History of Leicester Cathedral

The Church

The Normans began the construction of the original St Martin’s church of around 900 years ago.  It was rebuilt and enlarged between the 13th and 15th centuries and became the ‘Civic Church’, with strong links with the merchants and guilds (with the Guildhall being located nearby).
 Just over 100 years ago the Victorian Architect, Raphael Brandon, magnificently restored and, in places, rebuilt the church, including the addition of a 220ft spire.  When the Diocese of Leicester was re-established in 1927, the church was hallowed as Leicester Cathedral.

The Bishops of Leicester

In 680AD, the Saxons gave Leicester its first Bishop, Cuthwine. Two hundred years later the last Saxon Bishop fled south from the invading Danes. For over 1000 years following the departure of its last Saxon Bishop, Leicester had no Bishop and the people of Leicestershire were looked after by the Bishops of Lincoln and later by the Bishops of Peterborough. It was not until 1927 that Leicester again had its own Bishop and the Church of St Martin became Leicester Cathedral.

Some Important Dates

316 – 397 The life of St Martin
680 Cuthwine is first Anglo-Saxon Bishop of Leicester.
870 The Midlands are invaded by the Danes. Leicester ceases to be a separate diocese.
1072 The Normans put Leicester under the jurisdiction of the Lincoln diocese.
1086 First recorded mention of St Martin’s Church.  The Norman church replaces the Saxon one.
13th century Leicester Abbey is built. For a time, the Abbey appoints the St Martin’s vicars.
Aisles are added to the church.
1225 First record of the name of the priest of St Martin’s.
1343 The Corpus Christi Guild is formed.
15th century The Nave and Chancel are extended.
1535 The nearby Greyfriars Monastery is closed.
1548 During the Reformation, St Martin’s is stripped bare of statues, vestments, screens and stained glass.
1634 and 1642 Visits by King Charles I.
1656 Sir John Whatton dies. A memorial to him is put on the north wall.
1757 The spire is added to the Norman tower.
1837 Leicester is now in the care of the Bishop of Peterborough.
1859 David Vaughan is appointed vicar of St Martin’s.
1860 Victorian restoration begins. The tower and spire are completely rebuilt, replacing the spire which had been built onto the original Norman tower in the 18th Century and which had subsequently become unsafe. A new West window is constructed and the Nave roof is completely re-built to accomodate it.
1888 The Suffragan Bishop of Leicester is appointed by Peterborough.
1922 St Martin’s is raised to the status of Collegiate Church.
1927 Leicester has its own Bishop again. St Martin’s is hallowed as Leicester Cathedral.
1939 The Song School and Vestry are built.
1946 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visit the Cathedral.
1980 The Richard III memorial slab is placed in the Chancel floor.
1986 – 1987 Interior decoration and rearrangement of the churchyard.
1997 – 1998 Festival Year – the 70th anniversary of the Cathedral.
2000 – 2001 The Millennium Appeal raised over £1 million towards new Cathedral Offices and the new Cathedral Visitor Centre adjacent to the Guildhall (now the White Rose Café).
2002 The Provost becomes Dean under the Cathedrals Measure.
2011 St Martins House opens. Cathedral staff move to new offices within the building.
2012 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, The Duke of Edinburgh and The Duchess of Cambridge visit Leicester Cathedral at the launch of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee tour of the United Kingdom.
The mortal remains of King Richard III are discovered beneath a nearby Council car park. Plans are begun for his eventual reinterment in Leicester Cathedral.
2015 The mortal remains of King Richard III are reinterred with dignity and honour in Leicester Cathedral, an event watched by over 600 million people around the world.
2017 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh attend a Royal Maundy Service when 91 men and 91 women were presented with Maundy Money by Her Majesty.