Leicester Cathedral

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Leicester Cathedral

Cathedral Church of St Martin at Leicester

Leicester, Leicestershire

Status: cathedral
Leicester Cathedral exterior.jpg
Leicester Cathedral exterior
Church of England
Diocese of Leicester
Location: 52°38’5"N, 1°8’14"W
Built 1086–1867
Website: cathedral.leicester.anglican.org

The Cathedral Church of St Martin, Leicester, usually known as Leicester Cathedral, is a cathedral in the city of Leicester in Leicestershire. It is the cathedral of the Diocese of Leicester in the Church of England; the seat of the Bishop of Leicester. The church was elevated to a collegiate church in 1922 and made a cathedral in 1927 following the establishment of a new Diocese of Leicester in 1926.

The remains of King Richard III lie buried in the cathedral: the King was re-interred here in 2015 after his body was discovered buried nearby.


A church dedicated to St Martin of Tours has stood on the site for about a thousand years, being first recorded in 1086 when the older Saxon church was replaced by a Norman one. The present building dates to about that age, with the addition of a spire and various restorations throughout the years. Most of what can be seen today is a Victorian restoration by architect Raphael Brandon. The cathedral of the former Anglo-Saxon diocese of Leicester was on a different site.[1]

Twentieth and twenty-first century work

East window

The East Window was installed as a monument to those who died in First World War. The highest window contains a sun-like orb with cherubs radiating away from it. In the centre Jesus sits holding a starry heaven in one hand with one foot on a bloody hell. Surrounding Jesus are eight angels whose wings are made from a red glass. To the far right stands St Martin, who stands on the tail of a dragon. The dragon goes behind Jesus and can be seen re-emerging under the feet of St George who stands on its head. On the bottom row can be seen from left St Joan of Arc, Mary, Jesus with crying angels, Mary Magdalene, James, and St Martin of Tours. A First World War soldier can be found in this window.

The tower and spire were restored both internally and externally in 2004–5. The main work was to clean and replace any weak stonework with replacement stone quarried from the Tyne Valley. The cost was up to £600,000, with £200,000 being donated by the English Heritage, and the rest raised through public donations.[2]

In July 2014 a redesign of the cathedral gardens was completed, including installation of the 1980 statue of Richard III.[3]

Richard III

Until 2015 the chancel contained cenotaph memorial stone to King Richard III, but it was in that year replaced by the tomb of the king himself. King Richard was killed in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth Field in Leicestershire, and his body was roughly interred in the Priory of Greyfriars in Leicester, which priory was dissolved in the next generation under Henry VIII, son of the victor of Bosworth, and the priory buildings dismantled. Richard's remains were discovered and exhumed from the site in 2012 and publicly identified in February 2013.[4][5] Sir Peter Soulsby, Mayor of Leicester, and David Monteith, the cathedral's canon chancellor, announced the king's body would be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral in 2015 and this was carried out on 26 March.

The reinterment involved a substantial reordering of the interior of the Cathedral for the installation of a grand new tomb. The reinterment took place on 26 March 2015 in the presence of Sophie, Countess of Wessex (representing the Queen) and Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester (whose title is one once borne by Richard III).[6]


The interior

Leicester Cathedral is a Grade II* listed building comprising a large nave and chancel with two chancel chapels, along with a 220-foot high spire which was added in 1862. The building has undergone various restoration projects over the centuries, including work by the Victorian architect Raphael Brandon, and the building appears largely Gothic in style today. Inside the cathedral, the large wooden screen separating the nave from the chancel was designed by Sir Charles Nicholson and carved by Bowman of Stamford.[7][8] In 2015 the screen was moved eastward to stand in front of the tomb of Richard III.

Vaughan Porch

Vaughan Porch (1897)
Vaughan Porch statues

The Vaughan Porch at the south side of the church was designed by J. L. Pearson, who was also the architect of Truro Cathedral: it is named the Vaughan Porch because it was erected in memory of the Vaughans who served successively as vicars throughout a great part of the nineteenth century.

The front of the porch depicts seven saintly figures set in sandstone niches of importance to Leicester or its former Diocese of Lincoln:[9]

St Guthlac c 673–713 Hugh of Lincoln c 1135–1200 Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln
John Wycliffe c 1329–1384, 'Morning star of the Reformation'
Henry Hastings, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon William Chillingworth 1602–1643 Bishop William Connor Magee 1821–1891


The cathedral contains four separate chapels of four distinct dedications. St Katharine's and St Dunstan's Chapels act as side chapels and are used occasionally for smaller services and vigils. St George's Chapel, which is located at the back (or west) of the cathedral commemorates the armed services, and contains memorials to those from Leicestershire who have been killed in past conflicts. The new Chapel of Christ the King adjoins the East Window. St Katharine's Chapel is on the north side of the Cathedral to the left of the sanctuary. The window above the table shows St Katharine tied to a wheel, and beneath carved panels showing Jesus on the cross, St Francis of Assisi and the 17th-century poet Robert Herrick – indeed, the chapel is sometimes referred to as the "Herrick Chapel".

