Domus Dei

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Domus Dei, October 2007.
The interior of the church

Domus Dei (Hospital of Saint Nicholas and Saint John the Baptist) was an almshouse and hospice established in around 1212 A.D. at Portsmouth, Hampshire, UK by Peter des Roches (sometimes wrongly named as de Rupibus), Bishop of Winchester.

It is now also known as the Royal Garrison Church and is an English Heritage property and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.


It had a regular staff of 13 consisting of a Master who held overall responsibility for 6 nuns and 6 monks.

In 1450 an unpopular advisor to the king, Bishop Adam Moleyns of Chichester was conducting a service at the chapel of Domus Dei when a number of naval seamen (resentful of being only partially paid and only provided with limited provisions) burst into the church, dragged out the bishop and murdered him.

As a result of this the entire town of Portsmouth was placed under the Greater Excommunication, an interdict which lasted until 1508, removed at the request of Bishop Foxe of Winchester. One of the conditions for the removal of the interdict included the building of a chantry chapel next to the hospital.

In 1540, like many other chantry buildings, it was seized by King Henry VIII and until 1560 was used as an armoury. After 1560, a mansion built close by the south-side became the home of the local military governor. Throughout this time the chapel attached to the hospital remained in use. In 1662 the mansion hosted the wedding of King Charles II and Princess Catherine of Braganza.

Towards the end of the seventeenth century it fell into disrepair until it was restored in 1767 to become the Garrison church.

Once again, the Church fell into disrepair and in 1865 a new restoration project began under the direction of G. E. Street which lasted several years.

On 10 January 1941 the buildings of Domus Dei were partially destroyed in an attack by German bombers, when all the stained-glass widows were blown out and the Nave was rendered roofless by incendiary bombs and a single high explosive bomb. New glazing was fitted between 1947 and the late 1980s. Apart from the East window with its traditional design, all the other windows show much of the British Army's relationship to the Church and the City of Portsmouth. The Garrison Chancel remains, but the Nave is roofless. and is popular tourist attraction. In 2003, it featured in the Hornblower TV series. It was used as the set for Horatio Hornblower's wedding in Duty.

Further reading[edit]

  • Henry Press Wright (1873). The Story of the 'Domus Dei' of Portsmouth: Commonly Called the Royal Garrison Church. James Parker and Co. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°47′20″N 1°06′14″W / 50.788967°N 1.103943°W / 50.788967; -1.103943