The Altar

The Altar itself is hidden from view by the Laudian throw-over altar frontals. The Altar is a carved table of oak designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and it has been copied in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel on the north. The gradine or shelf at the back of the Wren Altar was made at the same time.

When Queen Jane Seymour died soon after the birth of her son (later King Edward VI) in 1537, King Henry VIII commanded that her heart be buried beneath the stone altar which then stood in the sanctuary of the Chapel Royal. Her body lay in state here and was buried in St George's Chapel, Windsor, three weeks later.

The Altar Cross, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens to match the seventeenth century candlesticks presented to the Chapel Royal by King Charles II, was given in 1894 by a 'Grace and Favour' resident in memory of her soldier-husband.

On the 5th of December 1710 Nicholas Hawksmoor, Sir Christopher Wren's assistant, submitted on behalf of Wren two designs for the altar-screen or reredos to Queen Anne for her to choose from. The Queen chose the present oval design, carved in oak under the direction of Grinling Gibbons. It was probably intended to be simply decorative in the English Baroque style, but the oval design has always been a symbol of the Resurrection of Christ at Easter, of which Easter eggs are still a popular reminder. From the 1840s the space was filled by a painting of Saint Michael the Archangel defeating the devil. The painting was removed in the 1880s, and the reredos now looks as Wren intended.

All photographs of the Chapel Royal or taken in the Chapel Royal are with the gracious permission of Her Majesty The Queen

Copyright © HM Chapel Royal and The Choral Foundation 2011-2015

Photography by Richard Champness
Website maintained by Charlotte Duff