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Leicester Cathedral

History

Cathedral GardensThe first recorded mention of the church of St Martin comes from 1086, 20 years after the Norman Conquest. Over the centuries, this church grew and expanded both physically and spiritually, surviving the Reformation and the tumultuous period of religious upheaval which occupied most of the Tudor reign, and undergoing extensive restoration in the late 19th century.

Following the First World War, the efforts of the then Vicar and later Archdeacon of Leicester, Frederick Brodie Macnutt, led to St Martin’s church being selected as the Cathedral of the restored diocese of Leicester. The building was finally hallowed as Leicester Cathedral in 1927, with Macnutt as the first Provost of Leicester.

Throughout the 20th century the Cathedral continued to develop, establishing a firm choral tradition and being beautified by the generosity of its patrons and congregation. In 2000, the Cathedral became a pioneer, with the Very Revd Vivienne Faull being appointed as the country’s first female Cathedral Provost (later Dean).

2011 saw the opening of St Martins House, the new administrative base for the Cathedral and Diocese, as well as being a centre for outreach into the community and conferencing facility. In March 2012, Leicester Cathedral was visited by Her Majesty the Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and Duchess of Cambridge, on the inaugural visit of her Diamond Jubilee Tour, and a service was held celebrating the cultural diversity of Leicester. The present Dean, the Very Revd David Monteith, was installed in May 2013, and in 2014 the area surrounding the Cathedral was transformed into Cathedral Gardens, a new green space of beauty and contemplation at the heart of city.

Now for over 85 years a Cathedral, and nearing a millennium as an established site of Christian worship, Leicester Cathedral is playing its part in telling a new story, with the reinterment of the mortal remains of King Richard III – whose grave was long believed lost until its recent rediscovery – due to take place in Spring 2015.

 

Architecture

Architecture to note includes the Vaughan Porch designed by J L Pearson (architect of Truro Cathedral), the tower by Raphael Brandon and the internal ordering of the choir and screen by Charles Nicholson. The glass entrance doors underneath the gallery at the West end of the Cathedral were given in 1996 by Clare Hilton “to glorify God in gratitude for Christian faith, hope and love”. The design depicts the parting of the Red Sea and the pillars of fire and cloud, from the Exodus story of the flight of the Children of Israel from Egypt.

The Stained Glass includes two windows by the well-known Arts and Crafts specialist Christopher Whall, as well as a third later window designed by his daughter.

Proposals for internal reordering of the Cathedral have been approved by the Cathedral Fabrics Commission for England. These proposals will allow the mission and the work of the Cathedral to grow and take into account changes that will allow for the reinterment of King Richard lll. They also include improvements to the layout of the building for worship and for two new stained glass windows designed by Tom Denny. Building work on the internal reordering will commence in late 2014.

Attractions

Richard III memorial stone – Leicester Cathedral is the only Cathedral in the country to feature a memorial to King Richard III, who died at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, and whose body was buried in the churchyard of the Church of the Grey Friars. Believed lost for hundreds of years, Richard III’s mortal remains were discovered by the University of Leicester Archaeological Services in 2012, and are to be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral in 2015.

St Martins House – St Martins House opened in 2011 as a centre of outreach and enterprise, acting as an administrative centre for the Diocese and Cathedral, and offering a new heart to the city.

St George’s Chapel – St George’s Chapel is the regimental chapel for the Royal Tigers, the Leicestershire Regiment which also began the well-known local rugby club.

The Organ – the Cathedral organ was fully restored in 1930 by Harrison & Harrison Ltd, and recently celebrated its 80th anniversary. Every summer the Cathedral plays host to a number of visiting organists. Recent recitalists have included James Lancelot, Nigel Ogden and John Scott Whiteley.

The Choir and DioSing! – the boys, girls, Songmen and Choral Scholars sing at services throughout the week, under the direction of Christopher Johns. Leicester Cathedral also coordinates DioSing!, a pioneering mission to engage schoolchildren throughout the Diocese in singing.

Local Interest

The Guildhall – now a museum, and host to a wide variety of performances and events.

CURVE Theatre and the Phoenix Cinema and Art Centre – two vibrant arts centres, putting Leicester back on the cultural map.

New Walk Museum and Art Gallery – Leicester's oldest museum has wide-ranging collections spanning the natural and cultural world. A family-friendly day out, displays include Egyptians, Wild Space, World Arts and Leicester’s Fine Art collections.

Jewry Wall Museum – situated next to the remains of a Roman public bathhouse, thought to be one of the tallest surviving pieces of Roman masonry in the country, the Jewry Wall Museum is a celebration of the Roman history of Leicester, as well as other periods of history.

Highcross Shopping Centre – an expansive retail complex, featuring such stores as John Lewis, the Apple Store, Debenhams, Waterstones and Next, as well as the Showcase Cinema De Lux and a wide variety of restaurants.

Other churches nearby include St Nicholas (the oldest church in Leicester - Saxon) and St Mary de Castro (founded 1107 and the place where Geoffrey Chaucer was married).

Leicester is also home to numerous temples (including the only Jain temple in Europe), mosques and gurdwaras in what is believed to be the UK’s first ‘plural city’. The St Philip’s Centre is a centre for study and engagement in a multi-faith society.

Abbey Park – containing the ruins of Leicester Abbey, and a memorial statue to Cardinal Wolsey.