Gibraltar Kings chapel

Rock Of Gibraltar aerial view

King’s Chapel is the Forces’ Church for Servicemen and Servicewomen stationed on the Rock. It also serves as the Chapel of the Residence of His Excellency the Governor. Both Chapel and Residence originally formed part of a Convent of Franciscan Friars, the first members of which arrived in Gibraltar circa 1480. The present chapel was completed about 1560, and formed the centre of their worship for the next 150 years.

Some years after the capture of Gibraltar by Admiral Rooke in 1704, the Franciscans chose to depart to Spain, along with many of the local inhabitants, despite the continuation of religious freedom and former privilege granted to them in the surrender terms. In 1728 the Convent formally became the Residence of the Governor. The Chapel was taken over “in the name of the King”, hence the origins of the present title, and thus it became the first place of Anglican worship in Gibraltar.

The original Chapel was almost twice the present size with the nave extending westwards to a main entrance 61 feet beyond the present back wall. The south transept matched the northern one which now contains the main entrance. The reductions in size are believed to have occurred during the Great Siege of 1779-83. At the time the Chapel was used solely by the Governor, the officers of the Garrison and their families whilst the troops attended Church Parades on what is now John Mackintosh Square.

To meet the needs of the greatly increased military and civil population, the new Garrison Church was begun in 1825 and completed in 1832. The following year London gave orders for the King’s Chapel to close. Subsequently the Garrison Church was elevated to the status of a cathedral and the King’s Chapel was once again opened to cope with increased numbers in 1844.

In April 1951, the ammunition ship Bedenham exploded in the harbour causing extensive damage throughout the City. The Chapel suffered terrible damage and the present nave ceiling, stained glass windows and most of the interior furnishings date from the subsequent restoration which was completed in 1954. The photographs of the stained glass windows can be viewed here:

East Window (above altar)

North Window

The many memorials and adornments which now fill the Chapel are rich in historical interest.

The Queen Anne Communion Set
Now displayed inside the glass-fronted recess just inside the. Sanctuary, the silver chalice and patten (hallmarked 1710/1711), bear the Royal Arms of Queen Anne, and are probably the first set given to the Chapel after the capture of Gibraltar in 1704. A plated salver bearing the arms of General Sir George Eliott, Governor during the Great Siege, is also displayed in the cabinet with a wooden-handled silver almsdish.

The Sanctuary Colours
The Colours hanging in the east end enshrine the names of Regiments which distinguished themselves either in the capture of Gibraltar or during the Great Siege and, as a result, bear ‘Gibraltar’ among their battle honours.

The Pews and Memorial Lanterns
Presented by Regiments and Corps who served at various times on the Rock, likewise the crests and badges at the entrance to the Chapel.

The Font
Made of grey marble from the Sierra behind Malaga and presented by the Corps of Royal Engineers to commemorate the formation, in Gibraltar, of the First Company of Military Artificers which in later years was to become the rank and file of the Royal Engineers. The stone side panels are replicas of ones to be found in the Cathedral of Chartres.

The Governor’s Gallery
Set into the original 16th Century arch and adorned with an oil painting of the Royal Arms adopted by HM King George III.

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