St George and the popeys

The stalls in the quire of St George’s Chapel hold a wealth of intricate wood carving which was carried out by carpenters for the King’s new works within the Castle of Windsor.  In letters patent of May 1475 John Squyer and William Berkeley were to take carpenters called ‘kervers’ to carry out this work.

The Chapter Accounts covering the period January 1481 to 1483 include works ‘for making and carving of twelve canopies ordained for the Knights and Canons in the quire and for the carving of a story of St George’

St George became a popular saint during the middle ages after the Golden Legend, printed by Caxton in 1483 from a translation by Jacques de Voragine, became widely available.   Further legends include St George the Martyr and Our Lady’s Knight, which is his link with The Virgin Mary.

It is interesting that the medieval ‘kervers’ were aware of all three legends as they have integrated them onto the finials or poppy heads on the south quire stalls. However the cycle of the legends are not complete or in the correct order which may mean that they have been moved at some time during works in the chapel.   A few have been partially broken and four new finials were carved and added in the 18th centuary on the returned south stalls which also include St George.

Six of the medieval finials relate to the Life of the Virgin with the remainder illustrating St George the martyr and the Princess and dragon.  Three carvings that sum up these legends are 1. St George in armour kneels before the Virgin and child, his horse and two angels in the background [south, lower row 1E] 2. The Princess leads the dragon by a strap back to the gateway of the city while St George stands astride the dragon [south, upper row 3W] 3. St George stripped of armour and tied on a hurdle is being drawn by two horses while five figures look on [south, upper row 1W]

Enid Davies, Assistant Archivist

The Queen's Free Chapel. The Chapel of the Most Honourable and Noble Order of the Garter. The Chapel of the College of St George.