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St Peter ad Vincula: Parish Church of The Tower of London

The Church of St Peter ad Vincula is a royal peculiar and it dates back to 1520. It is situated in the Tower’s Inner Ward, the name of the church comes from St Peter’s incarceration under Herod Agrippa in Jerusalem. Although the present chapel dates back to 1520, it is believed that there has been a chapel on the site since before the Norman Conquest.

The Church of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London.

The Church of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London.

Being the parish church of the Tower of London, it is inevitable that the Chapel is the burial place of many of the tower’s most famous prisoners. The church is the resting place of three Queens, Lady Jane Grey who reigned for just nine days in 1553 as well as Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, the second and fifth wives of King Henry VIII respectively. Other notable names buried within the Chapel include George Boleyn, brother of Anne, Guildford Dudley, husband of Lady Jane Grey as well as Thomas Cromwell, Edward Seymour and James Scott.

As a sign that shows just how many recognisable historical figures are buried in the chapel, a list of ‘remarkable persons’ buried there can be found listed on a table on the west wall of the church. Thomas Babington Macauley spoke of those buried in the chapel in his 1848 publication History of England, “In truth there is no sadder spot on the earth than that little cemetery. Death is there associated, not, as in Westminster Abbey or Saint Pauls, with genius and virtue, with public veneration and with imperishable renown but with whatever is darkest in human nature and human destiny.”

The Chaplain of the Tower of London is also the priest responsible for the Church of St Peter ad Vincula. The priest is also a canon and a member of the Ecclesiastical Household and although the canonry was abolished in 1685, it was restored in 2012.

For those wondering how you visit the Church of St Peter ad Vincula, it can be accessed by joining a Yeomen Warder tour at the Tower of London though visitors can access the church if they are not on a tour, simply by waiting until the last hour of regular opening hours.

Photo Credit: Lara Eakins

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