UK Tour: Cambridge

10/20/12: King's College Chapel
(Located on the River Cam in Cambridge, Cambridgshire)

King Henry VI left a legacy of meek rule, losing France and bringing about the Wars of the Roses. Then again, he is not seen as a strong ruler nor a mighty warrior. He is instead recognized as the scholar king who held a saintly air about him. Indeed, many attempts were made to have him canonized up until Henry VIII dropped the claim in 1528. No, Henry did leave a positive legacy and this is found in his two colleges which function to this day: Eton (in Windsor) and King's in Cambridge.

Early in 1441, Henry decided to found a college in Cambridge after St. Nicholas and he set the first foundation stone in April of that year. We, however, are concerning ourselves with the grand chapel. It's first stone was placed in 1446. Work did proceed immediately but was cut short by the Wars of the Roses. Subsequent monarchs all had a hand in the construction of the chapel but it was the first two Tudor kings who left the biggest mark which remain visible to even the most unaware tourist. The chapel, minus the stained glass, was completed in 1544, 98 years after its start! Note that it was actually functional during the reign of Henry VII who needed a temporary roof installed as the fan vaulted ceiling had not yet begun to stretch across the chapel.

The east end (right side) was where construction started. It toward above the slow rising west end which now can be seen in two ways. First, there is a difference in the color of the stones going from east to west. Secondly, the western end is decorated with Tudor iconography both inside and out while the east end, according to the Founder's Will, was left plain.

The great west entrance.

The main door of the west entrance. Note that the roses are not Tudor, they are Lancastrian. There are far more Lancastrian roses in the church than any other type. This was Henry VII's attempt to show his royal bloodline. The portcullis on the gate is adorned with a crown which also signifies Henry's maternal royal connections through Margaret Beaufort. (This line, tracing back to John of Gaunt and thus Edward III is devious at best. The line was made illegitimate and then reinstated. Suffice to say, the claim was weak for Henry).

The flying butresses in the foreground all bear Tudor emblems but the earlier built east end does not have any decoration per the will of King Henry VI.

The visitor's entrance on the north porch of the chapel. Henry VII's arms are supported by his two heraldic beasts: the red dragon of Cadwallader (representing his Welsh heritage through his grandfather) and the greyhound of Richmond which was his emblem as Earl of Richmond.

Let us now take a look at the majesty that is the interior...
View from the west end looking north east. Anne Boleyn's carved organ screen divides the chapel in half between the chapel and ante-chapel (being the Tudor side)
Upon entering the west end, one is assaulted by the barrage of Tudor iconography. It was meant to impress upon the viewer as to who was truly in power after Bosworth. The walls are lined with Lancastrian roses, Tudor roses, portcullises (all aforementiond crowned of course), dragons, greyhounds and hawthorn bushes. The fleur de lys also signifies England's claim to the crown of France. Every monarch from Edward III to George III titled themselves as king/queen of England and France (Henry VI was actually crowned in France thanks to the victories of his father Henry V).

The great west window, installed in the 19th century, finally completed the chapel.

The chapel has two crowning glories, its stained glass and the magnificent carved fan-vaulted ceiling. It was completed in 1515 after three years. The width is 40ft while the height to the ceiling is 80ft. While we're on measurements, the length of the chapel is a full 289ft!

View from the other side of the chapel. There is a great exhibition on how the ceiling was constructed. As with most vaulted ceilings, the keystone is the most important piece as it displaces the weight outwards instead of down. This keeps the arches strong and prevents them from caving in. The butresses outside distribute the weight so that the walls don't fold in on themselves. The construction style you see here is called "Perpendicular Gothic".

Let us move on to the stained glass which is considered the finest renaissance glass in all of Europe! There are a total of 26 windows in the chapel with 24 of them being finished during the 16th century. Each window has five panes running across the top and another five across the bottom. These depict scenes from the old and new testament respectively. It is a miracle that these windows where not destroyed during the Commonwealth period. It just so happens that the surveyor tasked with identifying and destroying religious/ monarchial displays had a very long day and came upon Cambridge at the end of it. He was too tired to make much of a note! The glass was also removed and carefully housed during World War II in fear of German blitz raids.
To find out more about the importance and relevance of King's stained glass, I would highly recommend picking up a copy of "The King's Glass" by Carola Hicks. I finished it in the week leading up to my trip to King's so I can identify important nuances in each window scene.