St Dunstan's Chapel, on the other side of the chancel is specially put aside for prayer. The walls of the chapel are covered with memorials to those who have prayed in the chapel. Scenes from the life of St Dunstan a 10th-century Archbishop of Canterbury are depicted in the south-east window.

St George's Chapel was the chapel of the Guild of St George. The chapel, enclosed by a carved wooden screen, was reconstructed in 1921 and contains memorials to the men of the Royal Leicestershire Regiment. Here the battle honours of the Regiment and the names of those killed in the Crimean, South African and two World Wars are recorded and remembered.[10]

The new Chapel of Christ the King was created at the east end of the cathedral as part of the re-ordering work for the burial of Richard III.



The Leicester Cathedral Choir is made up of the Boys Choir, the Girls Choir and the Cathedral Songmen. Boys and girls are recruited from schools throughout Leicester and Leicestershire, whilst many of the songmen originally joined the choir as trebles and have stayed on after their voice broke. The cathedral also offers scholarships worth around £1000 a year to gap year and university students at Leicester University and De Montfort University.[11] Whilst the choir occasionally produces CDs and other recordings, it is also one of the only cathedral choirs never to have appeared on BBC Radio 3's Choral Evensong.

The choir participates in regular festivals, with the annual RSCM Leicestershire festival in September often taking place in the cathedral itself. Each year during February the choir joins those of Derby and Coventry cathedrals and, more recently, Southwell Minster for what is known as the Midlands Four Choirs Festival. Each cathedral takes it in turns to host the event, although the repertoire is chosen, and music conducted, by the directors of music of all participating choirs.

The cathedral choir tours abroad typically once every three to four years and in other years, the choir has spent a week during the summer in residence at another cathedral church, such as Lincoln, Wells, York and Chester.[12][13] The boys and girls choirs, as well as the younger songmen also spend five days in August at Launde Abbey, a retreat house in east Leicestershire.[14]


The present organ was installed by J. W. Walker & Sons Ltd in 1873 and since then has been rebuilt by Harrison and Harrison in 1929 and 1972. A specification of the organ can be found on the National Pipe Organ Register.[15]


The tower of the cathedral has 13 bells (including a peal of 12). These can be heard on Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings, with peals being rung on special days. The tenor bell weighs 25-0-20.[16]

Tomb of Richard III

Richard III's tomb

On 26 March 2015, King Richard III was reburied in Leicester Cathedral.[17] The last funeral for an English monarch prior to this was for Edward VIII, who died (as Duke of Windsor) in 1972, 43 years before Richard's burial.

His cathedral tomb was designed by the architects van Heningen and Haward. The tombstone is deeply incised with a cross, and consists of a rectangular block of white Swaledale fossil stone, quarried in Yorkshire. It sits on a low plinth made of dark Kilkenny marble and incised with Richard’s name, dates and motto. The plinth also carries his coat of arms in pietra dura.[18]

The remains of Richard III are in a lead ossuary, inside an oaken coffin crafted by Michael Ibsen, a direct descendant of Richard's sister Anne of York, and laid in a brick-lined vault below the floor, and below the plinth and tombstone.[18]

Leicester Grammar School

The cathedral has close links with Leicester Grammar School which used to be located directly next to it. Morning assemblies would take place each week on different days depending on the school's year groups, and services were attended by its pupils. The relationship continues despite the school's move to Great Glen, about seven miles south of Leicester.[19][20]

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Leicester Cathedral)


  1. Leicester Cathedral Go Leicestershire
  2. "£2m package to repair cathedrals". The Guardian. 29 January 2004. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/jan/29/religion.artsfeatures. 
  3. Leicester's Richard III statue reinstated at Cathedral Gardens BBC News Leicester, 26 June 2014
  4. "'Strong evidence' Richard III's body has been found – with a curved spine". The Daily Telegraph (London). 12 September 2012. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/9537600/Strong-evidence-Richard-IIIs-body-has-been-found-with-a-curved-spine.html. 
  5. "Richard III dig: DNA confirms bones are king's". BBC News. 4 February 2013. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-21063882. Retrieved 4 February 2013. 
  6. Richard III tomb design unveiled in Leicester BBC News, 16 June 2014
  7. The spire is a Broach Spire. Arts in Leicestershire
  8. Cathedral Plus – Leicester Cathedral
  9. The Seven Statues of the Vaughan Porch
  10. Leicester Cathedral Guide
  11. Leicester Cathedral Choral Scholarships
  12. Leicester Cathedral Tours
  13. "BCSD - Leicester Cathedral Choir". boysoloist.com. http://www.boysoloist.com/artist.asp?VID=1844. 
  14. "Home - Launde Abbey". Launde Abbey. http://www.laundeabbey.org.uk/. 
  15. "The National Pipe Organ Register - NPOR". npor.org.uk. http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?Fn=Rsearch&rec_index=N04497. 
  16. Dove, R. H. (1982) A Bellringer's Guide to the Church Bells of Britain and Ringing Peals of the World, 6th ed. Aldershot: Viggers
  17. "Richard III: Leicester Cathedral reburial service for king". BBC News. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-leicestershire-32052800. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 http://kingrichardinleicester.com/tomb-design/
  19. Leicester Grammar School Teamwork – Moral & spiritual well being
  20. Leicester Grammar Junior School Who we are