Guild of the Holy Cross - Stratford-upon-Avon
The Bishop of Worcester licensed Stratford's
Guild of the Holy Cross to build a chapel and hospital in the town in 1269. Religious guilds existed in most
medieval English towns and they came to play an important part in the townspeople's daily lives.
The Guild's buildings
The hospital was intended to provide care for needy priests and formed the basis of the complex of buildings that the
guild was to develop in the town over the following three hundred years. These buildings included almshouses to house its
elderly members, and the original schoolhouse, where one of the guild's priests taught Latin
grammar to young boys. The guildhall, in which feasts were held, was built in 1417. Inside the lower guildhall the painted
emblem of the guild can still be traced, covering the whole of the south wall.
Chapel wall paintings
In 1495, the Guild Chapel was re-built with an enlarged nave and stone tower. The interior of the chapel was highly
decorated with religious murals including a vast depiction of the Last Judgement painted above the chancel arch.
But the paintings did not remain on view for long. In the sixteenth century, during the course of the Reformation, John Shakespeare oversaw the
limewashing of the murals. Uncovered again in the 1920s, the chapel wall paintings are now some of the most interesting to be
found in the country.
The end of the guild
Guilds had become wealthy and powerful institutions by the time of Henry VIII's reign and, much like the monasteries, they were dissolved in the wake of the Reformation. In Stratford, the guild's buildings then became the headquarters of the town council for the next three centuries, and home to King Edward VI School.
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