The great east window (#13) shows the crucifiction of Christ. Right above him is the red dragon of Cadwallader. Other prominent Tudor symbols sit alongside it as well.
The second scene in the east window (below the crucifiction). In total, both scenes cover 700 sq ft. This window was made during the reign of Queen Katherine Howard as evidenced by her initials entwined with Henry's at the top of the glass.

Window #9: Angels fall. This scene depicts the war in heaven and the fall of lucifer.
You can see him on the right panel, red and wide-eyed falling from heaven. It is thought this is an allegorical reference to Cardinal Wolsey's fall which happened around the same time as this panel was made (Hicks).

The three most prominent symbols found in the stained glass at King's are: The Lancastrian rose, the portcullis and the hawthorne tree/bush. The latter is significant due to the events at Bosworth. Upon Richard III's death, his crown circlet fell off his helmet and landed in a hawthorn bush. From there it was picked up and placed upon the head of Henry Tudor to cries of "King Henry! King Henry!". It remained a potent symbol of the Tudor monarchy (you'll see further examples later).

Window #6: This window contains entwined initials of H+E (Henry VII and Elizabeth of York) as well as H+K (Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon).

Window #4: Solomon and Sheba. This is an interesting one. Lacey Baldwin Smith wrote extensively about Katherine Howard and he maintains that she represents the Queen of Sheba (and thus one of the only depictions of her) while Solomon represents Henry VIII. While there is no doubt that Henry is indeed juxtaposed as the modern Solomon, there is discussion on who the Queen of Sheba really represents. Prominent Anne Boleyn historian Eric Ives suggests that it is in fact Anne because Holbein made several drawings depicting Henry as Solomon during her reign and because some of the cyphers/acronyms used by the couple could refer to Solomon and Sheba.

The lectern was a gift to the college in the early 1500's by a former provost. It displays founder Henry VI.

The two main chapels are flanked on both sides by smaller rooms stretching the length of the main structure. These rooms currently serve as exhibition areas where you can learn more about the chapel's construction along with its prominent figures. The glass in these windows are mostly contemporary with the 16th century but tended to have been moved here from other locations (1986 seems to be a common date when most of these were installed). 
The badge of Queen Katherine Parr, Henry VIII's sixth and final wife. This originally comes from a church in Eastwell, Kent.
A crowned Tudor rose so no one forgets its significance.

The pomegranate badge of Queen Katherine of Aragon (Wife #1). The fruit represents fertility and regeneration. While Katherine was indeed fertile, all but one of her children (Mary) died close after birth. This too is contemporary.

A second pomegranate piece.

A crowned falcon on a stump of Tudor roses. An obvious reference to Anne Boleyn but I have yet to confirm its true origin.

Note the entwined H and A for Henry and Anne Boleyn.

A badge showcasing the ostrich feather logo for the Prince of Wales (the son next in line to the throne). The motto is German "Ich Dien" which means "I Serve".

The hawthorn bush with respective crown. The H and E stands for Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, the founders of the Tudor dynasty.

The crowning piece of the chapel, at least for Anne Boleyn fans, is the chapel organ screen. Handcarved from oak (probably by an Italian), it was a gift from Henry to Anne sometime during her brief reign from 1533-1536. It is one of the few remaining items featuring any reference to her as it was probably too costly to destroy after her fall! The screen divides the chapel between the moderate/ bare east end and the iconographic Tudor west end.

Note the "RA" on the shield which means Regina Anna. Henry's initials are further below along with his motto "Dieu Et Mon Droit" (God and my Right).

A detailed shot of the underside of the organ screen. There are references to Anne across its entire surface. To help illustrate, I've marked them out in the same picture below:

Point 1: Anne Boleyn's falcon which wears a crown to symbolize her coronation as Queen of England. Point 2: The cyphers of Henry and Anne entwined in lover's knots. Point 3: Anne's falcon crowned and gripping a scepter while standing on a bare tree trunk blossoming with Tudor roses (this represents Anne fertility to the barren Tudor stock).

