THE HENRY YII CHAPEL, beyond the apse, was begun in 1503 as a burial place for Henry YI, on the orders of Henry YII, but it was Henry.YII himself who was finally buried here, in an elaborate tomb. The master mason, who designed the chapel was probably Robert Vertue his brother William constructed the vault at St George's Chapel, Windsor, in 1505 and this experience may have helped in the creation of the magnificent vaulting erected here a few years later.
The chapel has an apse and side aisles which are fan-vaulted, and the central section is roofed with extraordinarily intricate and finely-detailed circular vaulting,embellished with more Tudor badges and with carved pendants, which is literally breath-taking in the perfection of its beauty and artistry.
Beneath the windows, once filled with glass painted by Bernard Flower of which only fragments now remain, are ninety-four of the original 107 statues of saints, placed in richly embellished niches. Beneath these, in turn, hang the banners of the living Knights Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, whose chapel this is. When the Order was founded in 1725, extra stalls and seats were added to those originally provided. To the stalls are attached plates recording the names and arms of past Knights of the Order, while under the seats can be seen finely carved misericords.
The altar, a copy of the sixteenth-century altar incorporates two of the original pillars and under its canopy hangs a fifteenth-century Madonna and Child by Vivarini.
In the centre of the apse, behind the altar, stand the tomb of Henry YII and Elizabeth of York, protected by a bronze screen. The tomb was the work of Torrigiani and the effigies of the king and queen are finely executed in gilt bronze.
In later years many more royal burials took place in the chapel. Mary I, her half-sister Elizabeth I and half-brother Edward YI all lie here The Latin inscription on thetomb - on which only Elizabeth Ist effigy rests - reads: "Consorts both in throne and grave, here rest we two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in the hope of one Resurrection".
In the south asle lies Mary Queen of Scots, mother of James Yi and I, who brought her body from Peterborough and gave her a tomb even more magnificent than that which he had erected for his cousin Elizabeth.I.
In the same aisle lies Henry YII's mother, Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond. Her effigy, a bronze by Torrigiani, shows her in old age. She was known for her charitable works and for her intellect - she founded Christ's and St John's Colleges at Cambridge - and these activities are recorded in the inscription composed by Erasmus. Also in this aisle is the tomb of Margaret, Countess of Lennox.
THE CHAPEL OF ST EDWARD THE CONFESSOR, containing his shrine, lies east of the Sanctuary at the heart of the Abbey. It is closed off from the west by a stone screen, probably of fifteenth-century date, carved with scenes from the life of Edward the Confessor; it is approached from the east via a bridge from the Henry YII Chapel.
The shrine seen today within the chapel is only a ghost of its former self. It originally had three parts: a stone base decorated with Cosmati work, a gold feretory containing the saint's coffin, a canopy above which could be raised to reveal the feretory or lowered to protect it. Votive offerings of gold and jewels were given to enrich the feretory over the centuries. To this shrine came many pilgrims, and the sick were frequently left beside it overnight in the hope of a cure. All this ceased at the Reformation The shrine was dismantled and stored by the monks; the gold feretory was taken away from them, but they were allowed to rebury the saint elsewhere in the Abbey.
It was during the reign of Mary I that a partial restoration of the shrine took place. The stone base was re-assembled, the coffin was placed, in the absence of a feretory, in the top part of the stone base and the canopy positioned on top. The Chapel has a Cosmati floor, similar to that before the High Altar, and a blank space in the design shows where the shrine once stood; it also indicates that the shrine was originally raised up on a platform, making the canopy visible beyond the western screen. The canopy of the shrine has recently been restored, and hopefully one day the rest of the shrine will also be restored.
And within the chapel can be seen the Coronation Chair and the tombs of five kings and four queens. At the eastern end is the tomb and Chantey Chapel of Henry Y, embellished with carvings including scenes of Henry Y's coronation. The effigy of the king once had a silver head and silver regalia, and was covered in silver regalia, and was covered in silver gilt, but this precious metal was stolen in 1546.
Eleanor of Castle, first wife of Edward I, lies beside the Chapel. Her body was carried to Westminster from Lincoln, a memorial cross being erected at each place where the funeral procession rested.
Beside her lies Henry III, responsible for the rebuilding of the Abbey, in a tomb of Purbeck marble. Next to his tomb is that of Edward I. Richard II and Anne of Bohemia, Edward III and Philippa of Hainnault, and Catherine de Valois, Henry Y's Queen, also lie in this chapel.
THE SOUTH TRANSEPT is lit by a large rose window, with glass dating from 1902. Beneath it, in the angles above the right and left arches, are two of the finest carvings in the Abbey, depicting sensing angels. In addition to the many monuments there are two fine late thirteen-century wall-paintings, uncovered in 1936, to be seen by the door leading into St Faith's Chapel. They depict Christ showing his wounds to Doubting Thomas, and St Christopher. Beside the south wall rises the dormer staircase, once used by the monks going from their dormitory to the Choir for their night offices.