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Chapel of St Peter Ad Vincula

The tomb of Sir Richard Cholmondeley

Although its original function was as a parish church, this became the chapel for the inhabitants of the Tower during the mid thirteenth century at the time of Henry III. The completion of his new curtain wall brought the chapel within the boundaries of the Tower. Dedication to St Peter in chains has long been thought apt for the last resting place of so many Tower prisoners, but the consecration obviously preceded this use, and probably took place on 1 August, the feast of St Peter ad Vincula, in 1110.

The original building was destroyed by fire in 1512 and rebuilt and re-sited so the south wall of the previous chapel and is a fine example of early Tudor ecclesiastical architecture.

Many of those who died in the Tower or perished on the scaffold were buried here, often with no marker. Identification was therefore difficult when the chapel floor was lifted and the bones exhumed as part of the chapel's restoration in 1876-7. Those remains found in the nave were reburied in the crypt, while those of people of distinction known to have been buried in the chancel - Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard, Lady Jane Grey (who had literally kept their heads about them!) and the Dukes of Northumberland and Somerset among other - were replaced there beneath marble paving giving their names and armorial bearings. A tablet on the west wall of the chapel lists thirty-four 'remarkable persons' buried in the chapel in the period 1534-1747, and includes the three saints, Sir Thomas More, John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester and Philip Howard.

Although not buried here, one of the oldest monuments in the chapel is the alabaster tomb-chest of Sir Richard Cholmondeley and his wife. He was Lieutenant of the Tower during the reign of Henry VIII but lost favour by firing some of the Tower's artillery at the City, during rioting between Londoners and Lombards. When opened in 1876 during the Victorian restoration, the tomb revealed a Tudor font cut into four sections and is believed to have been hidden there during the Commonwealth. It has now been reassembled and can be seen by the west entrance.

The chapel became the garrison church in 1877 and was made a Chapel Royal (outside episcopal jurisdiction) in 1966. Today it serves as the parish church for the Tower community. Under normal circumstances only visitors on a Yeoman Warder tour or those attending a religious service will be allowed inside the chapel.

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