The chantry chapels

The Cathedral is famous for its beautiful chantry chapels, where daily masses were said for the souls of the powerful bishops who built them. A total of seven, were added between the 14th and the 16th centuries. This is more than any other English cathedral, reflecting Winchester’s great power, wealth and royal connections in this period.

William of Edington

Bishop of Winchester 1346-66. Edington served as both Treasurer and Chancellor of England, and was Bishop during the period when the Black Death ravaged England. A keen builder, he initiated the remodelling of the nave into its current Perpendicular form, and the triple porch that still fronts the building. His alabaster effigy is one of our finest medieval sculptures.

William of Wykeham

Bishop of Winchester 1366-1404. The wealthy and powerful Wykeham served twice as Chancellor of England and founded Winchester College and New College Oxford. He continued the remodelling of the nave in its current form. You can see his tomb and chantry chapel, where daily masses were said for his soul, in the nave’s south aisle.

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Henry Beaufort

Bishop of Winchester 1404-47. Half-brother to Henry IV and three times Chancellor of England, Beaufort was the richest man in England, and on his death left part of his fortune to the Cathedral. The money was used to build the Great Screen and create a new shrine for St Swithun. You can see his imposing chapel alongside it.

William Wayneflete

Bishop of Winchester 1447-86.A major figure in 15th-century English education as well as a bishop, Wayneflete was successively headmaster of Winchester College, provost of Eton and founder of Magdalen College, Oxford. His chapel stands to the north of St Swithun’s shrine, matching Beaufort’s to the south.

Thomas Langton

Bishop of Winchester 1493-1501. A powerful prelate, Langton served as King Edward IV’s chaplain. His ornate late medieval chantry chapel boasts elaborate carved panelling and niches. It was adapted from a chapel once dedicated to St Birinus, the 7th-century missionary sent to convert the West Saxons.

Richard Fox

Bishop of Winchester 1501-28. Fox rose to become Henry VII’s Secretary of State, but his striking tomb show him as a decaying and cadaverous corpse designed to remind passers-by of the transient nature of life. You can find it in the south presbytery aisle.

Stephen Gardiner

Bishop of Winchester 1531-51 and 1553-55. In a time of great religious turbulence, Gardiner was reinstated by the Catholic Queen Mary I after five years’ imprisonment in the Tower of London, and presided over her marriage to Philip of Spain in the Cathedral in 1554. You can find his chantry chapel, built in 1556, in the south presbytery aisle.

Credit

This page is based on John Crook’s authoritative architectural history, Winchester Cathedral (2001, Pitkin Unichrome Limited). You can buy it in our online shop


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