Look for Yourself
- Where is the Great Hospital?
- What does the Hospital Look Like Outside?
- Are there any other Outside Buildings?
- What does the Square look like?
- What do the Cloisters look like?
- What does the Chancel look like?
- Can I view the roof bosses in closer detail?
- How do I use the interactive map?
- What does the Infirmary look like?
- Can I see images of Patrons?
- Are there images of other Hospitals?
In 1249, Bishop Walter de Suffield founded the Great Hospital at Norwich. The hospital, which is situated in a bend of the river Wensum to the north-east of Norwich Cathedral, has since cared for the people of Norwich for over 755 years.
You could easily mistake St Giles' for a medieval church. In fact, when the nearby church of St Helen (on the opposite side of the road, where there is now a playing-field) was granted to the hospital in 1270, the master and brethren of the hospital persuaded the bishop to have it demolished so that they might incorporate a new church inside the hospital itself.
The hospital has a number of outside buildings, including Prior Court, cottages and a swan pit.
The square now contains staff accommodation, St Helen's House and the Chaplain's House.
John Selot (master, c. 1455-1479), with assistance from Bishop Lyhart (c. 1446-1472), built the hospital cloisters (click here to see a video).
By the fourteenth century, a long and imposing chancel had been built (it was finished around 1383). Over 25 metres and five bays in length, it constituted a major extension to the existing building, which was originally much smaller, and was reserved as a sacred space for the clergy and choristers.
James Goldwell, Bishop of Norwich (1472-1499), almost certainly paid for the magnificent chantry chapel, where mass was to be celebrated for his immortal soul. The ceiling was decorated with two rings of bosses, sixteen on the outside, and eight on the inside. These too reflect the spiritual nature of the care on offer in the nearby infirmary. In the centre was a larger boss, depicting the coronation of the Virign.
A book has already been published on the roof bosses, and it describes each boss in detail: Martial Rose, A Crowing Glory: the Vaulted Bosses in the Chantry Chapel of St Helen's, the Great Hospital, Norwich (Dereham, 2006). With kind permission from the author and photographer (Bruce Benedict), we have reproduced some of text and images to create an interactive plan of the roof bosses.
Just click on any of the numbers on the map and an image will appear with a short description. A small preview image will also appear when you hover the mouse over each number. The top of the map is the East Alter, the left is the south window, the right is the Nave Arch North and the bottom is the West.
All photographs of bosses by Bruce Benedict.
If you can not use the map, do not worry. Just click here to download a slideshow (10mb). You will need Adobe Reader to view the .pdf file. If you do not already have this installed on your computer, please visit the Adobe Reader website.
Related to Boss 5; click here to see a bench end of St Margaret in St Helen's church.
The construction of the chancel and rebuilding of the nave in the 1380s probably coincided with the construction of a new infirmary hall. With four bays, a great west window and north and south aisles 20m in length, the hall alone represented a major undertaking. It could have easily accommodated about sixteen beds; each of which, as we have seen, equipped with all the necessary linen.
It was believed that time spent in Purgatory could be shortened if mortals would pray for the tortured soul. Just in case patients might forget who to pray for, Bishop Suffield, and subsequent masters and benefactors, made sure that their 'image' was prominently displayed in the hospital, much in the same way that sponsors pay for their logo to be shown at football matches and other events today.
There were about a thousand hospitals in medieval England; there were also many others in Europe, including St John's, Bruges, and the Hôtel Dieu, Paris.