Read CHAPTER III of Bell's Cathedrals: Chichester (1901), free online book, by Hubert C. Corlette, on


The Nave of Chichester, compared with that of other cathedrals, possesses several peculiar characteristics. It has a beauty apart from others in the quiet simplicity with which it has been designed. There is an evident restraint, almost severity, to be felt in studying the exquisite proportions of its parts. It does not exhibit the massive force and strength of Durham; but the rigid power in the square piers of the arcades is stern compared with the more subtle variations of light and shade produced by the curved surfaces of the circular piers either at Ely or Peterborough.

During the Reformation period the divisions between the several chapels to the north and south of the nave were removed; and so since that date Chichester has been the only cathedral in England which has what may be called five aisles, and it is wider than any other, excepting York, being ninety-one feet across.

The central space, or nave proper, is divided into eight bays throughout its length. The vertical lines which mark these divisions are the triple attached vaulting shafts. They support the transverse ribs of the stone vault; and from their carved Purbeck marble capitals spring also the wall and diagonal ribs. A Purbeck string-course in each case separates the triforium gallery from the arcade below and from the clerestory above.

The nave arcades have round arches. The fine stone facing of the piers toward the nave, the small columns in the jambs, the vaulting shafts, and the moulded outer member of the arches are all additions to the twelfth-century structure. In the triforium, the round arch again occurs with two smaller sub-arches of similar shape. In the nave these were not altered after the second fire; but the clerestory above was much changed in character. The central arch of the three remained semicircular, but the side ones became pointed in place of the early round arches. The detached columns, the jamb shafts, and the moulding of the arches were all altered in detail; and the stone used was of finer texture, like that with which the piers of the arcade below were faced.

In the South Aisle there is a good view, which extends beyond the transept into the small chapel of S. Mary Magdalen at the east end, in which is the only really fine stained-glass window in the church. The chapel aisle to the south of this, again, is interesting, in that it still retains some signs of what purposes it served in former days. The two western bays were originally the chapel of S. George. Those to the east were dedicated as the chapel of S. Clement. In each of these the old piscina and aumbry remain near where the altar had been placed. The latter chapel has now been restored in memory of Bishop Durnford. Mr. G.F. Bodley, A.R.A., and Mr. T. Garner were the architects who designed the new work. The old wall arcade is now again used as part of the reredos. The figures under the arches are in the centre S. Clement, on the south S. Anselm, and on the north S. Alphege. In the quatrefoils above are figures of two angels bearing in their hands shields, on which are represented the symbols of the Passion. Behind the altar, which is of oak, is a white marble re-table. The deeply moulded arch which separates the two vaulted bays of each of these chapels is carried by some very beautiful carved capitals. Above them may be seen the square abaci which are so much used in all the later work in the cathedral. They are peculiarly a French characteristic, and serve to indicate the relationship there was between the English and Continental schools of mediaeval architecture.

Beyond this chapel is the doorway from the south porch, which gives access to the west walk of the cloister.

The doorway on the right in the south aisle next to the entrance to the south arm of the transept leads to the Bishop’s Consistory Court (or Langton’s Chapter House), which is now a muniment-room.

The small chamber above the south porch is supposed to have been a secret Treasury. It is approached through the muniment-room, and has been popularly known as the “Lollard’s Prison.”

The North Aisle is similar to that on the south side. Towards its western end is the entrance door from the north porch.

The north chapel aisle was originally used as three separate chapels until the divisions between them were removed. The two bays at the west were the chapel of S. Anne; the two next east of this formed the chapel of the Four Virgins, and the last bay was the small chapel of SS. Thomas and Edmund. In the first named of these there may still be seen, in the jambs, the capitals, and the arch-moulds of the north-western window, some of the colour decoration of which so much remained until the nineteenth century. The space in the north wall shows where the aumbry used to be. The small remnants of the division wall at the east are some slight indication of what the design of the arcading on this wall was before it was destroyed. In the next chapel, that of the Four Virgins, there is nothing to show where the aumbry or the piscina was. But on the north ’the position of the arcading on the east dividing wall remains. The chapel of SS. Thomas and Edmund has an arcade on the east wall similar to that in the chapel of S. Clement. The aumbry is on the north and the piscina on the south side of the position which the altar used to occupy.

The Rood-Screen at the entrance to the choir from the nave was erected in 1889, and is a memorial of Archdeacon Walker. It was designed by Mr. T. Garner. At the point where the arms of the cross meet is a figure representing the “Agnus Dei,” and at the extremities of the cross are carvings of the four-winged figures of the cherubim.

