Leicester Cathedral reveals "distinctive" Richard III tomb "imbued with spirituality"

By Ben Miller | 18 June 2014

Organisers say the design for Richard III's tomb is "distinctive and elegant", as the relative whose DNA identified the king prepares to create his coffin

A photo of a design for a large square stone tomb with a cross-shaped cut in it
Richard III is expected to be reinterred in Leicester next spring© van Heyningen and Haward Architects
Richard III’s sarcophagus-shaped tomb will feature a deeply-cut cross in a carved slab of Swaledale stone above an English oak coffin made by the king’s 16-times great-nephew, sealed in a brick-lined vault beneath Leicester Cathedral.

Taking the idea of light breaking through the entrance to Jesus’s tomb as its starting point, the slits in the memorial – made with stone derived from long-dead fossils, quarried in north Yorkshire and resting on a marble plinth – will allow light to flow through it, illuminating a coat of arms recognising Richard’s “importance” and “character”.

An overhead photo of a square tomb with a cross in it inside a cathedral
The contractor for the re-order of the cathedral is also expected to be announced soon© van Heyningen and Haward Architects
Designed by London-based group van Heyningen and Haward Architects, the look of the tomb has been revealed less than a month after the High Court ruled that Richard III should rest in Leicester.

“The last few months have been busy months as we have planned in the background, knowing that natural justice would take its due course,” said The Very Reverend David Monteith, the Dean of Leicester, speaking at the cathedral.

“We need to press ahead with a degree of speed and determination as we look towards a reinterment in the spring.

“The design that has now been approved is very distinctive and elegant; it’s a design that evokes memory and is deeply respectful of history.

“It’s a design deeply imbued with spirituality, with a sense of stillness that will evoke, I think, a sense of wonder and awe in people, which is very much part of our mission.

‘This is a tomb which reflects the era in which it is designed as well as the solemn purpose for which it is commissioned.

“To do anything else would be a pastiche of a medieval tomb and would ignore the fact he is being reburied in the 21st century. That is part of King Richard’s story now.”

A photo of a design for a tomb inside an enclosure within a medieval cathedral
A dark plinth of Kilkenny stone will be carved with Richard's name, dates, motto and coat of arms© van Heyningen and Haward Architects
The total cost of the project, including a range of accompanying events and activities, is expected to cost around £2.5 million under an “aspirational budget” which the Dean suggested was a “small sum” compared to major ceremonial events such as royal weddings.

Works to the fabric of the cathedral are expected to account for around £1.4 million, with a £500,000 grant from the Diocese of Leicester and £100,000 in donations already raised.

Ibsen, whose DNA played a vital part in the final identification of Richard III’s body, has accepted an invitation to create his ruling ancestor’s coffin.

“Rather extraordinarily his day job is that of a cabinet maker – he’s a very fine carpenter,” said Monteith, who added that Ibsen’s precise design would not be revealed “for some time”.

“It just seems a very, very appropriate way to bring this part of the story to completion.”

The design selection, overseen by a group chaired by Rev Canon Mandy Ford, drew criticism from some members of the Richard III Society.

“It’ll be a peaceful place for people to visit and reflect,” said Ford.

“It will help us to continue to offer a welcome to visitors and pilgrims. This is a place of similar significance within church architecture to the chancel where the Greyfriars buried King Richard in their church.”


What do you think? Leave a comment below.

More on Richard III:

Archaeologists send head of Richard III to Northampton Museum

Bread Angel creates Richard III food range to celebrate Leicester archaeological triumph

Richard III: Archaeologist Claire Calver on the search for the King's body in Leicester

Richard III body infected with roundworms, say University of Leicester archaeologists

Richard III DNA tests to reveal hair, eyes and diseases of the King

The DNA of a King: Dr Turi King on the genome sequencing of Richard III

Uncertainty over reburial of Richard III as Leicester and York await judicial review

University of Leicester archaeologists bid farewell to Grey Friars site of Richard III body
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Hardly better, or different than their first, which public opinion forced them to revise.
It fails totally in every way.
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