Church of St Mary de Castro, Leicester
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|St Mary de Castro, Leicester|
St Mary de Castro, Leicester
|Denomination||Church of England|
|Dedication||St Mary de Castro
"St Mary of the Castle"
St Mary de Castro is an ancient church in Leicester, England, located within the former bailey of Leicester Castle. Today it acts as a parish church in the Church of England's diocese of Leicester. "St Mary de Castro" is Latin for "St Mary of the Castle"; a name chosen to differentiate from nearby "St Mary de Pratis": "St. Mary of the Meadows".
The building is currently closed the public as the spire was found to be unsafe. The spire is expected to be demolished, with funds currently insufficient to replace it.
It dates its founding to 1107 when Henry I of England took the lands and castle from a rebellious owner and granted them instead to Robert de Beaumont, although some legends say that an Anglo-Saxon church of St Mary had existed before then  and Robert merely refurbished it. Whichever, he established it within the castle bailey as a college served by a Dean and 12 Canons (that is, a collegiate church) in honour of the Virgin Mary and All Souls and as a chantry chapel for the souls of him, his family and the first three Norman kings. He endowed this and 4 other churches with £6 of his income and land in or near the city. However, these endowments were all transferred soon after by his son Robert de Beaumont, 2nd Earl of Leicester to his own new foundation of Leicester Abbey, although this was made up for by an annual grant from the Earl of 20 shillings for lamps and by restoring a Dean, six Clerks and a Chaplain to the church, which was by now a parish church too and so supported by tithes and offerings.
It was rebuilt in the 1180s, and has undergone alterations since, including the addition of a spire (1400).
The church is currently closed due to fears the spire may collapse. The octagonal spire dates from the 12th-century, but has recently developed 6-metre long cracks in 4 of its faces. After inspections by structural engineers, it was deemed unsafe and at risk of collapse.
Despite the church being grade 1 listed, the severe condition of the spire means it will be demolished, at an estimated cost of £200,000. Over £358,000 has been raised since 2011, however, there are currently insufficient funds to rebuilt the spire.
It is rumoured that here, around 1366, Geoffrey Chaucer married Philippa (de) Roet (a lady-in-waiting to Edward III's queen, Philippa of Hainault, and a sister of Katherine Swynford who later (ca. 1396) became the third wife of Chaucer's friend and patron, John of Gaunt). King Henry VI was knighted in the church in 1426 when he was an infant (whilst the Parliament of Bats was being held at the Castle).
Philippa of Lancaster, the eldest daughter of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and Blanche of Lancaster, was born in nearby Leicester Castle and was a Queen consort of Portugal, married in 1387 to King John I of Portugal during Anglo-Portuguese Alliance thus giving rise to extended name of the church (St. Mary de Castro) during one of its alterations.
Media related to Church of St Mary de Castro, Leicester at Wikimedia Commons