Leicester Cathedral closed its doors on 2nd January to allow major renovations to take place inside the building. The £12.7m ‘Leicester Cathedral Revealed’ project is partly funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and aims to improve access and provide better facilities for visitors. The project will create a new Heritage Learning Centre alongside the Cathedral, freeing up the sacred spaces for their original purpose.
During the Cathedral’s closure, the coffin pall created for the reinterment of King Richard III has been placed on display at the Visitor Centre, with a video giving a glimpse into the Cathedral’s interior, including the tomb of Richard III and the stained glass windows in St Katharine’s chapel.
The Leicester Cathedral Revealed project is due to be completed in Autumn 2023 when the Cathedral will re-open to visitors. For further information and updates on the project, visit the Cathedral’s website
THE COFFIN PALL OF KING RICHARD III
Coffin palls were used in medieval burials of high-status individuals. They were typically made from heavy materials such as velvet and showed figures linked to the person who had died.
As part of the preparation for the King’s reinterment in 2015, Leicester Cathedral commissioned textile artist Jacqui Binns to design and make this pall. It was made possible with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and matched by funds raised by the Cathedral.
One side of the pall represents the past and has people of the time of Richard III. The other side has figures of the present, showing some of people who have been significant in the recent story of the King. There are also six seraphim, the highest order of angels. Two at the head and foot of the coffin carry shields; one with the symbol of St Martin for the Cathedral and one with the cinquefoil rose of Leicester.
On the ‘Past’ side there are three groups of people:
An anonymous mourner, representing all who mourn
A lady wearing a truncated hennin and rich robes
A knight in shining armour
Prince Edward, Richard’s son, holding a handkerchief signifying ill health
St Martin, patron saint of the Cathedral with his robe cut into two
Richard’s Queen, Anne Neville, in heraldic robes
A medieval Bishop
A Grey Friar holding the Greyfriars church, where Richard was originally buried
A medieval priest holding a chalice
On the ‘Present’ side of the pall:
Prof Sir Robert Burgess, Vice Chancellor of the University of Leicester, holding the Fielding Johnson building where Richard III’s mortal remains were coffined.
Dr Richard Buckley, Co-Director of the ULAS, holding a stone fleur-de-lys
Dr Jo Appleby, project osteo-archaeologist, holding the skull of King Richard III
Sir Peter Soulsby, the elected Mayor, holding a briefcase and a scroll with the city logo
Dean of Leicester, the Very Revd David Monteith, holding a Bible
Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, holding a crozier
Philippa Langley is seen holding a portrait of King Richard III
Dr John Ashdown-Hill, the historian, is holding one of his books
Dr Phil Stone, chairman of the Richard III Society, holding a silver boar
The crown that sits above the pall was made for the 2015 reinterment of King Richard III in the Cathedral, it was designed and commissioned by Dr John Ashdown-Hill.
Its design is influenced by Richard’s sister, Margaret of Burgundy, whose own medieval crown is one of the few that still survive to this day. The medieval crown used by Richard III and other Plantagenet kings was destroyed during the English Civil War of 1642-51.
This funeral crown is gold plated, with enamelled white roses set with garnets and sapphires interspersed with pearls. The red and blue semi-precious stones reflect the Yorkist colours. The open style crown was designed to be similar to the one Richard wore over his helmet at the Battle of Bosworth.