By Kelly Wise Valdes
The King’s College Chapel is one of the architectural highlights and symbols of Cambridge, England. Construction began in 1446 and continued in stages over the following century. The chapel’s many treasures include unusual early 16th-century windows, fan vaulting, a Renaissance wooden screen and many other architectural details that make the chapel an iconic structure in Cambridge.
Construction began under King Henry VI’s rule, but ceased in 1461 when Henry was overthrown and taken prisoner at the Battle of Towton. Some further progress was made around 1506, after King Henry VII visited Cambridge with his mother Lady Margaret Beaufort. After many stops and starts, the chapel was finally completed with the addition of the woodwork and windows under King Henry VIII.
It is considered one of the finest examples of late Perpendicular Gothic English architecture. The chapel has a simple rectangular shape with no side aisles, 289 feet long, 40 feet wide and 80 feet high. The chapel is noted for its splendid acoustics.
The windows of King’s College Chapel are some of the finest in the world from that time period. The walls are filled with huge stained and painted glass windows, which are rare pre-Reformation survivals. All the windows were made between 1515 -1547 by Dutch and English glass painters. Together these windows are the most complete collection of early 16th-century glass in England. Each window contains four main scenes. The lower lights on the north side depict the lives of the Virgin Mary and Christ up to the Passion, which is shown in the east window.
The north side of the chapel contains a showcase of 15th century service books and other possessions plus drawings and models of the chapel’s construction.
In addition to its fine architecture and art, King’s College Chapel is famous for its Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols held each Christmas since 1918 and is broadcasted to millions of people around the world.
The chapel is open to the public and conducts tours throughout each week. Tickets are approximately $12. For more information, visit www.kings.cam.ac.uk.