Having arranged to see our son in Leicester on the way home from Hull, we couldn’t resist trying to pop in and see the new tomb of Richard III in the cathedral there. We found the cathedral after parking in an ‘anywhere’ shopping mall: I loved the newly established informal landscaping and gardens that now surround the building, featuring some lovely flowering cherries. We arrived on the stroke of 5pm, to be met at the main entrance by a long grey beard attached to a man in a black vestment….

‘I’m afraid we’ve just closed’ he said…’Oh no!’, I replied trying to sound devastated, ‘…and we’ve come such a long way to be here!’. It must have worked, because this lovely man offered to give us a quick personal tour of the tomb and the cathedral…all it must be said, in his own time. We had the low down on how it took relatively little time to unearth the former King’s grave, which had been entombed beneath a car park near to the cathedral, but which many centuries before had been the site of a monastic Abbey, with which the cathedral had once been associated. And he filled us in on how the Cathedral layout had been changed to accomodate him. The tomb is very impressive, simple and clean-cut in design…very much an example of ‘less is more’.

And the wider cathedral, though relatively small in scale had some wonderful features…including gilded screens and roof angels and some beautiful modern glass windows telling the story of King Richard. It was wonderful to see all this and to be the only people around…our guide explained that since the tomb had been installed the place was usually heaving with visitors.

You may have heard of the controversy over where the King was to be re-interred, york staking a claim, but ultimately this being rejected in the courts in favour of his final resting place, a stone’s throw from where he now rests. I think this is also the right outcome, as York, wonderful though its Minster and wider City are, is already chock- a- block with historical interest and monuments. Somehow, to see the tomb here, the centre-piece of a human-scale religious building, heightens its emotional impact.

This was a magical experience…and well worth repeating, though I expect next time we won’t have Richard to ourselves.

Old School Gardener

P.S. Whoever you are, Mr. Verger, thank you for giving your time to help make our day.

 

 

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