Visiting the Abbey

Edward the Confessor

The Chapel containing the shrine of St. Edward the Confessor, lies east of the Sanctuary at the heart of the Abbey. It is closed off from the west by a stone screen, probably of 15th century date, carved with scenes from the Confessor's life. Work is in progress to conserve the floor of this chapel and during this time public access is restricted.

An earlier shrine had been erected in 1163, after the Confessor had been canonised. When Henry III rebuilt Edward's Abbey he prepared a new shrine, bringing workmen from Italy. Peter the Roman was the chief artist. On 13 October 1269 the body was brought in solemn procession to its new resting place. The shrine seen today is only a shadow of its former self. It originally had three parts: a stone base decorated with Cosmati work, a gold feretory containing the saint's coffin, and a canopy above it, which could be raised to reveal the feretory or lowered to cover it. The shrine was decorated with gold images of kings and saints. Many sick people came to the shrine to pray for a cure and the steps in the recesses of the shrine base are worn away by the knees of pilgrims (the illustration shown is by David Gentleman). At the Reformation the shrine was dismantled and stored by the monks, although the gold feretory was taken away. The Confessor's body was buried in another part of the Abbey. In the reign of Mary I the shrine was rebuilt. The Purbeck marble base was re-assembled but little care was taken to match the carvings and designs which decorated it. In absence of a feretory the coffin was placed in a hollow in the top part of the stone base, where it still remains. The wooden canopy has been restored and re-painted.

Around the shrine are the tombs of:
Henry III
Edward I
Eleanor of Castile
Edward III
Philippa of Hainault
Richard II with his queen Anne of Bohemia.

To the east, under his chantry chapel, lies Henry V. There are two small tombs to Margaret, daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VII. A brass on the floor covers the grave of John of Waltham, Bishop of Salisbury.

The chapel has a Cosmati floor, similar to that in front of the High Altar. The present altar dates from 1902. For many centuries the Coronation Chair was housed in this chapel but is now located at the west end of the Nave.

The Chapel of St. Edward the Confessor (King 1042-1066)

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