St George’s Chapel
Berkshire SL4 1NJ
St George’s Chapel is situated within the walls of Windsor Castle. In 1348 King Edward III founded a Royal College of Canons dedicated to St George as a symbol of his devotion and generosity to the church and his military superiority in Europe.
The primary purpose of the College was to attend to the religious needs of the knights of his newly formed Order of the Garter, the most important chivalric order in medieval Europe. The chapel Edward had built at Windsor and dedicated to Edward the Confessor was re-dedicated to St George whose knightly virtues Edward greatly admired.
Chapel was begun in 1475
The present St George's Chapel was begun by King Edward IV in 1475. It is here in the Chapel that the Queen invests new knights as Members of the Order of the Garter. Edward IV also intended the Chapel to be his burial place thus establishing the tradition of English monarchs and relatives being buried in the Chapel. On entering the Chapel the overwhelming impression is of size and grandeur.
Built in the Perpendicular style the slender columns soar gracefully upwards, culminating in an intricate roof of interwoven fan vaulting. The Chapel contains a remarkable collection of medieval and modern monuments and relics. Although built to service the College of St George and the Order of the Garter, it is also the sovereign’s chapel and the tombs and ashes of the Queen’s own father, mother and sister give this Chapel a personal feel.
The Choir and High Altar are the religious focus of the Chapel. Built in the same style as the Nave the east end is richly decorated and opulent. The reredos and east window are a memorial to Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert. Designed by that prolific Victorian architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, it was completed in 1863.
15th Century Garter Knights Stalls
The choir stalls and 15th century wooden Garter Knights’ stalls are in the main body of the Choir. The Knights’ stalls are the back tier, surmounted by elaborately carved canopies. Above the stalls hang the heraldic banners of the incumbent Knights. Since the 14th century it has been the custom to hang the helmet, sword and banner of the Knight above the stall but in more modern times with the admission of women as Companions of the Garter this tradition has been modified to include a crown or coronet in place of the helmet and sword.
When a Knight dies, their trappings are taken down in a special ceremony before being replaced with the new incumbents’ arms during the Investiture. A small copper, gilt or enamelled plate with the deceased Knights’ arms, name and date of investiture on it is placed on the back of their stall. There are over 800 of these plates dating back to 1390.
Past Kings & Queens buried in Choir Stalls
Royals buried in the Choir are King Henry VIII (1547), his third wife Jane Seymour (1537) and King Charles I (smuggled in during a snowstorm after his execution in 1649). The Royal Vault beneath the floor in the Choir houses a number of other royals including King George III (1820), King George IV (1830) and King William IV (1837).
Raised up on the left of the High Alter is Edward IV’s Chantry chapel and two projecting windows. The wooden window known as the Royal Closet was built by Henry VIII to allow his first queen, Catherine of Aragon to attend the Garter Ceremony without being seen publicly. The Royal closet is flamboyantly decorated with Tudor heraldic beasts.
Also, within the Choir are the gates of the Edward IV Chantry. They are England’s best surviving example of medieval decorative ironwork. Edward IV intended his memorial tomb to be in the north aisle of the Choir and built the stone Chantry chapel above the intended site. The memorial tomb never eventuated but Edward IV is buried beside the High Alter.
Plan Your Visit
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The Chapel is closed to visitors on Sundays (unless attending a service), 24 December and Ceremonial occasions. Otherwise it is open every day.
Visitors are welcome to attend services. Evensong is sung by the choristers each evening at 17.15 hours except Wednesdays. There is no better way to end your visit to Windsor Castle than to experience a service in St George’s Chapel. The service lasts 45 minutes.
This charge is included in the entry ticket to the Castle.
Contact & further information
+44 (0)1753 865 538
Google Maps - St George's Chapel