King's College Chapel

King’s College Chapel is arguably the most magnificent example of late medieval English architecture in the entire country. Guidebooks run out of superlatives to describe the richness of its interior decoration and the sumptuous flowing lines of the structural elements.

The Chapel was founded by Henry VI in 1441 as part of his grand scheme for creating at King’s a college to take graduates of Eton, founded the previous year. The chapel was intended to form one side of a grand court but the residential ranges planned for the other three sides of the court were never completed.

Henry compelled landowners in the town to sell him plots along the river, and he proceded to pull down residences, shops, and even a parish church to make room for his creation. Henry intended his chapel to be without equal.

He employed his royal architect, Reginald of Ely, to draw up plans for a church along the lines of a cathedral choir, and Henry himself laid the foundation stone of the new chapel on 25 July 1446.
Building continued until 1461, through the opening hostilities of the Wars of the Roses. But when Henry VI was taken prisoner by thefuture Edward IV, workmen packed up their tools and went home. It is said that a half-cut stone left by the workmen was eventually used as the foundation stone for the Gibb’s building in 1724.

The extent of this early building phase is clearly noticeable. The builders used white Tadcaster limestone, and the upper limit of this stone can be traced, particularly in the butresses. Very little building was done under Edward IV, but Richard II’s short reign saw the first 5 bays of the chapel completed and put into daily use.

Henry VII provided the necessary funds to turn the half-finished chapel into a complete building. The chest which carried Henry’s initial gift of money is preserved in the Chapel Exhibition in the northern side chapel. The main structure was finished in 1515, and Henry VIII funded the interior woodwork and screen.

The magnificent – there is no other word to describe it – fan vaulting was completed in just 3 years, between 1512-1515 by master mason John Wastell.

The chapel surprisingly escaped major damage during the Civil War, despite the fact that Cromwell’s troops used it for a training ground in inclement weather. It is possible that Cromwell himself, being a Cambridge student, gave orders to spare the chapel. Most of the stained glass was removed during WWII, and the Chapel again escaped damage.

King's College Chapel

King's College Chapel

King's College Chapel

King's College Chapel

King's College Chapel

King's College Chapel

King's College Chapel

20 Comments CherryPie on Dec 2nd 2017

20 Responses to “King’s College Chapel – Cambridge”

  1. The Yum List says:

    Absolutely stunning!

  2. Amfortas says:

    I lived in England (mostly) right up to my 39th year and missed seeing soooo much. I am so pleased that someone cares to visit and record all the places my feckless youth and far too busy adulthood denied my personal look and experience. Thank you Cherie.


  3. Stunning – would so love to visit that Chapel.

  4. Claude says:

    So good to see this magnificent place full screen. Thank you!

  5. Wonderful photos! I’d really love to visit Cambridge… Hopefully one day soon. :)

  6. wiggiatlarge says:

    As Cherry knows I used to live not far from Cambridge, she has done the building proud with her photos and it is a magnificent building and should be compulsory viewing for anyone visiting the city.

  7. Astrid says:

    Ceilings like that are amazing. One time I was in a church with a ceiling like that (Bath) and I had a cracked neck. There were mirrors though for the ones who could not look up. This is quite the place to visit. The stained glass windows are fabulous. Over time you saw a lot of beautiful places. Thank you, Cherry for sharing this with us.

  8. Andrew says:

    KKC is indeed stunning, and even more stunning is that it is such a short distance from Ely Cathedral. Don’t suppose you managed Ely did you (forgive if I have not been paying attention). Two amazing places.

    • CherryPie says:

      We only had a short time in Cambridge so we did not get the chance to visit Ely Cathedral.

      On your recommendation I will add it to my list of places to visit :-)

      • Andrew says:

        It is stunning, especially how it sits there in the middle of the Fens. Gives me goosebumps every time the train takes me past it, and I am not in the least bit religious; but the history and the craftsmanship and the magnificence in such a location is unique, at least in terms of what I have seen. Do go. Use it as an excuse to get back to Cambridge, talking of which, did you take a punt tour? Visit The Eagle pub? Climb the tower in the church by the market? Visit Fitzwilliam Museum? Go into The Wren Library, St Johns. Queens, etc, etc etc? (I am spoiled, I suppose, for I get into all the colleges free and generally even when closed to the public). I am planning another few days in residence soon.

        • CherryPie says:

          No we didn’t visit any of those things, although they were on my ‘To Visit’ list along with many other things. We simply did not have enough time… To visit the various colleges you have to time and time it just right for when they are open to visitors. So yes you are lucky that you can visit when they are closed to the public.

          I was amused when we entered into the quadrangle of King’s College. One of the students was explaining to another the annoying rush of visitors to the colledge as we arrived just after public opening hours. It made me smile :-)

  9. More intricate than Bath Abbey!
    I have not been there in ages…

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