Trinity College, Cambridge

While my wife spent time in Heffer’s (a bookshop for those of you who don’t know – website) I walked across to Trinity and visited the Chapel. I have a soft spot for Trinity. I remember grandad taking me into the college – pointing out Henry VIII’s chair leg on the gate and Tennyson’s pipe in the chapel. That has whetted your appetite to read on. The College website has plenty to read. Indeed, you can take a virtual tour of the College, so why bother to visit (or to read this blog!). You can read about the chapel at its website  – with lots about the building and the memorials here. You can read sermons too – “Christianity and Old Age” is a recent one. The choir has their website – with lots of webcasts, a huge amount of music to listen to, and links to lots of youtube videos (including the whole of the Advent Carol service from 2012, and the installation of the new Master).

I walked through the Japanese tourists and waved my Camcard to get in for nothing (but if you are not a Cambridge graduate and have to pay it is worth it). Looking at the crowds of tourists, my dad used to say we were not tourists, we were visiting scholars.

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The statue on the gate is of Henry VIII. He founded the college in 1548 by amalgamating King’s Hall and Michaelhouse. Michaelhouse has been written about by Susannah Gregory – see Julie’s blog. Note that his sceptre has been replaced by a chair leg, “a student prank” says the website. When I worked for a Cambridge solicitors’ firm our barrister referred to “the students”. The judge stopped him. “The Iranians have students. In Cambridge we have undergraduates. Remember that in my court.” The six shields are the badges of the sons of Edward III – one of them is blank “Demortuus Infans”. Even kings know that sadness. The roof of the arch is beautiful, as is the inside. Turn right for the Chapel.

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It is a few years since I visited. When I was in St Edmundsbury Cathedral we used to bring our Confirmation candidates over to Cambridge for a day out. In those days Selene, who had been at Selwyn with us, was Chapel Clerk (or similar position). She was a stunning musician, would greet my youngsters (many of whom were choristers), make them feel very welcome and very special. She died a year ago – I thank God for her.

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I was a bit disappointed that on this occasion the main chapel is roped off as I wanted a better view of the windows – there is a full description of them here. The man with the telescope is Roger Cotes (1682-1716) – professor at 26, died at 33. His major original work was in mathematics, especially in the fields of integral calculus, logarithms, and numerical analysis – read about him here.

august b 367august b 377The chapel was begun in 1554-55 by Queen Mary, the daughter of Henry VIII by his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.  Mary was succeeded by Elizabeth I who completed the Chapel in 1567, though the date inscribed on the east end of the building, overlooking Trinity Street, is 1564. There can’t be many chapels started by a Catholic queen and completed by a Protestant one. The architectural style is Tudor-Gothic, with Perpendicular tracery and pinnacles. The roof is of an earlier style than the rest of the building, and may have been re-used from the chapel of King’s Hall, the college which preceded Trinity on this site. Only the walls and roof are of Tudor date. The stalls and wooden panelling date from the early C18. The stone and marble raised pavement at the east end of the Chapel and the high altar were built in 1636. The painting of St Michael binding Satan, above the altar, was painted in 1768 by Benjamin West.  The elaborate wooden reredos holding the painting is known as the baldacchino; it was built in the early eighteenth century in the Neo-Classical style.

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There are lots of memorial brasses – again, a complete list with photos of everyone, at this site. The choristers would enjoy finding people they knew – Ralph Vaughan Williams and Thomas Walmisley (Mag & Nunc in D minor). I love the poetry of A.E. Housman and especially the musical setting of The Shropshire Lad by George Butterworth – I had not realised Housman was Professor of Latin and Fellow of Trinity.  Butterworth went to Trinity Oxford, and died at the Somme on 5 August 1916. Must remember to commemorate him next year.

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There are six impressive statues as well as the brasses – full details here. Let me tell you the story of Tennyson and his pipe. My granddad said (so it must be right) that Tennyson was never seen without his pipe, but that wasn’t felt to be appropriate in a statue in Chapel. The website says that the pipe “was put there by a secret conspiracy between the sculptor  Sir Hamo Thornycroft and the donor Harry Yates Thompson, a life-long friend of the then Master Montagu Butler, who was well aware of the Master’s dislike of the nasty habit of smoking.” I haven’t read any Tennyson since A level, and even Julie couldn’t tell me that he had written “It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” That lines come from In Memoriam, which he wrote to commemorate Arthur Hallam, another Trinity family. I do remember that in his poem Locksley Hall  Tennyson wrote “Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change” – he thought that trains ran in grooves. If you want to know more read this site. Obviously Tennyson was never a member of the Cambridge University Railway Club – website.

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Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was admitted to Trinity at just thirteen years old. While he was an undergraduate he met Queen Elizabeth who was impressed by his precocious intellect, and was accustomed to calling him “the young Lord Keeper”. Apparently “Bacon’s death from pneumonia was described in John Aubrey’s Brief Lives as the result of his idea of using snow to preserve meat. “This statue, a copy of one at Gorhambury in Hertfordshire, claims to depict the way Bacon sat. The sculpture is very fine, realistically depicting the fur and lace of his clothes; in places the marble is thin enough to be translucent. Sculptor: Henry Weekes, 1845”.

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Finally – don’t worry you’re not going to get all six – is “Louis-François Roubiliac’s 1755 statue of Isaac Newton, ‘the finest work of art in the College, as well as the most moving and significant.  The lips parted and the eyes turned up in thought give life to marble. The inscription, Qui genus humanum ingenio superavit, is a pun ennobled by its truth’.  This inscription is a quotation from the third book of Lucretius’s De rerum natura, meaning ‘in intellect he surpassed / survived the human race’. Of course we all knew that. You may remember my blog of Colsterworth church and Woolsthorpe Manor, where Newton “sat under the apple tree”.

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On the wall behind is the WW2 memorial – 384 members of the College died. It is a memorial of Portland stone and the engraving is by David Kindersley in 1951. “They were a wall unto us both by night and day” (1 Samuel 25.16). The WW1 memorial is by the east end (behind the rope).

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The organ is by Metzler (1979).

august b 381Out into Great Court – the largest court in any Oxford or Cambridge college It was the creation of Thomas Nevile, Dean of Canterbury, who  demolished and rebuilt much of the College during his time as Master from 1593 to 1615. Great Court was a setting (although it was not actually used) in the film Chariots of Fire, when Harold Abrahams and Lord Burghley raced around the court in the time it took to strike 12 noon. If I remember right, Trinity were not keen on being used as a film location, so the filming was done at Eton. The film was a huge success – Trinity was annoyed.

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The Clock Tower, the Fountain – “the fountain is believed to be where earlier students would have washed; many student rooms now have en-suite facilities” – and the Hall. The Hall was closed, and the other place I must visit again is the Wren Library. It is many years since I have been there – designed by Sir Christopher in 1695. The final web page.

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If you looked up every reference in this blog, it will have taken you several hours to read it. I hope you have enjoyed it. I enjoyed my visit.

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