First Catholic service for centuries to be celebrated in chapel of King Henry VIII

The Queen, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, recorded her 2010 Christmas broadcast in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court PalaceReuters

The first Roman Catholic service for more than 450 years is to be celebrated in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace.

Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Nichols will celebrate Vespers and the Bishop of London, Dean of the Chapel Royal, will preach in Henry VIII's chapel, built by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey in the early 16th century but taken from Wolsey by the King and rebuilt. 

Henry VIII broke with Rome and established the Church of England after Wolsey failed to secure his annulment from Catherine of Aragon. Henry's third wife Jane Seymour gave birth to his only son Prince Edward at Hampton Court. His fifth wife Catherine Howard is said to haunt the palace, where she had faced accusations of adultery. The King married his sixth and last wife, Catherine Parr, at Hampton Court.

The Genesis Foundation and the Choral Foundation are working together to make the service possible, as the first Latin Rite of the Catholic Church to be celebrated since the 1550s at the Chapel Royal.

A spokesman described it as "an unprecedented coming together of the Catholic and Anglican churches on such an historically important site".

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The Vespers will be dedicated to St John the Baptist, remembering the origins of the chapel as built by Cardinal Wolsey on the site of a former chapel of the Knights of St John Hospitaller. Members of the public will be able to take part in a ballot for a stall or boxed pew at the service.

The music will be performed by Harry Christophers and his ensembles The Sixteen and Genesis Sixteen and will include Thomas Tallis' Magnificat, William Cornysh's Salve Regina and John Taverner's "Leroy" Kyrie.

Before the service, Cardinal and Dean will take part in a "conversation" on "Faith and the Crown" in the Great Hall at Hampton Court. They will debate the role of the Chapel Royal in maintaining elements of Catholic worship to the present day.

John Studzinski, founder and chairman of the Genesis Foundation, said: "Dialogue between faiths is much needed and welcomed in these turbulent times. We need to recognise that we have more in common than not. I'm therefore delighted that the Genesis Foundation is enabling the Catholic and Anglican churches to engage in dialogue on this site that is so rich in history, both theological and musical. It will be an unforgettable occasion and is genuinely one for the history books."

Michele Price of the Choral Foundation said: "The Chapel Royal at Hampton Court played centre stage to the religious changes in the 16th Century. Its musicians and composers met the challenge of serving the spiritual needs of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I, by producing new and beautiful music and in so doing became the cradle of English church music. This historic occasion enables us to explore our rich heritage and bring together Christian traditions as we celebrate 500 years of Hampton Court Palace."

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