• Richard III’s father, Richard Duke of York was knighted here when he was 15 years old
  • Founded by Robert de Beaumont, 1st Earl of Leicester
  • It is thought Geoffrey Chaucer was married here

In the heart of Medieval Leicester

St Mary de Castro means St Mary of the Castle, reflecting the church’s origins as a place of worship built within the fortified enclosure, or bailey, of Leicester Castle. During medieval times, St Mary de Castro would have had great importance and much wealth. As a man of great faith, it is likely King Richard would have taken mass and worshipped here whenever visiting Leicester Castle. He may even have prayed here the day before setting off to face his enemy at Bosworth.

Mary de Castro may have been a special place for Richard III as his father, Richard, Duke of York was knighted in the church at the age of 15. This happened during the 'Parliament of Bats' held at the castle in 1426. 'Bats' refer to clubs not the animals; tensions were high and members of parliament were banned from bringing swords, so they brought bats instead.

What do we know of the St Mary de Castro church?

Founded by Robert de Beaumont, 1st Earl of Leicester in 1107, it was a chapel for Leicester Castle. We know that King Henry VI was knighted here when he was 4 years old (at the same time as Richard Duke of York) and it is thought that Geoffrey Chaucer, author of the “Canterbury Tales” married his second wife here in the 1360s. John of Gaunt, who kept the Castle as one of his residences, was the writer’s patron.

The church has been much altered but some early features have survived including Norman doorways, 13th century font, grotesque heads around the exterior, sedilia (seats for the clergy) and piscina (basins for washing communion vessels). The tower was built in the 13th century and the spire added in the 15th.

The spire was carefully removed and put into storage due to safety concerns in 2014.

Find out how to visit.

Visitor information
Limited public access inside

Gallery

Roman Leicester

(47- 500) A military fort was erected, attracting traders and a growing civilian community to Leicester (known as Ratae Corieltauvorum to the Romans). The town steadily grew throughout the reign of the Romans.

Medieval Leicester

(500 – 1500) The early years of this period was one of unrest with Saxon, Danes and Norman invaders having their influences over the town. Later, of course, came Richard III and the final battle of the Wars of the Roses was fought on Leicester’s doorstep.

Tudor & Stuart Leicester

(1500 – 1700) The wool trade flourished in Leicester with one local, a former mayor named William Wigston, making his fortune. During the English Civil War a bloody battle was fought as the forces of King Charles I laid siege to the town.

Georgian Leicester

(1700 – 1837) The knitting industry had really stared to take hold and Leicester was fast becoming the main centre of hosiery manufacture in Britain. This new prosperity was reflected throughout the town with broader, paved streets lined with elegant brick buildings and genteel residences.

Edwardian Leicester

(1901 – 1910) Electric trams came to the streets of Leicester and increased literacy among the citizens led to many becoming politicised. The famous 1905 ‘March of the Unemployed to London’ left from Leicester market when 30,000 people came to witness the historic event.

Early 20th Century Leicester

(1910 – 1973) The diverse industrial base meant Leicester was able to cope with the economic challenges of the 1920s and 1930s. New light engineering businesses, such as typewriter and scientific instrument making, complemented the more traditional industries of hosiery and footwear manufacturing.

Modern Leicester

(1973 – present day) Industry was still thriving in the city during the 1970s, with the work opportunities attracting many immigrants from all over the world. While industry has declined in recent years, excellent transport links have made Leicester an attractive centre for many businesses. The City now has much to be proud of including its sporting achievements and the richness of its cultural heritage and diversity.

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