Delve Deeper - The Chapel of St Clement

The Chapel of St Clement, located in the South Aisle, is dedicated to St. Clement, the 3rd Bishop of Rome who died c AD 96. 

The chapel’s most prominent memorial is to the Royal Air Force and was dedicated on Battle of Britain Day 2006 to commemorate those who served in the many RAF establishments in Sussex, including nearby Tangmere, in times of conflict and peace.

The chapel is still used during the week for morning prayers and other periodic services.


St Clement's Chapel, built around 1300, is one of several chapels built to accommodate the chantry priests dedicated to saying masses for the souls of the dead - an important aspect of medieval religion and very remunerative. Prayers would help the passage through Purgatory and lessen the time spent in limbo before hopeful ascension into Heaven. St Clement's Chapel was also used by increasing numbers of pilgrims visiting the shrine of St Richard. The other six surviving medieval chapels are dedicated to Saints George, Clement, Mary Magdalene, Lady Chapel, John the Baptist, Edmund & Thomas and Michael.

Henry VIII stipulated daily masses for the repose of his soul to be celebrated until the end of time, and generations of lesser mortals here in Chichester would have paid for similar if less ambitious and costly intercessions.

Before the Reformation there were up to 30 Prebendary canons, vicars and chantry priests as well as the senior Chapter appointees from the Dean downwards, to satisfy the heavy schedule of frequent services for the dead, the many high masses, saints’ days and the eight daily religious offices usually held at the High Altar.

After the 150 years of religious turmoil from Henry VIII to the Glorious Revolution (1688), the 18th century was a period of comparative religious stability. But local political disputes and Ducal patronage, led to an introspective regime in the Cathedral marked by political differences within the Chapter and some disputes with Bishops. The minimum religious statutory obligations were met and little more, resulting in structural neglect and the disuse of this and other chapels.

However the 19th century saw an improvement in the fortunes of the Cathedral particularly in the Victorian period. The nave was opened up for the regular and increasing congregations, and renovations undertaken of the fabric culminating in the restoration of the chapel of St. Clement in 1898, dedicated to the memory of Bishop Richard Durnford.

The RAF Memorial

There were seven RAF bases, plus their satellites, in Sussex by the end of World War II as well as eight Advanced Landing Grounds and other resources such as Seaplane and Air Sea Rescue bases and radar establishments, some dating from World War I. None remain in RAF hands although some are in civilian use and one is an army base.

The RAF Memorial in slate and bronze was designed by Donald Buttress and made by Tim Crawley and Eric Marland. It was unveiled on Battle of Britain Day 2006. Above it are the RAF Ensign and Colours of 46 Squadron. Buttress is remembered by his likeness on a gargoyle on the North wall, facing the Bell Tower. 

Artworks in the Chapel

There are three memorials by the renowned and prolific sculptor John Flaxman (1755-1826), to: Agnes Cromwell (said to be one of his best); Sarah Udny (said to be one of his worst); and Francis & Bridget Dear.

Flaxman studied at the Royal Academy, becoming a member in 1800 and subsequently Professor of Sculpture there. His style shows the influence of the work that he did for the Wedgwood Pottery Company. Other examples of his work are in the South West Tower and North Nave.

The altar frontal painting is “The Icon of Divine Light” (1973) by Cecil Collins (1908-89), in various shades of gold. The face is that of Muriel Cox to whom it is a memorial. Collins was described in his Times Newspaper obituary as “The greatest English visionary artist since Blake”.

Notable amongst the stained glass images in the Chapel are Jesus walking on water and St. Paul being released from prison, with sleeping guards - both in the Western window.

Other points of interest:
  • On the east wall are statues of St. Clement flanked by St. Alphage and St. Anselm.
  • On the north wall cenotaph is a memorial to Bishop Richard Durnford (1870-95), featuring the figures of St Wilfrid and St Richard.
  • On the west wall is a memorial to Charles Ridgeway (Bishop 1908-19).
  • The east window by Ward & Hughes 1872 (in memory of Rev Henry Smith) shows scenes from the Gospels of Mark & John and The Acts.
  • The west window by Clayton & Bell 1864 (in memory of Henry Roberts) shows scenes from the Gospels of Matthew & John and The Acts with representations of Saints James & John the Apostle.