St. George’s Chapel, Windsor

The highly decorative exterior of St. George's Chapel

The highly decorative exterior of St. George’s Chapel

Such is the wealth of cultural offerings on view at Windsor that this is already my third post for this day trip. The beauty that is St. George’s Chapel deserves a lot more attention than I’ll be giving it in this post (due in part to the very inhospitable and restrictive policy they maintain on photography).

The nave, with a wealth of stained glass in the distance.

The nave, with a wealth of stained glass in the distance.

Inside and out the chapel is one of those works of architecture that seems to have all the qualities of an ornate jewel box. All thought of construction, pressure and weight distribution is smothered beneath a layer of ornamentation. The term chapel is clearly misleading as this building could almost vie with some cathedrals in size, and clearly surpasses many of them in the richness of its decoration.

Jewel box like details on the interior, in this case a set of scrollwork doors dating back to the chapel of the 13th century as Henry II would have known it.

Jewel box like details on the interior, in this case a set of scrollwork doors dating back to the chapel of the 13th century as Henry II would have known it.

The Royal protection it has enjoyed means that this is the only medieval chantry foundation to have survived the reformation, making it unique in England. The Chapel became the mother church for the Order of the Garter, and is perhaps most famous for the annual ceremony held here with all the pomp that comes with it.

Although very close to the castle it is quite obvious that a different conservation approach is in practice here, thankfully. Not here the spruced up and re-painted vision of history presented in the castle, but rather more a well maintained sense of importance of the actual stones and their ware and tare, l’ esprit du lieu is allowed more room to breathe.

The cloister, where the Esprit du Lieu is allowed to roam free.

The cloister, where the Esprit du Lieu is allowed to roam free.

Everywhere you look there is ornamentation and detail to catch your eye. The various tombs and effigies alone are a treasure trove. The choir stalls with the stall plaques and heraldic devices for each member of the order of the garter are a visual feast.

Choir stalls with heraldic plaques of former occupants.

Choir stalls with heraldic plaques of former occupants.

The original chapel was a far smaller affair, this space was converted by Queen Victoria into a memorial for Prince Albert, and this is as riotous and polychromatic as the famous memorial in Kensington Gardens. It is a beautiful addition to the complex that is very much in the same ‘ more is more’  decoration philosophy of the whole building. This approach works well to tie together centuries of additions, alterations and embellishments.

The Albert Memorial, the site and size of the original chapel. This is the Victorian continuation of the jewel box theme.

The Albert Memorial, the site and size of the original chapel. This is the Victorian continuation of the jewel box theme.