12th October 1537. Pray for the Soul of…

The concept of Chantries (from the Latin ‘to sing’), goes back to the Council of Attigny in 765. It developed via the elaborate liturgy of The Cluniac Order, when abbots and bishops agreed to say masses, and recite the Psalter, for the good of the souls of the ‘confraternity’.

Eventually over 2,300 Chantries and Guild Chapels which often supported the poor and sick, along with some education provision, came into being.

However suppression of these institutions, deemed Popish, came in the reign of the arch-Protestant Edward Tudor, born Today at Hampton Court in 1537.

For ten years later, now King Edward VI, he enacted The 1547 Chantry Act which saw the final dissolution of chantries, which had been endowed for chantry priests to pray  for the souls of their wealthy patrons.(1)

Old picture of St Mary de Castro

Old picture of St Mary de Castro, near Leicester Castle.



Patrons such as the noble, Robert de Beaumont, appointed Earl of Leicester by Henry I, who had founded the Collegiate Church of St. Mary Castro, Leicester, with a Dean and 12 Canons to pray for the souls of the first three Norman Kings as well as for Beaumont and his family.


The concept of institutional chantries came in the 1180’s, with the richer tending to endow ‘in perpetuity’, whilst others were fixed term.

Henry II founded chantries in France for two sons who died early, as well as endowing a daily mass for his own soul at the Abbey of Dore, Herefordshire, with ‘four monks-priest, to last into perpetuity’.

Edward's Shrine and Chantry of Henry V.

1904 illustration of St. Edward’s Shrine and Chantry of Henry V at Westminster Abbey.

One magnificent chantry granted in perpetuity was built at Westminster Abbey for Henry V, the victor at Agincourt.

The first perpetual lay chantry was endowed by Richard Fitzreiner, Sheriff of the City of London in his private chapel at Broad Colney, Hertfordshire, operating in 1212.

Chantry Chapelof S James at Holy Trinity Goodramgate York where Roger de Holme left a bequest of £400 in 1396

Chantry Chapel of S James at Holy Trinity, Goodramgate York, where Roger de Holme left a bequest of £400 in 1396


Wealthy merchants paid for chantries such as Roger de Holme, cloth merchant and mayor in 14thc York, who left 46% of his will to pious bequests, which included the poor.(see picture left).


Most chantries in fact were founded by lay people for the safe repose of ancestors, such as that founded ‘to pray for the soul of Sir Walter Blount’, standard bearer for Henry IV at Shrewsbury who had been appointed Constable of Tutbury Castle by John of Gaunt.


However many of today’s surviving Chantry Chapels belonged to bishops, as opposed to lay people as we see at Winchester Cathedral below.

Chantry Chapel for Bishop Fox, Wichester Cathedral.

Chantry Chapel for Bishop Fox, Winchester Cathedral.

Chapel for Bishop Edington at Winchester/

Chapel for Bishop Edington at Winchester Cathedral.







(1a) The Protestant Edward reigned from 28th January 1547 until his death in 1553.

(1b)  Chantry priests were not Ordinaries and did not offer public Mass.

Ref: Illustration from Adam and Charles Black 1904. Look and Learn.com/chantry-chapel-of-Henry-V.

Ref: rectaration.blogspot.co.uk/Pics of bishops’ chantries.

Ref: users.trytel.com/florilegium/poreli/Pic. Image of York.

Ref: wikipedia.org/chantries.



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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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