during the English Civil War in order to protect his family, and moved to his mother's house at Latimer, Buckinghamshire, returning to Chatsworth only after the Restoration.The countess died at the age of about seventy, and is buried at the Henry VII Chapel in Westminster Abbey. A drawing of her by Pierre Lombart is held by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Gilbert Sheldon

Gilbert Sheldon (19 June 1598 – 9 November 1677) was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1663 until his death.

Holy Trinity Church, Marylebone

Holy Trinity Church, in Marylebone, Westminster, London, is a former Anglican church, built in 1828 by Sir John Soane. In 1818 Parliament passed an act setting aside one million pounds to celebrate the defeat of Napoleon. This is one of the so-called "Waterloo churches" that were built with the money. It has an external pulpit facing onto Marylebone Road, and an entrance with four large Ionic columns. There is a lantern steeple, similar to St Pancras New Church, which is also on Euston Road to the east.

By the 1930s, it had fallen into disuse and in 1936 was used by the newly founded Penguin Books company to store books. A children's slide was used to deliver books from the street into the large crypt. In 1937 Penguin moved out to Harmondsworth, and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), an Anglican missionary organisation, moved in. It was their headquarters until 2006, when they relocated to Tufton Street, Westminster (they have since moved again to Pimlico). The church is currently the location of the world's first wedding department store, The Wedding Gallery https://www.the-weddinggallery.com/ which is based on the ground floor and basement level. The 1st floor is used as an Events space operated by One Events and known as One Marylebone.

The venue now holds over 100 events a year ranging from weddings to corporate dinners, awards and press launches as well as exhibitions and charity events. In 2009 an art exhibition was held here, the centrepiece of which was a crucified ape. Since then, it has become known as the home for the annual MADE London Marylebone design and craft fair, which features artists such as Vanessa Hogge.

The former church stands on a traffic island by itself, bounded by Marylebone Road at the front, and Albany Street and Osnaburgh Street on either side; the street at the rear north side is Osnaburgh Terrace.

Keith Short

Keith Short is a sculptor, primarily working within the feature film industry in the UK.

Short has worked on most of the large-scale film productions made in the UK, and helped to create several iconic pieces such as the Batmobile for Tim Burton's Batman, the Ark of the Covenant [1] and the Golden Fertility Idol [2] for Steven Spielberg's film Raiders of the Lost Ark, Emperor Palpatine's chair [3] in Return of the Jedi and the Tree of the Dead [4] for Sleepy Hollow.

He has been the head of a department of sculptors on many films including Oliver Stone's Alexander, The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Mortal Kombat, The Fifth Element, The Princess Bride, Willow, Highlander and Greystoke - The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes.

Short studied sculpture at Wolverhampton College of Art and moved to London where he began his career as a stone carver and lettering artist. His early work includes ornate finials for the Henry VII chapel,[5] Westminster Abbey and a relief panel,[6] cast into bronze, of the former Waterloo Bridge, now sited beneath Hungerford Bridge, London. Keith started on feature films in 1978, working on Ridley Scott's Alien and has most recently worked on Prometheus, Hugo and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, parts I and II.

List of English royal consorts

The English royal consorts were the spouses of the reigning monarchs of the Kingdom of England who were not themselves monarchs of England: spouses of some English monarchs who were themselves English monarchs are not listed, comprising Mary I and Philip who reigned together in the 16th century, and William III and Mary II who reigned together in the 17th century.

Most of the consorts are women, and enjoyed titles and honours pertaining to a queen consort; some few are men, whose titles were not consistent, depending upon the circumstances of their spouses' reigns. The Kingdom of England merged with the Kingdom of Scotland in 1707, to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. There have thus been no consorts of England since that date.

Old Palace Yard

Old Palace Yard is a paved open space in the City of Westminster in Central London, England. It lies between the Palace of Westminster to its north and east and Westminster Abbey to its west. It is known as the site of executions, including those of Sir Walter Raleigh, Guy Fawkes and other conspirators of the Gunpowder Plot, and James Hamilton, 1st Duke of Hamilton, following the Battle of Preston.

St Margaret Street / Abingdon Street divides Old Palace Yard into two parts, running diagonally from the north-west to the south-east. The eastern, larger part belongs to the grounds of the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. To the north of the Yard is St Stephen's Entrance, the public entrance into the Palace, as well as the great South Window of Westminster Hall. Standing near this window and facing away from it is a bronze equestrian statue of Richard Coeur de Lion (King Richard I, also known as "Richard the Lionheart"). Created by Baron Carlo Marochetti, the statue was completed in 1856 and installed in its present location in 1860. The eastern side of Old Palace Yard is defined by the West Front of the Palace, which is part of the precincts of the House of Lords; the carriage porch of the Peers' Entrance marks the middle of this frontage, and the Victoria Tower its southern end.

