The Cathedral Treasury has been housed since 1976 in the Chapel of the Four Virgins, generally considered to be Saint Catherine of Alexandria, and Saints Agatha, Margaret and Winifred.
The large vaulted chapel, which probably dates from the end of the 12th century, contains traces of medieval wall paintings in ochre, green, blue and red. It is accessed from the North Quire aisle, or through gates from the North Transept which include part of the gates that used to stand outside Edes House on the other side of West Street, and since donated by the City Council. For many years the chapel and part of the North Transept were used as a separate church from the rest of the Cathedral.
The term refers to four pieces usually of silver or pewter used during the celebration of the Holy Sacrament. A chalice, cup or goblet is used to hold consecrated wine, which has been blessed by a priest; the chalice may or may not have a lid. A paten, sometimes called a salver, is a plate or dish used to hold consecrated bread or wafers. A flagon is a large jug used for replenishing the chalice. An alms dish is used to collect offerings from the congregation.
The Treasury today houses a fine collection of church plate on loan from churches throughout Sussex, as well as other items used in the life of the Cathedral. The collection includes some notable and valuable pieces. Little survives from the Middle Ages, but there is a fine collection of Elizabethan (early post-Reformation) chalices, some of it of local and unmarked manufacture.
Of particular interest are two complete sets of church plate from the mid-17th century, one from Petworth and one from the small East Sussex village of Ashburnham. The Petworth pieces were made on either side of the English Civil War. The chalice is dated 1628 and the salver, flagon and Alms dishes are dated 1665/6, although the flagon is dated 1640 and bears the arms of Henry King, the donor. Henry King was Bishop of Chichester from 1641 but was deprived of his office in 1643. He was restored in 1660 and died in 1669. During the period 1649-1660 little church plate was made, the Puritans rejecting all forms of ceremonial worship. Much plate was also looted from churches and melted down.
Also of interest is a paten, a plate or dish used to hold consecrated bread or wafers, from West Stoke which may have originally been used for secular purposes. Some of the large flagons, used to replenish wine during the communion service, may hint at an original secular use as well as the possibility of large numbers of attenders at Communion services in small villages at a time when Communion services were less frequent.
Although much of the plate is silver, some is made of pewter, which may have been used as a cheaper alternative. Other items on display include two large 17th century wooden alms dishes, robes, rings, crosses and croziers belonging to previous Bishops.
Of further interest in the Treasury are the weather vane from the spire, which bears the imprint of German bullets from the Second World War and a painting of the Resurrection (on loan from The Pallant House Gallery) by Hans Feibusch (1898-1998).
Medieval Wall Paintings
The medieval wall paintings in the Treasury are similar to the Romanesque examples at Canterbury Cathedral and probably date from the middle of the 12th century. The ones at Chichester show three standing figures wearing sandals and a frontally enthroned bishop against a draped background.
The Treasury also contains important pieces of embroidery:
High Altar Frontal (1893) by Harriet Wyatt, who made similarly large ones for Winchester and Oxford Cathedrals and Westminster Abbey; each of them took seven or eight years. Wyatt was a vicar’s wife with eight children, but also a designer and sculptress. Her designs were taken from frescoes by the Italian artist Fra Angelico, which had just been printed for the first time using colour lithography.
St Richard Embroideries (1975) designed by Yvonne Hudson and Rosalie Williams, assisted by 15 ‘thimbles’, for the Cathedral’s 900th anniversary. The complete set consists of 12 panels, four representing the move from Selsey to Chichester and the building of the Cathedral, and eight showing episodes in the life and death (1262) of St Richard. One panel is always on display in the Treasury.