Medieval Leicester

Information about the medieval city of Leicester

The City of Leicester and its environs

Leicester is one of the few English cities which can boast important standing structures providing continuity from the Roman period right through the Middle Ages. There are substantial remains of a Roman baths complex, and mosaics and wall-paintings have been excavated from the sites of Roman villas. From the post-Roman period, St Nicholas, Leicester, was originally an aisleless Anglo-Saxon church, and the sculptures at nearby Breedon-on-the-Hill are of national importance.

In Leicester itself, the twelfth-century Great Hall of the Castle, the Romanesque architecture of St Mary de Castro, and St. Nicholas's, as well as neighbouring Oakham Castle's Great Hall of circa 1185 are architectural survivals of the first rank. The great hospital of the Newarke at Leicester, founded in 1331, with its early fifteenth-century gateway, the superb fourteenth-century architecture of Melton Mowbray and Gaddesby, and Leicester's fourteenth-to-fifteenth-century Guildhall make the city an excellent location in which to study mediaeval art and architecture in both the secular and the ecclesiastical spheres. Other arts are also well represented, most notably stained-glass making. Twycross contains glass from St Denis and the Sainte Chapelle and there is a remarkable series of late medieval panels representing the Seven Sacraments and the Seven Acts of Mercy surviving from Wygston House.

As the home of Simon de Montfort and the burial place of both Richard III and Cardinal Wolsey, Leicester is also a site of considerable significance for political historians, and the concentration of Lollard activity in the county provides it with special relevance to theologians, and social and religious historians. Leicester Abbey was one of the largest Austustinian houses in the country; its ruins have recently been the subject of a largescale excavation project by ULAS and the subject of an important interdisciplinary book published by the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society for its 150th anniversary.

Information on the archaeology of Leicester can be found here.

Interactive maps of recent excavation sites can be found here.

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