Henry VII Chapel | Late Medieval Architectural Wonder
Described as exquisite by many and as 'the miracle of the world' by a 16th-century historian John Leland, the Henry VII Lady Chapel, better known as the Henry VII Chapel is the last great masterpiece of English medieval architecture. Situated in the far eastern end of Westminster Abbey, this is also the burial place of 15 kings and queens. History and architecture buffs visit from near and far to marvel at its gorgeous interiors - the unique pendant-style fan vaulted ceiling and high stained glass windows.
What is Henry VII Lady Chapel?
Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey in London was built in 1503 at the request of Henry VII, England's first Tudor Monarch for a huge, bank-breaking sum of £14,000. Like the other chapels built in the honour of Virgin Mary, a movement towards her devotion in the 13th century, this chapel too, was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and hence called the Lady Chapel. Today, it has become a must-visit attraction in London and is believed to be the last great masterpiece of English medieval architecture. Interestingly though, the Henry VII Chapel was intended to be a shrine to Henry's half-uncle, Henry VI who was tragically murdered. Ironically enough, it went on to actually become the tomb of Henry VII and his wife after their passing.Buy Tickets to Westminster Abbey
History of Henry VII Chapel
- Built between 1503 and 1516, the Henry VII Chapel was paid for by the will of King Henry VII.
- Henry VII Chapel was essentially an homage to and a keepsake of the Tudor dynasty.
- The spectacular chapel was built as the resting place for Henry VI who was expected to be canonised. This was actually a plot by Henry VII to secure his throne as king that ultimately failed.
- The canonisation did not occur and the tomb intended for Henry VI became the resting place for King Henry VII and his wife.
- Henry VII Chapel was also an attempt to replace the older, simpler structures dedicated to the Virgin Mary with a much more grand and elaborate chapel.
- The chapel was also envisioned to be a mausoleum for England's royalty, a religious legacy for King Henry VII, his family and his heirs.
- Through the years though, several people not of royal descent were buried here. They were, however, disinterred after restoration.
Architecture of Henry VII Chapel
The architect of the Henry VII Chapel is unknown. But historians believe that Robert Janyns Jr. is the design genius. Although it was built during the Renaissance, Gothic architecture was still popular at the time and so we see that the Chapel boasts a Perpendicular Gothic style. This particular style is said to be more ornate than French Gothic and uses highly decorative tracery effects. It is also the reason why the Chapel stands out as compared to the plainer Gothic style of the rest of Westminster Abbey. In the interiors, you will witness elaborate bronze gates, mahogany stalls, stone floors, stained-glass windows, curved walls and of course, the Chapel's most striking feature - the ornate fan-vaulted ceiling.Plan Your Visit to Westminster Abbey
Henry VII Chapel Highlights
The alcove of the Chapel contains the altar, behind which are the grand tombs, Henry VII Chapel is afterall a mausoleum to English royalty. Presently, 15 kings and queens are buried in Henry VII Chapel, the most prominent of whom are King Henry VII and his wife, Elizabeth of York who share a tomb. They also have bronze gilt effigies sculpted after them. Other prominent members buried at the Chapel include, Henry VII's Henry's mother, Margaret Beaufort, who has a rather devious history and King James I whose tomb was undiscovered and unrecorded for quite some time.
It is an old tradition to honour individuals with memorials and burials at Westminster Abbey and the Lady Chapel. Some of the most famous memorials are those of King Henry VII and his wife, Elizabeth of York. The tombs and memorials of several other monarchs are also found here, some of whom are Henry VII, Edward VI, Mary I, Elizabeth I, James I, Charles II and Mary, Queen of Scots.
Installation of Knights
The ceremony of installation of Knights of the Order of Bath was first introduced by King George I in 1725, and Lady Chapel was designated as its home. Ever since, every four years, Henry VII Chapel is used for the ceremony of Installation of Knights of the Order of Bath. During this celebration, the view of the interior of Henry VII's Chapel in Westminster Abbey - the light streaming in from the huge windows illuminating the delicate carvings on the walls and the fan vaulted ceiling - is shown off in all its glory.
All Your Questions about Henry VII Chapel Answered
A. The Henry VII Lady Chapel, known today as Henry VII Chapel is an exquisite chapel built in the late Perpendicular Gothic style at Westminster Abbey. It is also the mausoleum of England's royalty.
A. The Henry VII Chapel's architect is unknown. But historians believe that Robert Janyns Jr. is the design genius.
A. Henry VII Chapel is called the Lady Chapel because it was dedicated to Virgin Mary and it is the traditional British term for a Chapel dedicated to "Our Lady", mother of Jesus.
A. Several of England's great royals are buried at Henry VII Chapel, including King Henry VII himself, his wife, his mother and many others.
A. Yes, you can visit Henry VII Chapel when at Westminster Abbey, but this is possible only when visiting as part of a tour. Those who attend the mass for free cannot explore the monuments or visit the tombs.