Chantry chapels were abolished by the Act of I Edward VI, cap 14: "The King shall have and enjoy such goods, chattels, jewels, plate, ornaments, and other moveables ... of every such college, chantry, free chapel ... ". The buildings in which the endowed Masses were offered stand stark and unused in many of England's Medieval Cathedrals.
It must have seemed to Augustus Welby Pugin a miracle of restorative grace when he was commissioned to design a magnificent Gothic Cathedral in South London. And when S George's Cathedral was finished and Pugin was dead, his son Edward Pugin was commissioned to build within it a chantry chapel for the offering in perpetuity of Holy Mass for Sir John Knill, Master of the Plumbers' Guild, and Lord Mayor of London.
Just as many earlier Catholic Mayors, such as Sir John Percival, had provided for 'perpetuity', so now there was a Catholic Lord Mayor who could endow his own chantry in London's new Catholic Cathedral.
Sadly, the Devil had his own, characteristic and extensive, plans. The cathedral was largely destroyed in the Blitz. Lamentably, it was the Pugin magnificence of S George's which suffered, while the large church near Victoria Station survived undamaged. (Had I been an Abwehr agent in London, I would have ensured that the Luftwaffe authorities in Berlin had the red-brick minaret in Westminster on their list as an important military communications facility.)
The good news is that Knill's chantry survived. You can go and see it, together with the Petre Chantry. (Southwark Cathedral was rebuilt and reopened in 1958. But the Devil had not finished his hatred of this fine building: in 1989, the vandals broke in and "reordered" the Sanctuary.)
Chantry Chapels were endowed so that, in each one, there was financial provision for a priest to say Mass there daily. I wonder ... I would love to know ... if, in Southwark Cathedral, the daily Mass for Sir John Knill is still said in his gracious chantry.
Or, like the dead and lifeless chantries neatly maintained by the Anglicans, is it left to the spiders?
My old school was originally set up by its founder in his will as an adjunct to his chantry endowment. Some decades later when the possibility of confiscation loomed, his nephew who was his residuary legatee brought, and won, a case, to have that clause of the will declared invalid on some technical ground that I forget, inherited what had been the chantry assets free and clear, and used them himself to re-endow the school. Thereby illustrating the importance of having a good lawyer.
Many chantry priests doubled as the local schoolmaster. Deprived of the income from the chantries, they had to make alternative provision for themselves.. The result was the educational wasteland of Edward VI's reign.
I am told that some of the endowed Masses recorded on plaques in the side chapels of Westminster Cathedral are no longer said. Is this a combination of fewer priests/ concelebration?
"And I have built
Two chantries where the sad and solemn priests
Sing still for Richard’s soul."
And every time I read those lines from Shakespeare, I wonder: are priests still singing in those chantries, and if not, why not?
If not, why not? Because Shakespeare was mistaken, at least where Syon is concerned. The Brigittine foundation was intended as a 'power house of prayer' for the House of Lancaster. It had nothing to do with supposed reparation for Bolingbroke's usurpation.
Why do you have to be so horrible about Westminster Cathedral? Many of us really love it, and it's upsetting when you say things like that. It's not funny at all.
Even Luther was compelled to admit - I can't remember where, probably in his "Tischreden" ("Tabletalk") "It was almost impossible for a child to go ignorant under the papacy."
"The King shall have and enjoy such goods ...."
That fine historian W G Hoskins aptly described it as 'The Age of Plunder'.
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