Experts unravel the mystery of Westminster Abbey's lost chapel trends now

Experts unravel the mystery of Westminster Abbey's lost chapel trends now
Experts unravel the mystery of Westminster Abbey's lost chapel trends now

Experts unravel the mystery of Westminster Abbey's lost chapel trends now

England's former Queen consort worshipped a disembowelled saint at a 'long-lost' chapel at Westminster Abbey, a new study shows. 

The Chapel of St Erasmus was built at a section of Westminster Abbey in the late 1470s under order of Elizabeth Woodville, wife of King Edward IV and Queen consort, also known as the 'White Queen'.

Experts say the chapel was likely used by the White Queen and other members of the royal family to worship St Erasmus, a Christian saint and martyr. 

The chapel likely contained gruesome images of the saint's death, as well as one of his teeth, among other relics that were stored there. 

The Chapel of St Erasmus was used for royal burials and to house the abbey's relics of St Erasmus, a Christian saint and martyr, before being demolished at the beginning of the 16th century. Evidence from the new study has helped to create a visual 15th century reconstruction of the east end of the church and its furnishes (pictured)

The Chapel of St Erasmus was used for royal burials and to house the abbey's relics of St Erasmus, a Christian saint and martyr, before being demolished at the beginning of the 16th century. Evidence from the new study has helped to create a visual 15th century reconstruction of the east end of the church and its furnishes (pictured) 

Elizabeth Woodville, wife of King Edward IV and Queen consort, is now also known as the 'White Queen'. She was the grandmother of Henry VIII

Elizabeth Woodville, wife of King Edward IV and Queen consort, is now also known as the 'White Queen'. She was the grandmother of Henry VIII

The Chapel of St Erasmus had been in existence for less than a quarter of a century before it was demolished in 1502. 

What was the Chapel of St Erasmus?

The Chapel of St Erasmus was a short-lived chapel at Westminster Abbey in London.

It was built in the late 1470s at the behest of Elizabeth Woodville, wife of King Edward IV and Queen consort.

The Chapel of St Erasmus was demolished in 1502 to make way for Westminster Abbey's Lady Chapel, a burial place of 15 kings and queens. 

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Now, all that remains of St Erasmus chapel is an intricately carved frame, sculptured out of the mineral alabaster.

Visitors to Westminster Abbey can still the remnant by looking above the entrance to the chapel of Our Lady of the Pew in Westminster's north ambulatory. 

This frame would have surrounded a 'reredos' – the decoration behind the alter – in the chapel.

The study speculates that this decoration likely depicted St Erasmus being disembowelled – tied down alive to a table while his intestines were wound out on a windlass (a rotating cylinder often used on ships). 

Little has been known about the role of Chapel of St Erasmus historically, but the new study presents all available evidence, including a newly discovered, centuries-old royal grant, to reveal more. 

'Very little attention has been paid to this short-lived chapel,' said John Goodall, member of the Westminster Abbey Fabric Advisory Commission and one of the authors of the new study. 

'It receives only passing mention in abbey histories, despite the survival of elements of the reredos.

'The quality of workmanship on this survival suggestions that investigation of the original chapel is long overdue.' 

Visitors to Westminster Abbey can still the remnant by looking above the entrance to the chapel of Our Lady of the Pew in Westminster's north ambulatory (pictured)

Visitors to Westminster Abbey can still the remnant by looking above the entrance to the chapel of Our Lady of the Pew in Westminster's north ambulatory (pictured) 

Upper part of the St Erasmus reredos, Westminster Abbey. The study speculates that a long-lost part of this decoration depicted St Erasmus being disembowelled

Upper part of the St Erasmus reredos, Westminster Abbey. The study speculates that a long-lost part of this decoration depicted St Erasmus being disembowelled

'The White Queen' 

Elizabeth Woodville, wife of King Edward IV and Queen consort, is now also known as the 'White Queen'. She was the grandmother of Henry VIII.  

A woman of great beauty, she was already a widow with two sons when Edward IV married her in May 1464.

The match was repugnant to the ruling nobility of the House of York because she was a daughter of the Lancastrians, the traditional enemies of the Yorkists, and because she was not of royal rank. 

Her penchant for procuring high offices and titles of nobility for her relatives increased her widespread unpopularity. 

Elizabeth bore Edward two surviving sons and five daughters, including the mother of Henry VIII. 

Within three months after the death (on April 9, 1483) of Edward IV, however, Gloucester had defeated Elizabeth’s party and seized the throne from Edward IV’s son and successor, the 12-year-old Edward V. 

It is not entirely clear why Elizabeth, who had taken sanctuary, surrendered her younger son (on June 16) and later her daughters to Richard III. Soon both sons disappeared from Richard’s custody, presumably murdered. 

After Henry Tudor became king as Henry VII in 1485, he married Elizabeth’s eldest daughter.

In 1487 Elizabeth was disgraced, probably for treasonable

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