Henry VIII's Lost Chapel Discovered Under Parking Lot

Kate Ravilious
for National Geographic News
February 9, 2006

It's not in the most glamorous location, but British archaeologists are still excited about the remains of a 500-year-old royal chapel that have been discovered under a parking lot in the Greenwich district of south London.

Generations of British monarchs worshipped at the lost chapel, including Henry VIII, the Tudor king who had six wives.

The ancient tiled floor emerged by chance when a bulldozer's bucket scraped against some brickwork three weeks ago.

Since then careful digging by archaeologists has revealed the eastern walls of the chapel and a ten-foot-by-five-foot (three-meter-by-six-meter) area of floor covered in a checkerboard of what were once black and white glazed tiles.

The area was once on the grounds of the Palace of Placentia, which was demolished in the late 1600s.

Among the rubble, fragments of stained glass, and pieces of decorative stonework have been found.

"This used to be a private chapel belonging to the palace. There aren't really any of these surviving, and so it is a unique find," said Julian Bowsher, senior archaeologist from the Museum of London Archaeology Service. (wallpaper photo: London taxi)

Lost Palace

Henry VII built Placentia—whose name means "pleasant place to live"—on the banks of the Thames at Greenwich in 1500.

The palace was a favorite haunt of his son, Henry VIII, some of his ill-fated wives, and his daughter, Elizabeth I.

However, by 1699 the palace had fallen out of favor, and it was demolished to make way for a hospital designed by British architect Sir Christopher Wren.

The hospital later became the Royal Naval College, and today it belongs to the nonprofit Greenwich Foundation.

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