Posts Tagged ‘Church’


11 NOVEMBER 1483

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Events in History

Baptism of Martin Luther in Eisleben, Germany, from which his date of birth, 10 November 1483, is deducted.

He disputed the claim of the (Catholic) church that salvation could be purchased by indulgences, instead salvation is a free gift by God, received by faith in Jesus, who has redeemed our sins.  He explained his view in the 95 thesis, which he nailed on the church door in Eisleben in the evening of 31 October 1517, the evening before All Saints’ Day, when everyone would come to church.   This is often regarded as the starting point of the reformation.  While his original aim was to reform the church, the Pope saw it differently, which ultimately led to the split with the Catholic church.  As Luther was of the opinion that the Bible was the only source for knowledge of God, he translated it into German to make it accessible to everyone.

He died on 15 February 1546.

You can find out more at



31 OCTOBER 1517

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Events in History

Martin Luther (born 10 November 1483) nails his 95 thesis on the church door in Eisleben in the evening of 31 October 1517, because the next day, 1 November, is All Saints’ Day, when everyone would come to church.

In the 95 theses he explains his view based on the Gospel that salvation is a free gift from God and cannot be earned by good deeds or purchased by buying indulgences . This is often regarded as the starting point of the reformation.  While his original aim was to reform the church, the Pope saw it differently, which ultimately led to the split with the Catholic church.  As Luther was of the opinion that the Bible was the only source for knowledge of God, he translated it into German to make it accessible to everyone.

31 October is celebrated in the Lutheran church as Reformation Day commemorating Luther’s stand.



Two Archbishops and a King

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News, Reburial

Leicester Cathedral - CopyIt has just been announced that both the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster and the Archbishop of Canterbury will be taking part in services in Leicester Cathedral to mark the reinterment of King Richard III.  The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster is the most senior clergy of the Catholic Church in the UK and the Archbishop of Canterbury is his counterpart in the Church of England/Anglican Church.

Since Richard’s remains were found two years ago, the Anglican Diocese of Leicester has worked closely with the Catholic Diocese of Nottingham, which includes Leicester, to ensure that the reburial will be handled with dignity and honour.

Anglican and Catholic clergy will celebrate at major as well as other services during the week 22 to 28 March 2015.  At the reburial service on 26 March, other Christian denominations as well as the World Faiths will be represented.

It has been occasionally been said that Leicester Cathedral is too modern for a medieval monarch.  While it is true that its modern Cathedral status is relatively new (1927), there were already Bishops of Leicester from the 7th to the 9th century.  The actual church was built by the Normans, replacing an earlier Saxon church.  The Norman church was rebuilt and enlarged during the 13th and 15th century.  So we can assume that Richard would have been very much aware of the church during his visits to Leicester.

You can find the full schedule of the planned services here.

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Thursday, 25 August 1485

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Events in History

ArchaeologyRichard III was buried in the choir of the church of the Grey Friars in Leicester. Polydore Vergil states that the burial was “without any pompe or solemn funeral”. This is often – mistakenly – seen to indicate that there were no religious rites. However, as John Ashdown-Hill explains, “solemnity” in the religious context refers to certain aspects of a service, which were not essential. It basically means that the service was a private ceremony by the friars, especially as a choir of their church would not have been open to the public.

To the day 527 years later, on 25 August 2012, on the first day of the archaeological dig in Leicester to find out where the church of the Grey Friars actually had been and hopefully to find Richard’s remains, parts of a human leg bone were unearthed. These wre later identified as being part of the remains of Richard III.


John Ashdown Hill, The Last Days of Richard III. The History Press, 2010, pp.91-96

Mathew Morris & Richard Buckley, Richard III:  The King under the Car Park.  University of Leicester Archaeological Services, 2013, pp.22 + 36-45

Mike Pitts, Digging for Richard: How Archaeology Found the King. Thames & Hudson, 2014, pp.99-105

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11 AUGUST 1486

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Events in History

Death of William Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester

Source: ODNB on William Waynflete

We had a look at him some time ago in  ‘The “elder statesman of the educational revolution”’.

