King's College is one of Cambridge's oldest colleges, and is best known for its Chapel - one of the outstanding mediaeval buildings of Europe.
The College was begun by Henry VI in 1441, created by levelling a fair part of the centre of the mediaeval town. The foundation stone for the Chapel was laid by the King in 1446, on the feast of St James, but it was to be over 100 years before the building was completed - spanning some of the most turbulent periods of English history. After Henry's murder in the Tower of London and the beginning of the Wars of the Roses, the completion was taken up by various Kings, particularly Richard III and Henry VII. It was completed in 1547.
The result is the stunning building we see to-day, perhaps the zenith of the English Perpendicular Gothic style. Most celebrated is the stunning fan vault, which runs the length of the building: this is the widest mediaeval fan fault in existence, but it is notable for its beauty as much as its scale.
The Chapel also contains fittings of superb quality, reflecting its generous Royal patronage. Thanks also to this patronage, they survived the predations of the later Puritan iconoclasts. The fittings include a complete 16th-century glazing scheme of 26 huge windows (perhaps the UK's most complete set of mediaeval stained glass); stunning 16th century woodwork and stone carving; and 'The Adoration of the Magi' by Rubens (1634).
Entering the building, one is immediately struck by its scale: a simple rectangular box in plan with side chapels along its length, it is 88 metres long, 12 metres wide and 24 metres to the centre of the vault. The walls are heavily buttressed externally, allowing the space to be taken up by huge windows with Perpendicular tracery. These are filled with 16th century glass (paid for by Henry VIII) of the highest quality (upper windows depict the Old Testament, lower panels the New Testament). (Only the West Window is modern - C19th). Also notable are the huge heraldic sculptures on the walls, reflecting the armorial devices of the House of Tudor (also a feature of Henry VII's Lady Chapel Westminster Abbey).
Turning East, the chapel is divided into ante-chapel and Choir by a dark wooden screen (1533-56), a gift of Henry VIII, which also carries the organ. Pass through to the Choir, and the Lectern of Robert Hacomblen, who was provost 1509-28. The Lectern is surmounted by a statue of Henry VI. To either side are the choir stalls, with yet more superb heraldic carving. Ahead, the great East Window depicts the Passion of the Christ, and below it, above the High Altar, is Ruben's 'Adoration of the Magi'.
Some of the Chapels can be visited (one is always set aside for private prayer), but others are now offices, and several on the north have been converted into a small museum describing the building of the Chapel. Afterwards, take a walk around the green of the College, or walk down to the river, and turn back to look at the chapel. It is a stunning prospect.
Entry to the college and chapel is £5, and access times vary according to term time. Access beyond the Chapel is restricted during examination times. The Chapel's services are open to visitors, who can witness the building being used for its original purpose, to the strains of the College's celebrated choir
I enjoyed my visit to King's College Chapel, a beautiful high ceiling new gothic work. One little boy described the ceiling as if it was a forest, but the carvings took several years to do with 300 people working on it. The stained glass is amazing, and the panels in the top sections and the bottom sections are scenes from each the old and new testament, but they are linked.
There are also carvings of the English rose - each one is different, and the wooden screen in the middle, commissioned by Henry VIII, has a small engraving of HA (Henry and Anne) showing his love for Anne Boleyn. There was no proof when the screen was built, but after finding that, historians know roughly the three quick years that Anne had on the thrown before she was beheaded.
The building was originally commissioned for 12 people, which was deemed ridiculous for the size and cost, so it was later changed to 70. Now more than 700 students congregate in there.
Whatever else one can say about this place, it's certainly iconic -- the architecture and the atmosphere seem to say a lot about the University of Cambridge. In some ways it's slightly ironic that such a traditional building should be located in one of Cambridge's more progressive Colleges.
Most people will associate King's College Chapel with the very traditional Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols broadcast every Christmas Eve. The singing is beautiful and it certainly sets the scene for Christmas for millions of people around the world.
The only thing that makes me slightly uneasy about the place is that it seems to emphasise how grey the line between 'tourist attraction' and 'place of worship' is nowadays. By charging for admission most of the time, they seem to say it's a tourist attraction; but then they don't charge for Evensong, so it must become a place of worship then. Hmmm. And then there's the question of whether Evensong is an act or worship or a concert (as some other reviewers have hinted)...
But such theological issues aside, it's a beautiful building with a deep history and a fantastic choir. A must-see, if ever there was one.
Kings College was founded in 1441 by Henry VI, King's College is committed to intellectual excellence and innovation. It was one of the first Colleges at Cambridge University to accept women and people from non-traditional backgrounds.
I went punting one day along the river in Cambridge and was absolutely gob-smacked by the sight of the college, it is beautiful beyond words. If you a Harry Potter fan this is Hogwarts! A walk through the college and the gardens was just as good if not better. The entrance fee of around £3 is worth every penny.
If you really want to experience Kings College Chapel in the way it was really intended, then you should go to the Evensong service, daily at 5:30 pm but note: it's only during the university term times.
This service is FREE, but please be polite...it's not a tourist show, so switch off your phones and cameras. Best to arrive at 5:15 pm.
Video link: youtube.com/watch?v=jZL3…
I had my first taste of Shakespeare, in the gardens and what an experience it was! Midsummer nights dream was the play and we had a picnic whilst enjoying the lovely surroundings Very memorable the college and chapel are iconic of Cambridge and a must see!
Certainly one of Cambridge's centrepieces if in nothing else but it's location. It towers above the main shopping area and local market and has a beautiful set of buildings around it. It's also worth seeing from the Cam if you're punting as you look up it's long garden to the building itself. Probably the main reason to mention it and go and visit it though is for the evensong performance which are throughout term time during the week at 5.30pm and the slightly earlier on Sunday's. It's free but you'll often have to queue to get in. Once inside it can also be quite busy and it's not a short choral performance either but it will give you time to look at the stunning interior of the chapel and marvel at the roof. Make sure you go to the bathroom before going in though as it's one of those places that once you are in then there is no way to sneak out until the end.
Whether you're a history and/or Harry Potter this is a beautiful place to visit. There are certain scenes in the Harry Potter films, such as the great hall, that were shot here and will always find it included in any Harry Potter tour. Harry Potter aside, the grounds and architecture of the college and Chapel itself is just gorgeous and on a summer's day it's a joy to walk around and explore. It's about £5 a ticket, but for those under 12 and are travelling with their family or local people are not charged entry which I think is nice. So, it soon adds up if there's a family but to be honest, for younger children it may not be their kind of day out. One of the highlights of Chapel itself in my opinion is the carved screen between the antechapel and the choir which bears the initals of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, but in general is a wonderful example of medieval architecture that you can ever find.
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