About the Lord Mayor's Chapel
We believe that human spirituality is not confined to formal structures, but is expressed in practices, ideas, and attitudes which enable people to flourish in our diverse and modern city. Without a parish or place within any denomination, the Chapel has sought a mission which recollects its foundation and history, in ways which are relevant to the present day and consistent with being 'of the City Council'.
- Enhance the welfare of our city by upholding and promoting the life and work of Jesus Christ, by setting forth the Christian faith through service and worship.
- Reach out to all people of goodwill, so that we may bind our communities together for the benefit of the common good.
- Support the Lord Mayor's Chaplain, our resident Minister, in his presence ministry which offers pastoral care to elected members, Aldermen, and sections of the Council Staff.
Origin of the Chapel
The Chapel is the only remaining building of the 13th century Hospital of Saint Mark. The Hospital was founded in 1220 as a daughter house of Saint Augustine's Abbey (Bristol Cathedral), by Maurice de Gaunt. A decade later, the Hospital was reformed into a fully independent religious community to provide food and care for 100 poor people per day. The Hospital continued this work for 300 years, until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539, and shortly afterwards the Hospital and its lands were purchased by the City Council. The City Council granted the use of the buildings and land to the newly-formed Queen Elizabeth Hospital school for boys (founded 1586), and later for the girls of Red Maids School (founded 1634). In 1687, the Chapel was granted as a place of worship for French Huguenots who had settled in Bristol after fleeing persecution in France. They continued using the building until 1722, when they moved to a new building just around the corner. At that time, the City Council decided to make the Chapel their official place of worship, following a dispute with the Cathedral. In 1788, the Mayor of the time invited John Wesley to preach in the Chapel, after the Bishop of Bristol refused him permission to preach in any of the city's churches.
The Chapel is the only place of worship in the UK belonging to a Lord Mayor and Commonality, and is thus designated a 'Civic Peculiar'. It does not have a parish or particular denomination, and has sought a mission which recollects its foundation and history, in ways which are relevant to the present age and consistent with being 'of the City Council'. Read more about Bristol's Lord Mayor.
The nave, chancel, and sanctuary date from 1230, although they have been much remodelled over the last nearly 800 years. The ceiling of the nave is very striking, dating from 1500. There are two beautiful side chapels. The Jesus Chapel was built between 1510 and 1520 as a Chantry Chapel by Robert Poyntz, a friend to both Henry VII and Henry VIII, and Chancellor to Catherine of Aragon. It has a very fine fan-vaulted ceiling, and the floor is laid with 16th century Spanish tiles. Saint Andrew's Chapel was added around 1510, and contains a collection of fine monuments relocated from other parts of the building, including the effigies of two unknown knights, thought at one time to be the founders of the Hospital. There is some fine stained glass, including English and French glass from the 13th to 16th centuries (in the East window), and Flemish and German glass from the 15th to 17th centuries (making up 24 roundels in St Andrew's Chapel).
Visitors to the Chapel will find detailed information about the building in leaflets and booklets at the entrance, as well as signage throughout the Chapel pointing out its many notable features.
The organ has a long and interesting history. It is based on an organ provided by W.G. Vowles of Bristol in 1888, which itself incorporated 10 ranks from the previous John Smith organ of 1830. The organ was completely rebuilt by J.W. Walker & Sons Ltd in 1962, and further altered by Percy Daniel & Co Ltd in 1978. Most recently, it was totally rebuilt by Mr Anthony Hall and Clevedon Organs (UK) Ltd in 2014, following many years of deliberation and intensive fund-raising. The console and the pipes are now on opposite sides of the chancel, and are connected wirelessly using state-of-the-art communications and industrial control systems, controlled by a touch-screen interface at the console.
A booklet on the organ, written by Dr John Marsh, the current Director of Music at the Chapel, is available at the entrance.
Music in the Chapel
Music in the Chapel is under the direction of Dr John Marsh. There is an excellent choir of eight voices, supported by an equal number of deputies. Worship is according to the Prayer Book, and so a typical Matins will include an Introit, three hymns, Venite, psalm, Te Deum, Jubilate, anthem, preces & responses. There are additional services for Maundy Thursday (Evensong), Good Friday, Advent, and Christmas.
Readers might enjoy a recording made by Alan Bowness, who literally wandered in off the street during the middle of a service in September 2017. Alan has an unusual microphone: see https://www.sr3d.co.uk/ for more details.
There are also frequent musical concerts, typically on Saturdays at 1.15pm. The chapel choir and deputies make up the sixteen voices of the Chapel Singers, who perform two or three concerts per year. There are also recitals from music students at the University and Red Maids School, and vocal, organ, and other instrumental recitals. These concerts are all free, with a retiring collection.
The Lord Mayor's Chapel, coat of arms.