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‘Garden of Life’ – a Guest Post by Rosalind Broomhall

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News

On Saturday, 5 July 2014, the new Cathdral Gardens in Leicester ‘Garden of Life’ were opened. We are very happy to be able to bring you a report by Rosalind Broomhall, a friend from Leicester, who was able to attend this event. Thank you also to Jo Mungovin for the photo.

Leicester Cathedral Gardens  (Jo Mungovin)

“How do you open a garden?” said Canon Pete “…you ring the bells!” And ring out they did yesterday as, after an anxious night of heavy rain, the sun shone down and Bishop Tim and Sir Peter Soulsby cut the ribbon and celebrations began. Young people from Curve Theatre danced between the newly refurbished statue (sword restored!) and the artwork ‘Towards Stillness’ that tells the story of Richard’s final days and the centuries lost until he was rediscovered that day in 2012. The air of celebration continued with songs from the Emmanuel Gospel Choir and a concert performance of ‘Joseph and his Amazing Technicoloured Dreamcoat’ by the children of DioSing! Inside St Martin’s House, James Butler RA and Juliette Quintero spoke about their work and Dean Monteith posed the question of the relevance of the story of Richard III today. Outside people tried their hand at a drumming workshop and the All Saints dancing troup, young Asian Christians, expressed their faith through dance.

The race to complete the gardens – how many workmen can you get in one space? – had continued flat out all week but paid off magnificently as our new Cathedral Gardens were opened in style.

You can find the programme with further links here.

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   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Events in History

Death of Thomas Barowe, loyal servant to Richard III.  In addition to long and distinguished career in the church, he was Richard’s Master of the Rolls from 22 September 1483 and Keeper of the Great Seal from approx. 1 August 1485.  The exact date of his death is not known, but his will was dated 23 June 1499 and proved on 10 July 1499.  In his will he remembers various other associates of Richard III.

In an indenture of 21 January 1495 to Great St Mary’s, Cambridge University church, he gave the enormous sum of £240 for building work at the church.  The indenture also included masses and prayers for Richard III and  Thomas Barowe himself.  Both were to be enrolled in the list of the benefactors of Cambridge University.  This shows a great deal of loyalty to his former patron, at a time when Barowe had made his peace with Henry VII and especially the king’s mother, Margaret Beaufort.

(Photograph of Great St Mary’s, Cambridge, by D Preis)

Further reading:

Christopher Brooke, ‘Urban church and university church:  Great St Mary’s from its origins to 1523′, in:  John Binns & Peter Meadows, Great St Mary’s, Cambridge University’s Church, Cambridge, 2000, pp.7-24.  ISBN 0521775027

A. F. Sutton and L. Visser-Fuchs, ‘’As dear to him as the Trojans were to Hector:’ Richard III and the University of Cambridge’, in:  L. Visser-Fuchs, ed, Richard III and East Anglia:  Magnates, Gilds and Learned Men.  Richard III Society, 2010, pp.105-142, in particular pp.130-134.

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3 JUNE 1162

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Events in History

Thomas Becket consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury.




   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News, Reburial

The decision of the British High Court in the Judicial Review whether the granting of the exhumation licence for the remains which were later established to be those of Richard III was announced today at 10 am (7 pm in Australia).

The court found that “there are no public law grounds for the Court interfering with the decisions in question. In the result, therefore, the Claimant’s application for Judicial Review is dismissed.” This means Richard will be re-interred in Leicester Cathedral, just a stone’s throw away from where his been for the last 500 years.

At the press conference in Leicester Cathedral it was announced that the reburial is expected for (the northern hemisphere) spring 2015.

You can read the full judgement here and an article from the BBC here.

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In March 2013, I spent a weekend in Leicester to attend the Richard III conference, but also used my time there to do some sightseeing. I was also lucky to be able to visit the church St Mary de Castro. The word “lucky” is appropriate in this context, as visiting hours were limited. And in September 2013, the church had to close completely because of fears the spire might collapse [i] .it only reopened on 24 August 2014 [ii].

St Mary de Castro

St Mary de Castro, from Castle Yard

The limited visiting hours meant, I a short window of time before having to catch the coach back to Heathrow and the flight back to Australia, but I’m very glad that I did rush back to see it. It is a beautiful church and the people assisting visitors were incredibly friendly and helpful. I’m glad to see that mine was not an isolated experience, because a blogger remarked: “If it’s the same man who opens it up most days as the fellow who did on Saturday, you will get a warm and knowledgeable, but never overbearing welcome” [iii].