The Pulpit was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott, and is a memorial of Dean Hook. It is very elaborately carved, and is made of Caen stone and Purbeck marble. The four figures are intended to represent Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

The Lectern of brass was presented to the church as a memorial of Richard Owen, of Chichester, by his daughter.

The Font under the south-western tower is a copy of an old one in the church at Shoreham. It was the gift of Bishop Durnford, as a memorial of his wife.

The Monuments in the Nave have in many cases suffered from bad usage, and in most instances they do not now occupy their original places in the building.

The canopied memorial to Bishop Durnford (1), under which is a recumbent effigy, forms part of the screen between S. Clement’s chapel and the south aisle of the nave. It was designed by Mr. Garner. There are several tablets in the nave and aisles by Flaxman. The best are those to the memory of Captain Cromwell’s wife and daughter (2), in S. Clement’s chapel, and one on the north side of the nave, in the chapel of the Four Virgins, as a memorial of Collins (3), the poet, who was a native of Chichester. The two recumbent figures under the arch leading into this same chapel are said to be those of Richard Fitz-Alan, Earl of Arundel, and his wife (4). It was restored by Richardson. Fitz-Alan was beheaded in 1397. Some say that these two figures were removed from the chapel of the monastery of the Grey Friars at the time of the Reformation, and were placed in their present position in 1843, having been found embedded in the stonework of the chapel wall close by. The base upon which the figures rest is modern. The earl is represented in full armour. At his feet is a lion, and at his head, under the helmet, is a coronet and a lion’s head. At the countess’s feet is a dog, and her head rests upon two pillows.

The most beautiful monument now remaining in the church is that which is said to represent Maud, Countess of Arundel (1270) (5). The modelling of the whole figure and the long flowing lines of her robes are worthy of careful study. The whole pose and the disposition of the two angels at the head arranging the pillows, with the two dogs upon which her feet rest, have been finely conceived and well executed. The hands are clasped over the breast, with the forearms bent upwards slightly towards the face. On each of the long sides of the base supporting the figure are six elongated quatrefoil panels, containing in all six female figures and six shields. Between the quatrefoils are winged heads of ten angelic figures. The blazoning of the shields is entirely gone, and the brilliant colouring that once covered the entire monument is only to be traced in a few places. The outer robe still shows some signs of the rich blue with which it used to be covered. The face of the figure appears to be badly mutilated, but the damage to the features has been done principally by an endeavour to preserve them. A thick coat of plaster had been placed over the face to protect it from injury, perhaps in the seventeenth century or earlier, and this was never completely removed. It had become gradually polished like the material of the figure itself, and so it remains, with a cut across it to represent a mouth. The remains of the real face are still hidden beneath.

Close to this effigy, but in the aisle farther to the east, and on the north wall, are two admirable memorial tablets which were designed in the eighteenth century. One is in memory of Dean Hayley and his wife (6), and the other in memory of Henry Baker and his wife and their only child (7), who, by comparison with the other tablet, appears to have been a second wife of the same Thomas Hayley.

Close to the porch in the south aisle is the only complete old brass in the building (8). It is dated 1592, and records the fact that “Mr. William Bradbridge” was “thrice Maior of this Cittie,” and “had vi sonnes & viii daughters.” The other monuments in the nave are those of Matthew Quantock, Dean Cloos, Bishop Arundel, and William Huskisson, sometime member of Parliament for Chichester. One on the south side of the west porch is Bishop Stephen de Berghstead’s, and the other opposite on the north is a work of the fifteenth century.

The Choir and Sanctuary These are very different in appearance now from what they were, as will be seen by reference to the chapter on the history of the fabric.

The Reredos was designed by Messrs. Slater & Carpenter, and has never been completed. It is generally considered that it is not at all in keeping with the character of the building, and there is some hope that it may be one day removed. The subject of the figure-work in the panel is “The Ascension.”

The Altar was presented by the late Mr. J.F. France, and is made of oak. Some of the frontals are very elaborate examples of modern embroidery.

The Pavements are composed of many specimens of various coloured marbles.

The Stalls are those which have been in use since the fourteenth century. All the furniture of the choir had been removed for safety before the fall of the tower and spire: but the bishop’s throne (9) and the stalls for the dean and precentor have been added since that time.

The Candelabrum which hangs from the vault was presented by Lady Featherstonhaugh and two other ladies, in the eighteenth century.

