Eton College Chapel

Eton College Chapel

Eton College Chapel is the chapel of Eton College, an independent school in the United Kingdom.

Never completed due to the Wars of the Roses, the Chapel should have been a little over double its current length; a plaque on a building opposite the West End marks the point to which it should have reached.The Chapel is built in the late Gothic or Perpendicular style.

The fan vaulting was installed in the 1950s after the wooden roof (there was no money for a vault to be installed in the 1400s after King Henry VI was deposed) became infested with deathwatch beetle. It was completed in three years and is made of concrete, faced with stone, supported from steel trusses, with genuine hand-carved Clipsham stone for the stone ribs supporting each bay.


Eton College chapel is in frequent use, with at least one service a day, and many additional services which are in popular demand, ranging from Taizé to Roman Catholic Communion, to Compline. In these the Chapel is lit by a mere dozen candles, making it a magical place.


Henry attached the greatest importance to the religious aspects of his new foundation and he ensured that the services would be conducted on a magnificent scale by providing an establishment of 10 priest Fellows, 10 chaplains, 10 clerks and 16 choristers. there were 14 services a day plus prayers that were said. There would also be masses offered for the founders parents and after his death for the founder instead. This last custom reflected the belief in the Middle Ages that prayers said for a dead person's soul hastened the progress of said soul from Purgatory to Paradise.

This was befitting for a church that was to later become a great place of pilgrimage in Europe for about a decade pilgrims attracted by the relics and the Indulgences flocked to Eton on the Feast of the Assumption in August, when there was a fair lasting six days on the playing fields.

For around forty years before the present Chapel was completed sevices were held in the parish church which was dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin. In the 1460s the annual influx of pilgrims died and the large establishment of clergy was permanently reduced in size.

Today the Chapel services still retain their key part in the life of the College: boys attend Chapel once on Sundays in addition to compulsory services three or four days a week, and the numerous optional services that take place out of school hours.

The choir

The choir which sings in the Chapel is made up of boys from the school, and is directed by the Precentor and Director of Music, Ralph Allwood. Up to 75% of the choir are former members of various cathedral and collegiate choirs, and many have been admitted under the school's Music Scholarship scheme. Many go on to continue their singing careers as choral scholars at Oxford or Cambridge.

Nowadays the choir only sings at three or four compulsory services a week, as recent cuts in the services mean that the choir only makes appearances to boys on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. There are a number of other services that are optional. As second chapel Lower Chapel was built in 1890 to accommodate the growing number of boys at the school.

Acoustics and lighting

The Chapel is unique amongst its comparably-sized peers in that it eschews modern musical technology, in particular sound boards (a common feature of English churches and chapels in which medium-to-large-scale services and concerts are heard) in favour of what the Precentor, Ralph Allwood, calls a more "organic" sound produced without the use of equipment (apart from microphones in the pulpit and lectern).

Wall Paintings

The wall paintings in the Chapel are considered to be the most remarkable work of art in the College. They are the work of at least four master painters who took eight years to complete them (1479-87). In the Flemish style the adorn the sides of the chapel. On the North side the paintings depict the Virgin Mary (to whom the chapel is dedicated), while thse on the South side tell a popular medieval story about a mythical Empress. These paintings were whitewashed over in 1560 as a result of an order from the new protestant church authorities which banned depiction so mythical miracles. They were left obscured and forgotten for the best part of 300 years until they were rediscovered in 1847, and it was not until 1923 that they were cleaned, restored and revealed by the removal of the stall canopies.

Chapel Windows

The Chapel glass was all blown out by the bomb that fell on Upper School (a building nearby), except for the window above the organ. The fine East Window is the work of Miss Evie Hone of Dublin. The designs for the windows on either side, four on the North four on the South, are by John Piper and were executed in glass by Patrick Reyntiens. The subjects are divided into four miracles on the North side and four parables on the [South side. The miracles are: The Miraculous Draft of Fishes, the Feeding of the Five Thousand, the Stilling of the Waters, and the Raising of Lazarus. The parables are: The Light under a Bushel, the House built on the Rock, the Lost Sheep, and the Sower.

ee also

*Late Gothic architecture
*Eton College
*Eton College Collections
*Syon Abbey
*King's College Chapel, Cambridge
*King's College, Cambridge
*Eton Fives

External links

* [ Eton College history]

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