Thinking allowed

Liturgy for the reburial of a long-dead king and a liturgical re-ordering project

There prob­ably aren’t many examples to hand for the author­it­ies at Leicester Cathed­ral, who will be com­pil­ing the ser­vice for the re-buri­al of Richard III, sched­uled for Thursday 26 March 2015.

In a press release last week the Cathed­ral author­it­ies say that

  • On Sunday 22 March the Uni­ver­sity of Leicester will trans­fer the mor­tal remains into a lead-lined coffin and they will travel from Leicester to Bosworth
  • In the even­ing, the remains of Richard III will be received into the care of the Cathedral
  • They will lie in repose for 3 days
  • They will be rebur­ied on the morn­ing of Thursday 26 March
  • The next days, Fri­day 27 March and Sat­urday 28 March, the tomb stone itself will be put in place and revealed and there will be a ser­vice to mark the com­ple­tion of the reinterment.

The reburi­al ser­vice will be broad­cast live on Chan­nel 4, with high­lights being shown in the evening.

Fur­ther details can be read on the Cathedral’s Richard III site.

We hope that litur­gic­al mater­i­al asso­ci­ated with these events will be avail­able to link to near­er the time. Here is what the Cathed­ral is say­ing right now:

[T]his raises inter­est­ing ques­tions about lan­guage. Ves­pers of the Dead is not famil­i­ar today and ser­vices were in Lat­in. Pray­ing for the dead can be a con­tro­ver­sial issue, but, des­pite the con­dem­na­tion in the Art­icles of Faith, is part of Anglic­an prac­tice, although not for all. And in law the Church of Eng­land is a con­tinu­ous body since Sax­on times, there­fore we are the suc­cessor of the Church to which Richard belonged, so an Anglic­an funer­al is entirely right, how­ever we choose to diver­si­fy with­in that. … So what we shall do with Richard, is sculpt some­thing which both recog­nises tra­di­tion and Richard’s faith, but speaks also to the mod­ern world.

Mean­while the Cathed­ral is appeal­ing for £2.5 mil­lions for the re-order­ing pro­ject which will include a fit­ting set­ting for the King’s remains. Some details of the reorder­ing can be found at the Leicester dio­ces­an web­site and at the BBC. Although full draw­ings and images of the cur­rent plans do not seem to be gen­er­ally avail­able, inform­a­tion of the 2013 plans sub­mit­ted to the Cathed­rals Fab­ric Com­mis­sion can be found in some detail here. My under­stand­ing is that the only sub­stan­tial change from the earli­er plans is in the plinth on which the tomb slab will be placed.


  • James says:

    If Leicester Cathed­ral are going to ‘sculpt some­thing which both recog­nises tra­di­tion and Richard’s faith, but speaks also to the mod­ern world’ I sin­cerely hope that they involve a theo­lo­gian at an early stage in this pro­ject. The poten­tial for some­thing mis­dir­ec­ted and (frankly) excru­ci­at­ing is con­sid­er­able. They have Thomas O’Lough­lin just up the road in Not­ting­ham (and indeed Simon Oliv­er) – an Anglic­an and a Roman Cath­ol­ic with a con­sid­er­able grasp of the his­tor­ic­al, theo­lo­gic­al and litur­gic­al issues. Time was when Anglic­an litur­gists were groun­ded and dis­cip­lined theo­lo­gians. We can­not always make such con­fid­ent assump­tions these days.

  • Mark Beach, Dean of Rochester, reports that mem­bers of the Cathed­rals Fab­ric Com­mis­sion vis­ited Leicester Cathed­ral today (29 August) to agree the detail of the changes to the Cathed­ral building.

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