The Iron Grilles which screen the eastern part of the choir from the aisles are good examples of simple modern ironwork copied from old examples; they were made in Chichester by Halsted & Sons.

The Organ was placed on the north side of the choir after it had been removed from its earlier position on the Arundel screen; and in 1888, when it was largely remodelled, a new oak case was designed for it. It was made originally by Harris in 1678, and had then only one manual and no pedals; but between this date and the last alteration, it had already been enlarged no less than at six different times.

As the choir stalls are immediately under the crossing, above which rises the new central tower and spire, they are a convenient place from which to examine the work of restoration. The new work represents as nearly as possible all that was there before the collapse of the old piers and arches.

In the South Transept the most important feature is the beautifully designed stonework of the tracery in the south window; but this may be seen better from the cloisters, as the crude vulgarity of the bad painted glass makes it difficult to examine it from within the building.

The Sacristy (10), now used as a choir school and vestry, is a large vaulted chamber, lighted on the south side by six small windows.

The Chapel of S. Pantaleon (11), on the east side of the transept, still retains the old piscina in the south wall; but it is used now as the vestry for the dean and canons.

The vaulting ribs in the part of the transept between this chapel and the sacristy are carved like those in the last bay of the presbytery next to the lady-chapel, and are of the same date. They appear to be part of the work done during Bishop Gilbert Leophardo’s episcopate.

The Pictures by Bernardi on the back of the choir stalls represent Ceadwalla and Henry VIII. granting and confirming privileges to the bishops of their day. The portraits of the bishops of the see from Wilfrid to Sherborne are in the north transept.

The South Aisle of the Choir is entered from the south transept under a deeply moulded arch. On the south is the priest-vicars’ vestry (12), and at the east end the chapel of S. Mary Magdalen. This chapel was restored by Messrs. G.F. Bodley, A.R.A., and T. Garner, architects, in memory of the Rev. T.F. Crosse, who was precentor and canon of the cathedral. The aumbry in the north wall was the receptacle in which S. Richard’s head was preserved in a case of silver. This is mentioned in William de Tenne’s will. On the other side is the old piscina. The paintings in the panels by Miss Lowndes represent, on the north side (i) S. Richard celebrating the Eucharist in S. Edmund’s Chapel, (ii) the same bishop preaching, and (iii) his death; on the south, (i) Mary anoints our Lord’s Feet, (ii) The Crucifixion, (iii) After the Resurrection. The carved and painted reredos is of stone. Close to this chapel is the doorway into the church from the east walk of the cloisters; in the spandrels of the arches, both inside and outside, are the arms of William of Wykeham. Above it is a window, the glass in which was given by Cardinal Manning (when Archdeacon of Chichester) in memory of his wife.

The Presbytery, Ambulatory, or retro-choir, is the space between the back of the reredos and the entrance to the lady-chapel. The design in detail of these two bays is very different in character from the three in the choir, which are like those in the nave. The two piers of Purbeck marble are circular, and about them are grouped four detached shafts of the same material. They are united only at the base and by the abacus above the capitals, which are beautifully carved. The main arches in the two bays are not pointed, but round, like those in the nave and choir; but, unlike the latter, they have deeply cut mouldings in three orders. The triforium arcade above, on the north and south sides, has moulded and carved details of a similar character. Some of the beautifully carved figure-work still remains in the spandrels between the subsidiary pointed arches. But the most beautiful piece of design in all this work is in the arches of the triforium passage across the east wall, above the entrance to the lady-chapel.

It should be noticed that the sub-arches in the triforium here are pointed, not round, as in the case of those in the same position westward of this portion. And the support to these arches in the centre, is a group of shafts instead of only one column. The clerestory, however, offers a greater contrast to the earlier work in that the central arch, as well as the side ones, is lifted up much higher, the detached columns being lengthened to obtain the alteration. Each arch also, at this level, is now pointed.

S. Richard’s shrine occupied the bay in the presbytery immediately behind the High Altar. It stood upon a platform which was approached on its eastern side by steps, and was enclosed by iron grilles. The platform was removed at the time of the general restoration in 1861-1867, and upon it used to stand also the tombs of Bishop Day and Bishop Christopherson or Curteys.

The Lady-Chapel, as its walls and vaulting clearly show, was once completely decorated with designs in colour. The windows now are the only parts that indicate an attempt to renew this portion of its earlier condition. The new reredos is of alabaster, and was designed by Messrs Carpenter & Ingelow.

