Chapel A glorious neoclassical Chapel

The Chapel, constructed by Thomas Ripley to the designs of Sir Christopher Wren, was the last major part of the Royal Hospital for Seamen to be built. Following a disastrous fire in 1779, it was redecorated by James ‘Athenian’ Stuart in the Greek revival style, and today is a wonderful example of a complete neoclassical interior.

The interior of the original chapel was much plainer than today, with a flat panelled ceiling, an apse (alcove) at the east end, and much smaller galleries.  For many years there were no pews, and the injured sailors had to stand during their daily service.  At 6am on 2 January 1779, a tremendous fire gutted the building, leaving only a shell. 

James Stuart, as Surveyor at the Royal Hospital for Seamen, was appointed to re-design the Chapel in 1781. The Chapel reflects his influences of ancient Greek architecture and design. Stuart left much of the work to his Clerks of Works, Robert Mylne and William Newton who deserve much of the credit for the way the Chapel looks.

Features that merit a special mention include the Samuel Green organ (the only one of its kind to remain in situ).

Key facts

  • The Chapel is dedicated to St Peter and St Paul, both of whom have connections with water and the sea. 
  • The vast altarpiece painting is the only one of Benjamin West’s altarpieces to remain in the same place for which it was commissioned.
  • The 1789 Chapel organ is the largest in situ work of Samuel Green, the leading organ builder of his day.

The Chapel today

Following extensive restoration in the 1950s, the Chapel today looks much as it did in 1798 when it re-opened after the fire. Today it is open to visitors free of charge.

Join one of our knowledgeable Yeomen guides on a daily tour or download our free Chapel interpretation guide (pdf, 5MB) to learn more about the Chapel. This printed guide is also available in English and other languages from the welcome desk in the Chapel for 50p.

Chapel services and music

There are regular services throughout the week and on Sunday mornings – all welcome. 

Sun 11.00 - Choral Eucharist

Mon 18.30 - Choral Evensng (term time)

Wed 13.05 - Holy Communion (term time)

The excellent acoustics of the curved ceiling mean it is often used for concerts, performances classes and recitals. For details visit our events calendar or download the Chapel's Spring 2014 programme of services and concerts (pdf, 1.89MB).

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