The Chapel St. John


Chapel St. John

The chapel St John is on the second floor of the white tower. It is a perfect example of the architecture of the Norman churches of the early medieval times.

Chapel St John

Chapel St John

How is it ?

This chapel measures 17m by 9.5 wide, approximately. It is also 10m high. Its ceiling is made of a vault in cradle, with simple arch, an architecture quite classic for that time. The apse seems "heavy", it is due to the 4 squat columns that hold the ceiling. The nave also has 4 columns, all identical, on each side. These pillars are cylindrical, they support simple arches, also massive. The decorations are made of engravings of leaves. The southern part of the chapel communicates with the rest of the dungeon. There is also a gallery on the upper part, it opens on the private apartments of the king, at the (distant) time where it lodged on the upper floor.

History of the chapel

The chapel was built by William the Conqueror at the time of the creation of the keep, but it is alas dead before its completion. It was therefore used by his son William II.

When King Henry III ascended the throne, he made many works in the Tower of London, and transformed this ancient keep into a complete fortress. Among the numerous installations, most were defensive, but the chapel was also impacted in that in 1240, it added stained glass representing the Virgin Mary and the Holy Trinity. It was also at the same period that the great cross painted in gold was added. The actual appearance of the chapel is very similar to what it was in Norman times, so it has not undergone many transformations as is often the case.

During the peasant revolt in 1381, at the beginning of the reign of King Richard II, Archbishop Simon of Sudbury, the Chancellor of England, took refuge in the chapel of Saint John from a rabid crowd that arose in the tower. He was accompanied by Treasurer Hales, John Legge and John de Gaunt's physician. The four went down to the gates of the Lodnres Tower, then to Tower Hill, the place of executions, and were decapitated by the rebels. The head of Archbishop Sudbury was then planted on a pike on the London Bridge. Once the rebellion was crushed it was replaced by the head of rebel leader Wat Tyler.

In 1674, workmen employed in the demolition of a staircase of the White Tower, staircase leading to the chapel of Saint-Jean, made a horrible discovery: The bones of two children were found in an elm trunk, a depth of about 3m. Everything leads us to believe that these are the remains of two princes, Charles V and his brother the Duke of York.

Learn more about the legend of the two princes.


The chapel St John is inside the white tower, into the dungeon.

Location of the white tower

See also:

The map of the tower of London with the list of the buildings

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