1. Early History

St Mary is the church of Leicester castle, hence the Latin ‘de Castro’; it was founded in 1107 as the chapel of the castle by Robert de Beaumont, who was created Earl of Leicester by King Henry I [iv].   Initially, the church was a college of 12 secular canons and a dean.  However, it is possible that a Saxon collegiate church had existed on the site before the Norman conquest of 1066. A wall includes a stone, which might be a Saxon coffin lid and might have come from an earlier Saxon church.

St Mary de Castro

Possible Saxon coffin lid in St Mary de Castro

Robert’s son, Robert le Bossu (the Hunchback), founded Leicester Abbey and called it ‘St. Mary de Pratis’ (St. Mary of the Meadows).  It seems his own foundation was more important to him, as he endowed it with the properties, which up to that point had been set aside to provide St Mary De Castro with an income.  However, a few years later the Abbot and the Earl restored the college, though on a smaller scale.  At the same time, it also served as a parish church, which helped the financial situation of the church.  While the college was dissolved by the Chantry Act of Edward VI in 1548, it continues to be a parish church to this day.

The first Norman church was much smaller than today’s building, only approx. 40m long, without a tower or spire and no glass in the windows. Some arches and the carving of a little figure, which might depict a page or a squire indicated by the kirtle and hairstyle, remain from the 12th century church.

St Mary de Castro

Little figure, possibly of a page or squire

Then Robert de Blanchesmains, third Earl, the son of le Bossu, supported Queen Eleanor and her sons in their quarrel with Henry II, with the unfortunate result that the town was sacked in 1173 and the church severely damaged.

2. Rebuilding in the 12th century

Afterwards the church was rebuilt and in the process made longer and a chancel was built, possibly chapels were added on the sides.

St Mary de Castro

Norman sedilia

Of interest are the sedilia (three seats for the priest and his helpers) in the south wall of the chancel.  They are said to be among the finest examples of Norman work in the country, with double columns, fine chiselled decoration and characteristic chevron moulded round arches.   There was also a piscina (stone basin), but this was mutilated at a later stage and only re-discovered with the aumbries (i.e. the cupboards “for to lay anything in pertaininge to the High Altar”), in the middle of the 19th century.

3. 13th century extension

By the early 13th century with the increased importance and size of the castle, it was decided to extent the church, by enlarging the south chapel, for the use of the parishioners. This aisle had its own altar, dedicated to the Holy Trinity. As a result there were basically two churches under one roof, separated by the original outside wall. The new church also has sedilia (these with pointed arches) and a piscina, built in the south wall, these are in the Early English style.

4. The tower

Possibly before 1300, the tower was fitted inside the church, as on the outside it would interfere with the passage between the castle’s gates in case of attack. In the area underneath the tower is the font. In this area some floor tiles from the 14th century are preserved. The spire was added in 1400 and partly rebuilt in 1685. However, it was discovered to be in a perilous state and was demolished in 2013/14. There is an appeal to raise money for a rebuilding of the spire. (

St Mary de Castro

Tower inside the church

5. Famous people with a connection to St Mary de Castro

St Mary De Castro has connections to a number of famous people. In the 14th century, the early dissident and translator of the Bible, John Wycliffe, preached at St Mary. The Lollards continued to have a strong hold in the Leicester area.

St Mary de Castro might be the church where Geoffrey Chaucer married Philippa de Roet, the sister of Katherine de Roet (Swynford), in the 1360s. Their great-grandson John de la Pole, second duke of Suffolk, married Elizabeth, a sister of Edward IV and Richard III, here in 1458. His parents were William de la Pole and Alice Chaucer, daughter of Thomas Chaucer, one of Geoffrey and Philippa’s children.

Katherine de Roet and John of Gaunt, who was also earl of Leicester from November 1362 onwards [v], are among the ancestors of both Edward IV and Richard III as well as the Tudors.

