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Old Royal Naval College Chapel
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The great palace by the river at Greenwich, which Sir Christopher Wren and other architects built for pensioners of the Royal Navy and which long housed the Royal Naval College, is one of London’s most significant buildings. King William III gave the site and existing buildings for use as a Naval Hospital, to match the Royal Hospital for soldiers at Chelsea.

Old Royal Naval College Chapel

The domed Queen Mary Block was built by Wren to house the chapel.


King William’s wife and co-monarch gave her name to the Queen Mary Block on the east side, which includes the chapel. The domed tower stands over the chapel’s entrance. To its east, there are eight bays with three tiers of windows. This is an interesting variation on the usual two tiers that light a galleried church. Here, the lowest windows light the crypt. The segment-vaulted interior seems markedly tall and wide, for the galleries are narrow and rest on their curved brackets rather high up the walls. The east end has two pairs of huge Corinthian columns in scagliola or imitation marble, and between them an equally huge painting by Benjamin West of St Paul saved from shipwreck on Malta. The altar consists of six cherubim in gilded Coade stone, supporting a marble slab. The pulpit is a handsome work of limewood, mahogany and oak; its circular medallions by West are in Coade stone and show scenes from St Paul’s life. Under the west gallery there is a bust of Admiral Sir Thomas Hardy, who commanded the Victory at Trafalgar.

Old Royal Naval College Chapel

Pensioners of the Royal Navy were heartened by the painting over the alter of St Paul being saved from shipwreck on Malta, where many of them would have served.



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