The choir-stalls also date from Anne's reign. 
Lastly, let us look at few shots from King's College:
This is Front Court with a view of the gatehouse (left) and the dining hall (right)

The gatehouse dates from the 1820s and was designed in neo-gothic style.

At the center of Front Court is the statue of Henry VI flanked by the figures of Learning and Religion.

The gateway to one of the old court buildings to the north of the chapel. Central among the figures is King Henry VI.

The last two pictures come from Scott's Building named after a designer/ architect who helped the college expand in the mid 1800s. The two prominent figures are Henry VIII and his father Henry VII.

So we conclude part one of three! Make sure you read the next two installments as they will cover three further colleges along with some other sites of Cambridge.

10/20/12: Queen's College, Trinity College and St. John's College
(All located on the River Cam in Cambridge, Cambridgshire)

King's College is only one of the many schools that make up the University of Cambridge. Simply walking down King's Parade puts you in front of at least six different colleges. We will explore three of these due to their Tudor links.

First up is Queen's College, also known as The Queen's College of St. Margaret and St. Bernard. In 1448 Henry VI gave his wife, Margaret of Anjou, a grant of land along the river Cam. By 1460, several buildings were built and ready for use. Even after Henry's usurpation, subsequent Yorkist queen's continued the royal patronage of the college. Henry VII put an end to some of the endowments and diverted funds elsewhere, most likely King's.
The Dutch scholar Erasmus was an alumni and Cardinal John Fisher served as the college's third President. Despite the name, the first female student was only admitted in 1980.

The college gatehouse. This stands in typical Tudor style, built with red brick and two flanking octagonal towers.

You can see the chapel window to the right.
Next we have Trinity College which along with King's and St John's comprises the three royal colleges in the Cambridge University system. It has direct ties to Henry VIII who founded Trinity in 1546 albeit in far from joyous circumstances. As colleges were religious institutions, Henry set his eyes on their wealth as part of his assault on the monasteries. His two targets were Michaelhouse and King's Hall, two schools dating back to the 14th century. Members advocated to Katherine Parr who in turn made Henry relent. Rather than dissolve the schools, the king combined them to form Trinity. Why? The creation of scholarly institutions was seen as a way to decrease the amount of time spent in purgatory and the aging Henry, who in 1546 was nearing the end of his life, probably thought it would be a good time to start worrying about his immortal soul.
The Great Gate.

Henry VIII himself. For a monarch highly concerned with his image and immortal glory, he has next to no major statues. Similarly, his grand tomb is nothing more than a marble slab which leaves us with some sad irony. I'm sure he'd take heart in the fact that he is the most well known of the English kings and that his legacy lives on in a far greater scale than those of his peers.
Henry's right hand should be holding a sword. At some point in time, a college prank saw the sword removed and replaced with a table leg! No one knows when this happend and the leg has remained ever since. The coat of arms below him belong to Edward III during who's reign the two initial colleges were founded.

Similarly, the arms of Edward's children are listed as well. The third shield over has two smaller shields denoting Princes of Wales. While Edward the Black Prince was next in line for the throne, he died before his father. This left Edward's son Richard to ascend the throne as the ill-fated Richard II. Some scholars believe that it was Richard's usurpation by Henry IV in which we can find the origins of the Wars of the Roses. But I digress...

The Great Court with an elaborate fountain in the middle. In the background you can see Queen's Gate; so named because of the carved statue of Elizabeth I. This dates back to 1597.

The Clock Tower also has a statue of Edward III.

The chapel sits to the right of the Clock Tower. Construction started in the reign of Mary I but was not finished until 1567. The walls and ceiling are of Tudor origin.

An elaborate display of arms: Clockwise from the top left: Henry VI, Mary I, Elizabeth I and Henry VIII.
Lastly, we have St. John's College which was established by Margaret Beaufort (grandmother of Henry VIII) at the encouragement of her chaplain Bishop John Fisher (later Cardinal and Saint). It was his continuous work and support which allowed the college to be chartered in 1511.
The Great Gate, built in 1516 again follows standard Tudor design.
A detailed shot of the arms of Margaret Beaufort. These are flanked by two golden Yales, a mythical beast consisting of an elephant's tale, antelope's body and the head of a goat with ram horns. As with King's College, the Lancastrian rose and portcullis are both crowned to show royal authority.

