First Catholic service to be celebrated at Hampton Court Palace’s Chapel Royal in over 450 years

6 January 2016

History will be made on the evening of Tuesday 9 February when the Genesis Foundation and the Choral Foundation bring together leaders of the Catholic Church and the Church of England for the first service according to the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church to be celebrated since the 1550s at Hampton Court Palace’s Chapel Royal.

This historic service of Vespers in King Henry VIII’s chapel will be celebrated by His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols and will include a sermon from The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dr Richard Chartres, KCVO, Bishop of London and Dean of Her Majesty’s Chapels Royal ­– an unprecedented coming together of the Catholic and Anglican churches on such an historically important site.

Celebrated mostly in Latin, another first in over 450 years, Vespers will be dedicated to St John the Baptist as the Chapel Royal was built by Cardinal Wolsey on the site of a chapel of the Knights of St John Hospitaller, dedicated to that Saint.

Members of the public will have the chance to attend this service through a free ballot.

The musical element of the service has been chosen and will be performed by Harry Christophers and his ensembles The Sixteen and Genesis Sixteen. Paying tribute to the rich and turbulent religious history of the Chapel Royal, the ensembles will sing Thomas Tallis’ Magnificat, William Cornysh’s Salve Regina and John Taverner’s ‘Leroy’ Kyrie.

Before Vespers is celebrated, the Cardinal and Dean will be in conversation under the heading Faith and the Crown in the Great Hall. Their discussion will be wide-ranging and will address the relationship between the two churches and the monarchy. Taking the Chapel Royal as their starting point, the two men will discuss its role in maintaining elements of Catholic worship to the present day. The emphasis will be very much on exploring the bonds between their churches and the dialogue they have had over the centuries, many of which are exemplified by the Chapel Royal during its often turbulent history.

Founder and Chairman of the Genesis Foundation, John Studzinski said:

“Dialogue between faiths is much needed and welcomed in these turbulent times. We need to recognise that we have more in common than not. I’m therefore delighted that the Genesis Foundation is enabling the Catholic and Anglican churches to engage in dialogue on this site that is so rich in history, both theological and musical. It will be an unforgettable occasion and is genuinely one for the history books.”

Michele Price, Director of Development, The Choral Foundation said:

“The Chapel Royal at Hampton Court played centre stage to the religious changes in the 16th Century.  Its musicians and composers met the challenge of serving the spiritual needs of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I, by producing new and beautiful music and in so doing became ‘the cradle of English church music.’ This historic occasion enables us to explore our rich heritage and bring together Christian traditions as we celebrate 500 years of Hampton Court Palace.”

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