Access to this part of Old Palace Yard is restricted for security reasons by means of concrete barriers. For most of the year it is used as a car park for the House of Lords, but it is cleared of barriers and street furniture for the annual State Opening of Parliament, the formal opening of the legislative session by the British monarch. Conveyed from Buckingham Palace to Parliament in a horse-drawn carriage, the monarch passes through the Yard en route to the Sovereign's Entrance, at the foot of the Victoria Tower.

The western part of Old Palace Yard is freely accessible to the public. To its west are located the Henry VII Chapel and the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey, while to its south stands 6–7 Old Palace Yard, the sole survivor of the row of houses that used to surround the Yard. The building is now part of the Parliamentary Estate. Close by is a statue of King George V, made of Portland stone; sculpted by Sir William Reid Dick and unveiled in 1947, it stands on a pedestal by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and faces the Peers' Entrance of the Palace of Westminster. In 2002 an analemmatic sundial was fitted into the Yard's pavement in front of the statue, as a gift to Queen Elizabeth II from Parliament on the occasion of her Golden Jubilee.

Regent Hall

The Regent Hall is a Salvation Army centre on London's Oxford Street. It is one of the oldest centres in London having been founded by the founder of the army, William Booth in 1882. The church is known as the "Rink", because it was formerly a skating rink.The hall is known for its music, both for its own brass band which tours internationally, its high standard choral music, and as a venue for visiting artists.The present officers are Majors Richard and Caroline Mingay, who succeeded Major Dawn and Major Graham Mizon in 2017.

St John's Wood Road Baptist Church

St John's Wood Road Baptist Church is an evangelical Baptist church in St John's Wood, London. The church is situated between Lord's Cricket Ground and Maida Vale.

St Mark's, Hamilton Terrace

St Mark's Church, Hamilton Terrace is an Anglican church in the Maida Vale area of London, located at the intersection of Abercorn Place and Hamilton Terrace.

Dating to 1846-7, it was designed by Thomas Cundy with a spire built by his son in 1864, and is Grade II* listed with Historic England.The church contains an excellent collection of mosaics by Salviati.

St Mary Magdalene, Paddington

St Mary Magdalene, Paddington is a Grade I listed Anglican church at Rowington Close, London W2 5TF.

The parish was established in 1865 and work on the church started in 1867. Although complete in 1872, a fire destroyed the brand new roof so the first Mass in the new building could not be celebrated until St Mary Magdalene’s Day, 22 July 1873. The church was consecrated after completion of interior decoration on 21 October 1878.

The architect was George Edmund Street, and this church is considered to be his masterpiece. It includes notable stained glass by Henry Holiday and a later crypt chapel by Ninian Comper.

The church and surrounding neighbourhood were used as a location in the 1968 movie Secret Ceremony with Elizabeth Taylor.

St Matthew's, Bayswater

St Matthew's is a Church of England parish church. It is a Grade II* listed building.

St Stephen's Church, Rochester Row

The Church of St Stephen in Rochester Row, London, is a grade II* listed building.

St Stephen's Church, Westbourne Park

St Stephen's Church, Westbourne Park, is a Grade II listed parish church in the Church of England in London.

Tudor London

Henry Tudor, who seized the English throne as Henry VII in 1485, and married Elizabeth of York, put an end to the Wars of the Roses. Henry VII was a resolute and efficient monarch who centralised political power in the crown. He commissioned the celebrated "Henry VII Chapel" at Westminster Abbey, and continued the royal practice of borrowing funds from the City of London for his wars against the French. He repaid loans on their due dates, which was something of an innovation. Generally, however, he took little interest in enhancing London. Nonetheless, the comparative stability of the Tudor kingdom had long-term effects on the city, which grew rapidly during the 16th century. The nobility found that power and wealth were now best won by competing for favour at court, rather than by warring amongst themselves in the provinces as they had so often done in the past. The Tudor period is considered to have ended in 1603 with the death of Queen Elizabeth.

Nonetheless Tudor London was often tumultuous by modern standards. In 1497 the pretender Perkin Warbeck, who claimed to be Richard, Duke of York, the younger brother of the boy monarch Edward V, encamped on Blackheath with his followers. At first there was panic among the citizens, but the king organised the defence of the city, the rebels dispersed, and Warbeck was soon captured and hanged at Tyburn.

West Street Chapel

The West Street Chapel is a former chapel at 26 West Street, London WC2. It was John Wesley’s first Methodist chapel in London’s West End.

William Juxon

William Juxon (1582 – 4 June 1663) was an English churchman, Bishop of London from 1633 to 1649 and Archbishop of Canterbury from 1660 until his death.

Ancient parish churches (pre-1800)
Anglican daughter churches
Royal Peculiars
Roman Catholic churches
Other denominations
See also


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