Edward I wanted to show off his wealth and status by building a modern, eye-catching chapel in Westminster, already the king’s most important palace. He was also trying to out-do Louis IX of France, whose Sainte-Chapelle in Paris consecrated in 1248 was one of the wonders of the age and served exactly the same purpose as St Stephen’s as a royal chapel.
The original designs were modified to suit the needs of later monarchs. The addition of St Stephen’s College in 1348 required further changes.
Because St Stephen’s was built in a series of campaigns, there were three successive master masons who were responsible for the building’s progress. They were Michael of Canterbury (1292-97, 1321), Thomas of Canterbury (1323-26, 1331-35) and William Ramsey (1337-48). All three of them worked on other important building projects elsewhere.
The 1320s and 1340s roof vault was the work of William Hurley, who also designed the Ely Octagon. In the 1350s, Hugh of St Albans was responsible for the painting of the chapel and Edmund of St Andrews for the carpentry of the choir stalls.
Discover how these designs became a reality in the construction of the chapel.
Image: Detail of ‘Donors King Edward and St. George’ by Ernest William Tristram, tempera on board, 1927. Parliamentary Art Collection WOA 2925
Last updated April 2017