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Reformation

Quire - new home for the choir after the Reformation

Under the new Tudor dynasty, the century began normally enough, and the latest addition of a chantry chapel came in 1526 with Bishop Audley’s by the high altar, which was also used as the Easter sepulchre. But within a decade, the separation of the English Church from Rome under Henry VIII and new waves of Protestant thinking led to dramatic changes here as elsewhere. The cult of the saints, praying for the dead, and the elaborate medieval patterns of worship, including the Lady Mass, were all abolished, and the monarch took away the Pope’s English income and powers of patronage.

Osmund’s shrine was completely destroyed in 1538-9, the chantries were abolished in 1548, relics of the saints were destroyed and, because worship was now in a new form and in English instead of Latin, stone altars had to be removed and replaced with wooden tables. Most of the medieval books used to regulate worship were lost, while preaching took on a new importance.

However Salisbury and similar cathedrals faced less of an adjustment than those, such as Canterbury and Durham, which were based on a monastery and which had to be completely refounded. Here in Salisbury, the basic organisation of the cathedral didn’t change, and the senior clergy (Dean, Precentor, Chancellor, Treasurer) continued their leadership in the changed circumstances. The professional choir now moved from the Trinity Chapel to the choir stalls. It was in the middle of this century that the tradition of singing the services of Mattins and Evensong in English from the Book of Common Prayer, the enduring characteristic of cathedral worship in England, began.