Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Lost Tomb of Cardinal Wolsey

From The Tudor Travel Guide:
Leicester Abbey, also known as the Abbey of St Mary de Pratis (Abbey of the Meadows) was an Augustinian monastery situated just one kilometre north of the medieval city of Leicester. It was the largest and one of the most influential Augustinian Abbeys in England. The monastery complex occupied about 13 hectares of land. It was home to around 24 canons at the time of Wolsey’s visit; these were not monks, but priests who worked in the local parishes and who lived under the rule of St Augustine. The ‘Black Canons’ (as they were called because of their dark, outer garments), were ‘supervised’ by an abbot; in this case, Abbott Pescall. He was notorious for his religious laxity and financial incompetence and was already under the close scrutiny of the powers that be in London – but that’s another story! 
The entire compound was surrounded by a wall (which still survives). The main abbey church and conventual buildings were sited adjacent to the west bank of the River Soar, which meandered through the meadows in which the abbey had been built. The main outer gateway to the abbey compound, which Cavendish mentions in his account, was situated towards the middle of the northern section of the abbey’s perimeter wall. It remains the main entrance to the park today, but sadly, the gatehouse has gone (see image above).

A track led southwards to a second, inner gatehouse. Beyond that, a yard opened up directly outside the main west facade of the church and a range of conventual buildings, which ran directly southwards from the abbey church, forming the western range of the abbey’s cloisters. This range comprised the Abbot’s lodgings, the most splendid and luxurious accommodation in the abbey (see image below).

We know from Cavendish’s account that ‘they brought him [Wolsey] on his mule to the stairs foot of his chamber, and there he alighted, and Master Kingston then took him by the arm and led him up the stairs’. So, we know for sure that Wolsey was housed in a first-floor chamber. It is quite possible that the Abbot ceded his own lodgings to the Cardinal. However, we cannot be sure, for another possible contender might be the guest lodgings, located across a small courtyard, south of the cloister. (Read more.)

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