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The College and Canons


A medieval college was made up of two groups of priests; the canons for whom it was a reward and a part-time job, and the vicars, who had to be at every service- at least seven each day! The canons were often royal civil servants, working for the king on diplomatic missions, in his finance and writing departments, or co-ordinating his building projects (occasionally, all three).

Kings appointed their most trusted servants to the canonries, which sometimes backfired. Richard II's favourite Richard Maudelyn was granted a canonry but this did not save him from execution by Richard's enemies. Thomas Southwell was the only canon ever tried for treason, having attempted to kill Henry VI by astrology (or so it was claimed).


We know much less about the vicars, singing men and boy choristers as individuals, but we do know what an ordinary day would have looked like for them. The day would start with Matins, perhaps in the lower chapel in the very early morning, and end with Compline at about 10pm. The main service, where everyone, including most of the canons, would be present and the choristers would sing, would be High Mass around 10 am.


Discover more about the monarchs who used medieval St Stephen's.





Last updated April 2017

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