A statue of Saint John. To build the college, a 13th century hospital dedicated to St John was flatened. It lives on in the name.

Before I continue, I think it is worth mentioning the funny way I came to get some of these pictures. I was touring Cambridge with two friends and when we came to St. John's, a sign was posted saying the college was closed to tourists. No custodian was around so we couldn't ask and it looked like people were walking freely through the gate. So, we just followed them in! We walked through both courts and even got to see the Tudor dining hall which is closed to tourists. It was only after we were making our way back through that we noticed the only people entering and leaving were students! Lucky for us, we were perfectly disguised as students too...considering we are students! I'm sure the true academics there were wondering why we were taking so many pictures of our "own" school. Anyways, on with the show...

First Court was built between 1511 and 1520. The second gate once again has the iconography of Margaret Beaufort and also includes a statue of the pious lady (circa 1674).

The college chapel also lies within First Court. While the church is from the 1800s, it does include a Tudor reference. In each of it's butresses is an alcove with a statue of a prominent alumni. In this case, it is William Cecil, Lord Burghley and advisor to Queen Elizabeth I. John Cheke, the tutor of Edward VI, is another alumni.

The dining hall was also built between 1511 and 1516. It features a hammerbeam carved roof which looks quite resplendent in its current form. During a state visit in 1564, Queen Elizabeth I rode her horse through this very hall.

At the west end of Second Court, we have the Shrewsbury Tower. It bears the arms and statue of Mary Talbot, wife to the 7th Earl of Shrewsbury and daughter to Bess of Hardwick. This was of interest to me as I have developed a growing interest in the Earls of Shrewsbury given that they were Lords of the Manor here in Sheffield.

The Shrewsbury coat of arms includes a talbot (from which the family takes its name). A talbot was a white hunting dog which featured prominently in any designs and arms pertaining to the family. I say "was" because this particular species is now extinct.


Whew, the colleges have now all been covered! Look out for part three which will cover other focal points of Cambridge...I promise!

10/20/12: Round Church and Miscellaneous
(All located in Cambridge, Cambridgshire)

The purpose of this third installment is to just tie up the loose ends from a photographic perspective. Some pictures of interest will follow with additional pieces of information from what I can recall:

Just opposite of St. John's college are several statues. I noticed two in particular, the first being Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and the man who finally gave Henry the annulment he so desperately sought.

Oddly enough, Cranmer shares the entrance with a staunch opponent of Protestant church reform and the divorce in general: Bishop/ Cardinal/ Saint John Fisher. He was a huge supporter of St. John's college and was President at Queen's for several years in the early 1500s. His massive presence in Cambridge, in terms of statues, is therefore understood.

For a size comparison, I am 6ft 3in. (That and I just wanted to be in a picture).

King's Parade is the main street which gradually curves and follows the River Cam. Along the street's route (which changes names several times) one can find most of the important colleges worth seeing. If you've had enough of academics and architecture, bookshops and cafes line the streets. It is well worth taking some time to just wander the back alleys and find the hidden markets.

Speaking of the river... Punting is a common site around the universities. Punting is basically Cambridge's equivalent to the Italian gondolas. They give you a great view of all colleges from the privacy of your own boat. In the picture above, we are in the area of all the rowing clubs and teams were constantly practicing up and down the river.

Fort St. George is a recommended stop for lunch. Not only is the food good with a great view of the river, but the pub sits in a restored 16th century house.

We end with one more historically relevant building: the Round Church. It is the second oldest building in Cambridge and one of only three remaining round churches in all of England. The most well known of the three is Temple Church in London, home of the Knights Templar and their English headquarters. In this case, the church is of Norman origin and was built around 1130 as crusaders made their way home from the Levant. With them came the design for the round churches which are based off the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Roman Emperor Constantine had it built in the 4th century on the site of Jesus' tomb and supposed resurrection.

Thick pillars and rounded arches betray the architecture as of Norman origin.

As the church became a chapel, several additions were developed over the centuries. The north aisle/ chancel was built in the 14/15th centuries and is resplendant with carved wooden angels and a tie beam ceiling.

Thus ends the tour of Cambridge, until my next visit!




1 comment:

  1. Wow, nice work, Michael! Honestly, I am more impressed by the ceiling than the glass windows!
    Amazing what people could build without power tools!