City of Gods. Places of Worship in Leicester.
In this section we look at the buildings in which people conduct their worship, reflecting the many religions and faiths that are represented in the city.
Leicester Cathedral Church of St. Martin, Guildhall Lane, City of Leicester
Standing adjacent to the Guild Hall, Leicester Cathedral is a Church of England cathedral and the seat of the Bishop of Leicester.
The cathedral is something of an attraction in the city and a popular destination for tourists, although it is the fourth smallest Anglican cathedral in England.
Built around 1086 to replace the original Saxon church following the Norman Conquest, the building became a cathedral in 1927 following the creation of the new Diocese of Leicester in the previous year.
Leicester Cathedral is a Grade II* listed building comprising a large nave and chancel with chancel chapels and an impressive 220 foot high spire, which was added in 1862. Having undergone various restoration projects including work by the Victorian architect Raphael Brandon, the building appears largely Gothic in style today.
The Vaughan Porch which is situated at the south side entrance was designed by J. L. Pearson (also the architect of Truro Cathedral) and depicts various saintly figures set in sandstone niches. Inside the cathedral, the large wooden screen separating the nave from the chancel was designed by Sir Charles Nicholson and carved by Bowman of Stamford.
The magnificent stained glass window found on the east side was designed by Christopher Wall and commemorates the fallen of World War I. There can be seen depictions of St. Joan of Arc, Mary Magdalene and St. Martin of Tours himself.
The cathedral also contains a memorial stone that commemorates the death of Richard III of England, bearing an inscription that reads: ‘Richard III, King of England, Killed Bosworth Field in this county, 22nd August 1485, Buried in the Church of The Grey Friars in this parish’. It is local tradition that King Richard’s body was exhumed under the orders of Henry VII and thrown into the River Soar.
St. Martin’s underwent extensive restoration between 2004 and 2008 when major work was conducted on the spire and various other parts of the cathedral costing around £600,000. Much of this expense was kindly donated by The English Heritage and members of the public, ensuring that Leicester Cathedral remains one of the city’s great architectural marvels today.
The Jain Centre, Oxford Road, City of Leicester
The Jain Centre stands on the site of a former Christian (Congregational) Chapel. It is one of only a few of its kind in the world and the first to be built in Europe and the largest outside of India.
Jainism is a religion that was founded in India and now has followers in many parts of the world. It is said that Kurt Cobain, the lead singer of Nirvana, was interested in Jainism. It opened in 1998.
The frontage and the interior of the Temple have remarkable carvings and decoration, in Jaselmere yellow stone and white marble. Inside there are 44 hand-carved pillars, 13 arches and a dome is and rich in hand-carved stone.
The buildings serves as a place of worship and as a centre for education and community activities. It has been visited by Prime Minister John Major and members of the Royal Family.
Mount St. Bernard Abbey, Charnwood Forest, Coalville
Founded in 1835 on land provided by Ambrose de Lisle, the first monastery was opened here in 1837 and designed by William Railton Although it wasn’t until 1844 that Augustus Welby Pugin (a famous architect of the Gothic Revival) designed the new monastery that we see today, with financial support from John Talbot, 16th Earl of Shrewsbury.
A Cistercian (dating back to the 12th century) monastery of the Strict Observance (Trappists), Mount St. Bernard’s Abbey is the order’s only remaining monastery in England today.
Wesleyan Chapel, Bishop Street
This Grade II listed building dates from 1825. The two storey red brick building is decorated with stucco dressings and overlooks the Town Hall Square.
When it was built, it looked out over the town cattle market. It is one of the oldest buildings to surive in this area of the city centre.
There are details taken from classical architecture and this is very typical of building style in the Georgian period. This Classical style with its elegant simplicity was popular for nonconformist places of worship at that time. The building was designed by the Revd. William Jenkins who was the architect of a number of churches throughout the British Isles.
Like most places of worship the Chapel building has been adapted and extended over the years with different generations of the people who have worshipped here each leaving their mark. The building and fittings have changed to meet their needs and those of the city. This is a process which is still going on today.
St Georges Church, Colton Street, Leicester
Now a Serbian Orthodox Church since 1983, it was originally an Anglican Church (a Commissioners Church) until the early 1970s. Situated in its surrounding churchyard, it was built between 1823 and 1827 and designed by the Architect William Parsons in the Gothic Revival style. It was restored in 1911 following a fire. A Grade II listed building that stand in the St. George’s conservation area which was designated in 1899.
The last Vicar of St. Georges was the Revd. Kenneth Middleton who was an active local politican and leader of the Labour group on the City Council.
A photograph survives showing the extent of the fire damge of 1911.
Guru Nanak Gurdwara, City of Leicester
The Sikh temple in Holy Bones, is a well known centre for Sikhism in Leicester and has been visitied by man local people of all faiths. It was the first Gurdwara to be established in the city and also houses a community centre.
The building also houses the Guru Nanak Sikh Museum the first of its kind in Europe, established in 1992. Guru Nanak Dev Ji was the founder of Sikhism.
The Church of St Mary de Castro, City of Leicester
Standing near to Leicester Castle, it was founded in 1107, rebuilt in the 1180s and a spire was added in 1400. It was founded by the First Earl of Leicester. Situated in Castle Street, the name of the church means ‘Saint Mary beside the castle’.
It is thought that it stands on the site of a Saxon church also dedicated to St.Mary. A small section of the original wall of the city can still been seen in the grounds of the church.
It is said that england’s great medievil poet Geoffrey Chaucerwas married here, around 1366, to Philippa Roet, sister-in-law of John O’ Gaunt, who counted Leicester Castle as one of his homes. King Henry VI was knighted at the church as a child of five.
A desingated ancient monument, the church stands within the Castle Conservation Area. The East Windows are Norman Style, and the Chancel roof has collar beams with arched braces. The doorway to the North Vestry is norman.
The building was extensively restored in 1850 to 61 by Sir George Gilbert Scott and is now a Grade I listed building.
Today it continues to serve as an Anglican parish church.