Churches and friaries

As well as the Greyfriars, who were Franciscans, Leicester was home to two other religious orders: Dominicans and Augustinians.

Austin (Augustinian) Friary

To the west of Leicester, the River Soar flowed in a series of channels, creating small islands just beyond the town wall. On one of these, the Augustinians established their friary in 1254. Two bridges crossed the western arm of the Soar near the friary. Bow Bridge carried the road to Hinckley whilst the smaller Little Bow Bridge gave the friars access to a close containing St Augustine’s Well. The friary was dissolved in 1538 and all of its buildings were demolished.

Blackfriars (St Clement’s Church)

The Blackfriars, a Dominican order, came to Leicester in the mid-13th century and established themselves in an existing church, St Clement’s. The friary was dissolved by Henry VIII and the church was demolished soon after 1536. So far, only a fragment of the precinct wall has been revealed by excavation. One of the stories surrounding Richard’s lost grave relates to supposed confusion between the sites of the Blackfriars and Greyfriars. In fact both locations were clearly identified on post-Reformation maps, although visitors to the town, unaware that there had been two friaries, could have been misled by the publicly accessible Blackfriars ruins since the Greyfriars site was inaccessible private land.

Churches

Five of Leicester’s medieval churches are still standing. As well as St Mary de Castro there is St Nicholas’ (still in use), St Martin’s (which became Leicester Cathedral in 1927), St Margaret’s (just outside the town walls, still in use) and All Saints (closed in 1982, now maintained by the Churches Conservation Trust).

As well as the three friaries, churches which no longer exist include St Michael’s, St Peter’s and the Church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, where Richard’s body was displayed before his burial at Greyfriars.

  • The faces of Leicester? Some of the carved wooden heads which decorate the 15th- century roof of the north aisle in All Saints’ Church which is situated on Highcross Street.
    The faces of Leicester? Some of the carved wooden heads which decorate the 15th- century roof of the north aisle in All Saints’ Church which is situated on Highcross Street.
  • St Mary de Castro
    St Mary de Castro

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