King's Chapel (originally the Church of St Francis), on the east side of the Convent (the Governor's Residence), in Convent Place, Gibraltar. Originally built in the sixteenth century, this stone chapel served an important function when the British took over, and "[m]ilitary parades marching through the narrow streets to church services emphasised the political endorsement of Protestant supremacy" (Constantine 73). But it has undergone many changes since then, both to its fabric and to its use.

Left: Entrance portico from Convent Square, surmounted by bell tower and cross, and the Union Jack. Right: Interior, looking towards the chancel, showing the particularly beautiful coffered ceiling beyond the chancel arch, with shell-like "pendants" in the plaster at the east end.

The original building here was the chapel of the Franciscan monastery that it adjoined. When the British took the "Convent" itself as the Governor's residence, they used the chapel as an Anglican church for the garrison. Sources differ, but either Lieut.-Colonel William Hargrave, who was Governor in 1740-49, or a later governor appropriated a large part of its space for the Convent: most likely, this happened when the chapel was rebuilt after the Great Siege of 1779-83 (see Comerford). At any rate, by the late eighteenth century, the chapel had become too small to accommodate the garrison. A new, larger church was built early in the following century: the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity.

Now serving only as the Convent's private chapel, King's Chapel fell into disrepair. A period of closure, however, was followed by a major restoration in the 1840s. The building's name was changed at this time, to the Queen's Chapel, in tribute to Queen Victoria. Further restoration followed the widespread damage wrought by the harbour explosion of 1951 which also damaged the cathedral. Another change was afoot: the old name was reinstated 1953 by request of Queen Elizabeth II on her visit to Gibraltar that year. The most recent restoration was carried out in 1997 (see Chipulina).

Now beautifully maintained, King's Chapel serves as the forces' chaplaincy, and is also used for Roman Catholic worship. Despite having been much reduced in size in the eighteenth century, King's Chapel still has a striking presence. With its regimental colours and interesting memorials, it is an important witness to Gibraltar's colourful history.

First photograph, and the photograph on the right below, by "Prioryman" in Wikipedia. Many thanks for making these available for reuse on the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) licence. In both cases, the perspective has been corrected. Photograph of the entrance, which is just next to the range on the east, by Jacqueline Banerjee. Click on all three images to enlarge them. You may use the photograph of the entrance too without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one.

Related Material


Chipulina, Neville. "1531 — The Convent — And the King's Chapel." The People of Gibraltar. Web. 31 January 2019.

Comerford, Patrick. "Gibraltar — Out on Its Own among the Microstates of Europe." Web. 1 February 2019. (As well as being very informative, this has more pictures of the interior.)

Constantine, Stephen. Community and Identity: The Making of Modern Gibraltar since 1704. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009.

Last modified 12 February 2019