Saturday, August 4, 2012

St. John's College, Cambridge

St. John's College has long been part of the University of Cambridge. The university began in the thirteenth century when scholars came from Oxford and Paris to form a school. Students originally lived in private houses; later communal hostels were used. One monastic house was the Hospital of St. John, built in the thirteenth century on the location that would become St. John's College. By the sixteenth century, it was in a piteous state and Bishop John Fisher persuaded Lady Margaret Beaufort (mother of King Henry VII) to refound the hospital as a college. Eventually the Charter of the College of St. John the Evangelist was granted on April 9, 1511.

The front gate was completed in 1516 and makes for a fine entrance into the college.

Entrance to St. John's College

Inside, tourists pay a nominal fee to go in and see the various courts and buildings of the college. The first spot one finds is the First Court, naturally enough. It's an open area with the chapel to the right (which will get its own post) and the Second Gate (leading to the Second Court) straight ahead. The original college was here, including the library and chapel. The current chapel was built in the 1800s.

Second Gate, with a nice window and a statue of Lady Margaret

People with academic robes!

The chapel, as seen from the First Court

The tour proceeds through the chapel and into the Chapel Court. This court has a hodgepodge of architecture from the sixteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries.

Victorian era buildings

Cool eagle symbols on the roof of the covered passage we were in

View of the chapel from the Chapel Court

Next is the Second Court. The most noticeable item here is the Shrewsbury Tower, with the coat of arms and a statue of Bess of Hardwick (of Hardwick Hall fame), Countess of Shrewsbury and major contributor funding the building of the court. The court was completed in 1602.

Second Court

Shrewsbury Tower

Also, this drain dates itself--1599!

The doorway in Shrewsbury Tower leads to (you guessed it) the Third Court. Built during the 1600s, it took a while to complete due to the Civil War, especially since the college was largely Royalist in a Parliamentary town. But it did get finished and looks quite fine.

Third Court

Tower over the old library

Leaving through a door to the south, which was the back exit of the college from 1672 to 1831, the tour leads over the River Cam on the Kitchen Bridge. From here we had a good look at their Bridge of Sighs, an imitation of the more famous one in Venice. Though the imitation is strictly limited to the fact that its a covered bridge and looks quite nice from the outside (the Venice one leads to a prison).

Lucy wants to read

Cambridge's Bridge of Sighs

On the other side of the river is the New Court. The buildings here were finished in 1831 and housed the great influx of students at the time. The style is an imitation of Gothic rather than actual Gothic (as was popular in the Victorian era). The especially ornate bits, especially over the central block, has earned it the nickname "the Wedding Cake" for its fancifulness.

The Wedding Cake

Gothic arch entrance

Gothic Walkway

The twentieth century's contribution unfortunately (at least to my eyes) comes from the 1960s and is called the Cripps Buildings. It is named after the Cripps Foundation, which financed the expansions needed for the large influx of post-war students.

By itself it's not so bad, but it is a bit of transition from Victorian Gothic

Nearby was this awesome wall with four stories of ivy covering it.

Insert "Ivy League" joke here

My one regret is that we were not allowed to go into this dining hall, because it sounds so delicious.

Mmmm...butter

More on the chapel in the next post!

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