Words and pictures by Con McHugh

After a two-year break the parish of St Gregory the Great, Stratford-upon-Avon, celebrated its annual Guild Chapel Mass last night (Wed 20 July) at The Guild Hall Chapel.

Mass was celebrated by Parish Priest Fr Alex Austin, OSB. The singing was wonderful and rang out into the streets of the town centre attracting many of those passing to call in to see what was happening.

The Guild Hall Chapel in Stratford-upon-Avon dates back to the 13th century, with the nave and tower you see today being rebuilt in the 1490s. The Chapel is most famous for its superb medieval wall-paintings, especially a vivid scene of the Last Judgement. The wall paintings were whitewashed in the 1560s because they didn't suit the new Protestant form of worship. John Shakespeare, William's father, oversaw the whitewashing because he was the town's Chamberlain at the time. But the covering of whitewash unintentionally preserved the paintings underneath, and they were revealed when the Chapel was restored in 1804.

In 1996, on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the charter granted to the town, permission was given by the Committee of the Trustees of Stratford-upon-Avon Town Council and the co-chaplains of the Chapel for a Catholic Mass to be held there, the first since the Reformation. This annual event has continued since then apart from 2020 and 2021 due to Covid.

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Mass of Saint Benedict at the Guild Chapel