6. The Parliament of Bats

In 1426, the so-called Parliament of Bats was held in Leicester. This was a time of a power struggle between the chancellor, Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester, and the Protector, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester. As there was also a disagreement with the London mercantile community over tunnage and poundage, it was decided for parliament to sit in Leicester instead of London. John, duke of Bedford, returned from the war in France to resume his role as protector. The name ‘Parliament of Bats’ has nothing to do with flying mammals, but more with cricket bats. It refers to the lords’ retainers being armed with bludgeons, ‘battes’, although they had been instructed not to carry arms [vi].

At the time King Henry VI was only four years old. It was at St Mary de Castro that on 19 May 1426 Bedford knighted Henry VI, who in turn knighted 36 others. One of them was the then 14-year-old Richard, third duke of York (who was to become the father of Richard III) [vii]. We can only speculate that this must have been a very exciting event for the 14-year-old boy. Of course, at this time nobody could foresee the later disagreement between duke and king, which would lead to what is known today as the Wars of the Roses. All through this period the town was loyal to the Yorkists and send its forces to fight for Edward, Earl of March (later Edward IV), at Towton in 1461 [viii].

7. Richard III and Leicester

His son, Richard III, would have attended mass at St Mary de Castro. He visited Leicester [ix] several times before he became king and might very well have stayed at the castle. We know for sure that during his reign he stayed at the castle twice in 1483. During the first visit, 17 to 20 August, he wrote two letters “from my castle at Leicester”, which are extant. The second visit was 22/23 October, while assembling an army to fight Buckingham’s revolt. He also visited the town twice in 1484, but on these occasions does not seem to have stayed at the castle, which might have been in a poor state of repair by then. During his first visit of 1484, on 31 July, he visited Leicester Abbey and for the second, on 5 November, Edwards says in The Itinerary that he was at the “Town of Leicester”, though we do not know where. And of course, Richard stayed in Leicester 19-21 August 1485, before marching out to fight Henry Tudor’s army at Bosworth, supported by forces from Leicester. We do not know for sure where he stayed on this last occasion, though legend has it that he spent the nights at the Blue Boar Inn.

After his death, his body was displayed at St Mary-in-the-Newarke in Leicester, to show the people of the city who had supported him that he was dead indeed. In the meantime, Henry Tudor celebrated his victory at Coventry, where he stayed the night 24/25 August. Coventry citizens probably felt it was politic to welcome him lavishly, but in the city annals they recorded that King Richard “was shamefully Carryed to Leicester & Buryed their”[x] .


i. ‘St Mary De Castro church shut for six months over spire collapse fear’, BBC News Leicester (7 September 2013). URL: Date accessed: 13 October 2013

ii.  Home page of The Collegiate Parish Church of St. Mary de Castro, Leicester.  URL:  Date accessed:  10 October 2014

iii. James Alexander Cameron, ‘The medieval churches of Leicester and their many sedilia study trip’, Stained Glass Attitudes (16 April 2013). URL: Date accessed: 6 November 2013

iv. Information on the church:
‘The ancient borough: St. Mary’s', A History of the County of Leicester: volume 4: The City of Leicester (1958), pp. 369-380. URL: Date accessed: 31 October 2013

St Mary de Castro (2006). URL: Date accessed: 31 October 2013

Visitor’s Guide to St Mary de Castro, available from URL: Date accessed: 14 September 2013

v. Simon Walker, ‘John , duke of Aquitaine and duke of Lancaster, styled king of Castile and León (1340–1399)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2008.

vi. ‘The Parliament of Bats, 4 Hen. VI’, The History of Parliament. URL: Date accessed: 12 January 2014

vii. Ralph Alan Griffiths, The Reign of King Henry VI: The Exercise of Royal Authority, 1422-1461. University of California Press, 1981, pp.80-81

viii. Mathew Morris & Richard Buckley, Richard III: The King under the Car Park. University of Leicester Archaeological Services, 2013, p.11

ix. For Richard III’s visits to Leicester see Morris & Buckley, pp.11-12; as well as Rhoda Edwards, The Itinerary of King Richard III 1483-1485. Richard III Society, 1983.

x. DeLloyd J Guth, “Richard III, Henry VII and the City: London Politics and the ‘Dun Cow’”, in: Kings and Nobles in the Later Middle Ages: a Tribute to Charles Ross, ed. by Ralph A. Griffiths & James Sherborne. Sutton, Gloucester, 1986, pp.194-195

All photographs by Dorothea Preis

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