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David Ford, History EditorTours > Winchester Cathedral

Tour the Winchester Cathedral
by David Nash Ford BA, Editor, History on Britannia

Saxon Mortuary Chests

Seated atop the decorative screen surrounding the presbytery of Winchester Cathedral, both north and south, are two sets of three Tudor Mortuary Chests. The bodies contained within them are so ancient that all that remains are neatly stacked piles of bones: the last remnants of many of the old Saxon and Danish Kings of Wessex and England, along with a few early Bishops. Their names can be made out on the sides if your eyes, and your Latin, is good: from familiar characters like King Canute to most obscure Royalty like King Cynegils. A full list is given on a board below.

The old Saxon Kings were originally buried in the Saxon 'Old Minster' which stood just to the north of the present cathedral which replaced it. When it was pulled down, the Royal remains were exhumed and placed in mortuary chests around St. Swithun's Shrine in the new building. They were revered like holy relics. However, being somewhat unofficial, they survived the destruction of the Dissolution of the Monasteries and were placed in their present position. Earlier versions of the chests can be seen in the Triforium Gallery Museum in the cathedral.

Next Stop: Great Screen




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