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.

2 comments

  • 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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