The North Choir Aisle contains some monuments which are referred to separately. The now unused chapel at its eastern end was dedicated to S. Catharine.

The Library is approached through a doorway in this aisle. There is a chamber above in which was the library of pre-Reformation days. The present library formed the chapel of S. John the Baptist and S. Edmund the King (13) until it became the chancel of the parish church of S. Peter the Great, the north transept being used as its nave. Part of the vaulting in it is unlike any other in the building, having the chevron or zigzag ornament cut on the side of the mouldings of the ribs.

The library collection contains many relics of various kinds: among them are Oslac’s grant of land to the church at Selsea, A.D. 780; a manuscript of the twelfth century; Cranmer’s copy of the “Consultatio” of Herman of Cologne; an old Sarum missal; the sealed book of Charles II.; fragments of ecclesiastical vessels; and a leaden “Absolution” of Bishop Godfrey dating from the eleventh century.

The North Transept has on its west side two of the old twelfth-century round-arched windows, and opposite are the two large round-arched openings into the library and the chamber above it. The vaulting of this transept is not the same in detail as that to the south of the choir, and is rather earlier in the type of its mouldings. Close by the south springing of the arch leading to the library is one of the few pieces of figure-carving in the church. It is a head full of vigour and character.

The Monuments in the Transepts and Choir have been injured and restored or removed at various times. The large one (14) under the south window is Langton’s tomb and effigy . The new one nearest to the singing school is a memorial and effigy of Mr. John Abel Smith, of Dale Park, who represented Chichester in the House of Commons. On the east wall is another tomb of Tudor date (15), with niches for sculpture. The tomb next to the back of the choir-stalls (16) is that of Bishop Richard de la Wych. The two panels in relief (17), in the south aisle of the choir are works of about the twelfth century. It is supposed that originally they were brought to Chichester from Selsea. They were discovered in 1829 hidden in the wall behind the woodwork of the stalls in the choir, and were subsequently placed in their present position. The subject of the one nearest to the transept is the “Raising of Lazarus,” and of the other, “Our Lord with Mary and Martha at Bethany.” These are two of the most interesting relics of earlier days that remain in the cathedral. Historically and artistically, they are of much value, but at present no more than has been stated is known about them. Bishop Sherborne’s monument (18) was built during his lifetime, and at his death he provided for its care by New College, of which he had been a fellow. It is still well cared for; but with its original decorations it must have been a very beautiful object.

Dean Hook, who died in 1875, is commemorated by a monument (19) opposite Sherborne’s. It was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott, and, like the pavements of the choir, it has in its composition many specimens of coloured marbles. Much of the detail is executed in mosaic. Under the arch of the presbytery arcade nearest to the reredos, on the south side, is Bishop Day’s tomb (20). On the south side of the lady-chapel, close to the entrance, are the memorial slabs of two early bishops, perhaps Hilary and John de Greneford, beneath the arch where Bishop Gilbert’s effigy was placed. On the opposite side is a space under an arch in which may be traced the lines of some decoration which once ornamented some memorial. Upon the floor below is the memorial of Bishop Ralph (21), the builder of the first portions of the cathedral. Close by is a large wall tablet in memory of Bishop Thomas Bickley. It is a design of the seventeenth-century period, and is interesting of its kind. Under the arch on the north side of the presbytery, opposite Day’s tomb, is that of Bishop Christopherson or Curteys (22), and against the wall of the aisle near the chapel of S. Catharine is a curious marble slab with some carving upon it. It represents two hands, with parts of the arms, supporting a heart, and the full inscription, now almost gone, was “ICY GIST LE COEUR DE MAUDDE” ("Here lies the heart of Maud"). It is evidently work of an early date, but nothing is accurately known of its history, though it has been assumed that it was made in the twelfth or thirteenth century (23). To the west of this is a bust of Bishop Otter (24). In an arched recess in the wall nearer to the library is the tomb and effigy of Bishop Storey (25). Close to this are two memorials of the sixteenth century. On the west side of the north transept are the monuments of Bishops Henry King, Carleton, and Grove.

The Stained Glass in the cathedral is all modern, and most of it is of the worst possible kind. It is bad in design and crude in colour, and much of it is not really stained glass at all, but a painted substitute. The only really good window in the building is that at the east end of the south choir aisle in S. Mary Magdalen’s chapel. It was designed by Mr. C.E. Kempe. The glass in the lady-chapel windows is better than most of the rest, and it is admitted that the worst glass that was ever placed in any cathedral church by a generous munificence is that which is now in the large window of the south transept.