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Leicester Cathedral. My photo.

One thing I know for sure is that if the skeleton discovered under the car park really is Richard III, and if he’s reinterred in Leicester Cathedral, he will be made to feel welcome … very welcome.

 

Leicester Cathedral may not be one of the greatest churches in this land, such as can be found in Durham, Lichfield, or York, but to me and its congregation it’s one of the warmest. Over 30 years ago, one Sunday, my family and I decided to attend a service at the cathedral. We previously attended Enderby Parish Church where my dad and I sang in the choir. (All you Richard Armitage fans out there will know that he attended school in Enderby.) For reasons which have long since been forgotten we decided to make the cathedral our church of choice. We liked what we found and while I may have lapsed somewhat in adulthood, my parents still attend and are very much involved all these years later. The cathedral prides itself on being warm and welcoming to anyone and everyone that steps through its doors.

 

Leicester Guildhall. My photo.

The Cathedral Church of St. Martin in Leicester has an interesting past. Under its foundations exist Roman remains – it’s only a short distance from the site of the Roman Baths and Jewry Wall (the second largest piece of surviving civil Roman building in Britain).  Construction of the original church on the cathedral site was started by the Normans approximately 900 years ago. It wasn’t built as a cathedral but became the “civic church” when it was rebuilt and enlarged between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, establishing close links with merchants and guilds.  The Guildhall still stands next door. The cathedral was restored and, in some places, rebuilt by Victorian architect Raphael Brandon, including the addition of its 220ft spire which looms over the city centre.

 

For 200 years from 680AD, Leicester had its own Saxon bishop. The last one fled south from the invading Danes and for over 1000 years Leicester fell under the care of the Bishops of Lincoln and later Peterborough.  The Diocese of Leicester was finally re-established in 1927 when a new Bishop was installed and the Church of St Martin became a cathedral.

 

The gilded screen & chancel from the nave. My photo.

I suspect that many visitors to the cathedral will be completely unaware of its history and it’s not unusual for people to be overheard commenting that it’s rather small for a cathedral, and maybe not as grand as they were expecting. To me it has a homely feel about it. When I last visited York Minster I wandered around with my eyes mostly looking upwards at the sheer height and awe-inspiring beauty of the architecture. In Leicester I feel comfortable. To me it’s still a beautiful building, with some wonderful stained glass and interesting gothic architecture but I don’t have to queue to buy a ticket or vie for the best camera position with hordes of tourists. It’s a quiet place for contemplation, and there’s always someone around to make you feel welcome.

 

Even with congregations falling (although not in this church where it’s rising) and Leicester being one of the most culturally diverse cities in the country, the cathedral still has an important part to play in the local community whatever your faith. With diversity frequently comes intolerance and the city has twice in recent years been subjected to visits from some of the less tolerant organisations in our society holding marches and causing trouble.  Both times, the cathedral held a peace vigil the night before the marches. Both times, the church was full and was attended by representatives of all the city’s faiths – Humanists, Jews, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Bahá’ís, Muslims, Hindus & Christians. Multi-faith services are commonplace at the cathedral. One was attended by the Queen, Prince Phillip and the Duchess of Cambridge when they came to visit Leicester as part of the Diamond Jubilee. Leicester people who were unable to attend the service gathered outside and around the city in their thousands to cheer and wave and make the Royal family feel welcome.

 

Richard III memorial. My photo.

I was lucky enough to go to school in Market Bosworth and was there in 1985 when the quincentenary of the Battle of Bosworth Field was celebrated. Being only thirteen at the time, I have a less than vivid memory of what I learned; however, for as long as I’ve been visiting the cathedral I have been aware of the memorial to Richard III that lies in the chancel. It was laid there in 1980 so there was a never a time for me when it wasn’t under my feet as I made my way to the altar to receive a blessing and then later, communion.

 

For me, Richard III belongs in Leicester. If the skeleton really is him, then knowingly or otherwise, the city has quietly watched over his body for all these years and I believe that people would be proud to welcome him into the cathedral and give him a final resting place befitting his status.

 

Is Leicester Cathedral fit for a King? I think it is, but I’ll leave you to make your own minds up.

 


 

If you’re interested in seeing more of the cathedral, it’s possible to take a tour inside it online. Type “Leicester Cathedral” into Google maps, then place the little street-view orange man over the middle of the building. You should then be able to move about inside. When you first arrive inside the cathedral, look down and you will see the Richard III memorial at your feet! And make sure you look up as you move around, the roof is lovely.

 

The cathedral website can be found here.

 

All the photos above are my own (I apologise for the terrible quality of the one of the screen – I have yet to master lighting issues) and I have posted some more on my Flickr which can be accessed here.

 

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