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Spital Sermon - An Ancient Tradition

Tuesday 14 March 2017

Spital is derived from the word ‘hospital’, specifically the one named St Mary Spital founded in 1197, and historically, the object of the ‘sermon’ was to attract donations to charities, especially to the Royal Hospitals. It was at a Spital Sermon in 1553 (the year Edward VI granted Christ’s Hospital’s Royal Charter), that the pupils of the School were first seen in public dressed in their bluecoat uniform.

On Thursday, 9 March, Christ’s Hospital pupils, the Senior Grecian (Head pupil) Peter Callas and Second Monitor, Rafaela Alford, travelled to St Lawrence Jewry-next-Guildhall in the City of London to read a lesson at this ancient ceremony. The sermon on the subject of hospitality – caring for both body and spirit in the old sense of the word - was given by The Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark.  The Choir of King Edward’s School Witley sang at the service.

The Spital Sermon was attended by the Lord Mayor of the City of London and the Lady Mayoress, together with the Sheriffs and Aldermen, Common Councilmen, Governors of Christ’s Hospital and King Edward’s School Witley (also a Royal Hospital) and the Treasurer, Head Master and Clerk of both schools.

Historically, the sermon was preached from the old open-air pulpit at St Mary Spital on three days of Easter week. A new Easter anthem was composed annually and printed copies were distributed that included advertisements for the School with requests for donations. The tradition ceased in 1862.

Historical context courtesy of the Christ’s Hospital Museum

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