Cambridge

I almost don’t know where to begin because it has been a great weekend except for the guest house I stayed in which was not great.  It was billed as being a five minute walk from the train station, which it was.  It did have a private bath, however, what I did not understand, was the private bath was not part of the room.  The bathroom itself was OK although there was only one very dim light and there was no mirror over the sink.  It was located on the wall to the left of the sink.  The shower had virtually no water pressure.  To get to the bathroom, I had to leave my room and walk down a couple of steps for a total of 20 foot steps from my room door to the bathroom door.  I was not happy and told the host I was not happy.  However, the host made it quite clear that the room wasn’t advertised as having an ensuite bathroom.  I wasn’t going to argue.  I had no other place to go.  The room itself was clean, but was void of any decorations, no desk for me to work on the web site and worst of all, the bed was horrible.  My lower back just sank into the saggy mattress.  Additionally, I specifically asked for a quiet room and this one, the only single there was, happened to be located facing the street.  I was offered a pair of ear plugs just in case it got too noisy.  Thankfully, it was pretty quiet all weekend.  Needless to say the host and I got off to a really bad start.  I guess to sooth things over my host brought up a small card table and a blueberry muffin.  We just sort of avoided each other the rest of my time there.

The rest of Cambridge was wonderful and each time I left the guest house I was a happy man.  Early Friday evening, I began to familiarize myself with Cambridge in order to get an early start on Saturday since there was a lot to see and I only had two full days to see it.

Here is a link that will give more information than you may want to know.  However, the history of this city is quite interesting.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge

My first stop was King’s College.  King Henry VI devised this magnificent college when he was all of 18.  He laid the first stone of the chapel on July 25, 1446  but did not live to see its completion because it took 90 years and four more kings before it was finished.  Henry did, however, stipulated the chapel dimensions (the vault is 289 feet long, 80 feet high and 44 1/2 feet wide.

Most of the windows were created between 1515-31.  These windows survived Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers using the chapel as a drill hall.  In World War II, the glass was removed and hidden.  The carved rood screen was installed by Henry VIII between 1532-36.  The organ was installed in 1688.  My love of King’s College Chapel began originally from the recordings made in the chapel and of course the annual broadcast of the Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols.  I’ve always wanted to attend the Christmas Eve service and although there is no charge, people camp for days before the 3:00 PM Christmas Eve service because seating is first come, first serve.  I’m not sure I’m willing to camp out a few days prior to the service in December.  Baring that, I was at least hoping that I would be able to attend Evensong and Sunday Holy Communion but alas, King’s College is not a parish church so there is Evensong and Holy Communion only when school is in session.  In England, the fall term does not begin until October.  Well I did get to see it and that was the most important thing for me.

After spending a long time in the chapel I toured the rest of the King College Campus.  When I say tour the campus I have to put an asterisk next to that sentence because visitors have very limited access to the campus and there are large areas that are marked Private.  This is true of all 31 colleges that make up Cambridge University.  So when you look at the pictures be aware i was only able to visit a small part of each college.

As for the College itself, as I wrote earlier Henry VI laid the foundation stone of “The Kings College of Our Lady and Saint Nicholas in Cambridge on Palm Sunday in 1441.  King’s was one of his two “royal and religious” foundations, the other being Eton College.  Both colleges were to admit a miximimm of 70 scholars drawn from poor backgrounds, the boy from Eton being guaranteed automatic and exclusive entry int King’s.  Henry went to great lengths to ensure that his College, and in particular its Chapel, would be without equal in magnificence in either Oxford or Cambridge.

My next stop was Corpus Christi College.  The college was founded in 1352 by the town guilds of Corpus Christi and the Blessed Virgin Mary, the only Oxbridge college to be founded by the townspeople, not a royal, rich or other important person.

The Guild of Corpus Christi merged with the Guild of the Blessed Virgin Mary, much decimated by the Black Death, but with plenty of property.  The united Guild secured an important patron in Henry, Duke of Lancaster, who obtained the license to found the College from Edward III in 1352.  the Guild merged its identity into its new College and faded away, but the College took over its property, feasts and treasures.  I believe I read somewhere that Corpus Christi is the poorest of all the colleges in Cambridge with an endowment of only about 50 MM pounds.  Compare that with Trinity College, the richest, from what I read with over a billion pounds endowment.

After lunch, my third and last college of the day was Queens’ College. Andrew Dockett, Rector of St. Botolph’s Church and Principal of St. Bernard’s Hostel, obtained Charters from Henry VI in 1446 and 1447 to found a College named The College of St. Bernard located on a narrow strip of land between Queens’ Lane and Trumpington Street.  However, the site turned out to be inadequate.

A year later, Queen Margaret of Anjou obtained a license from her royal husband to found The Queen’s College of St. Margret and St. Bernard, on a new site “to laude and honneure of sexe feminine” and thereby emulate Henry VI’s founding of the new King’s College.

After Queens’ College I went punting.  Know what punting is?  Click here to find out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punt_(boat)  then go look at the pictures.

Saturday night I attended a film at the 34th annual Cambridge Film Festival.  The movie I had tickets for was David Cronenberg's new film “Map Of The Stars”.  However, the print, or I should say the hard drive didn’t arrive so they showed another film in its place entitled the “Homesman” with Tommy Lee Jones and Hillary Swank.  It sort of reminded me of “True Grit” that the Cohen brothers did a couple of years ago.  It wasn’t great but it was watchable.

Yesterday, Sunday turned out to be just beautiful.  My goal was to go to Trinity College and St. John’s college and in between those Colleges go to the cinema and catch two hours of "Looney Tunes" and "Merry Melodies” that were shown in good old 35 mm.  The prints they had were pretty good and the color was still excellent.  And I got to here that comforting whirr of the projector which for me is still part of the movie going experience.

But first Trinity College. The college was founded by Henry VIII in 1546, out of two earlier colleges (the King’s Hall and Michaelhouse) and some smaller hostels.  King’s scholars were supported by Edward II as early as 1317.  The King’s Hall received its charter in 1337, and was given buildings by Edward III in what are now part of the Great Court which I was able to enter.

The College today consists of a Master, over 160 fellows, most of whom are engaged in teaching about 132 postgraduate students and about 650 undergraduates.  It is the largest college in the University.

My punting tour guide said that Trinity is the richest of the colleges and owns so much land that you could walk from Cambridge to Oxford and never set foot off of Trinity College land.  That’s sort of mind boggling since it is 82 miles between the two towns.

Here is another story our tour guide told during the punting ride.  Prince Charles attended college at Trinity.  Of course his body guard attended every class with him.  I guess the body guard thought since I have to be with the Prince for the next four years why not take the courses as well.  So for the next four years the body guard did all of the required course work and took every test and exam and apparently did just as well and better than some of the other students and so when Charles graduated his body guard should have received a degree from Trinity as well but because he was not enrolled he was not awarded a degree even though he completed all of the course work and passed every exam.  Sort of sucks would’t you say?  I don’t know if that story is true but I thought is was worth mentioning.

My last college of this trip to Cambridge was St. John’s College. The University of Cambridge has been in existence since the early 13th century when scholars moving from Oxford and from Paris formed a school in Cambridge.  The early students lived in private houses and not until later were they provided with communal hostels.

There were a number of monastic houses in Cambridge at that time including a hospital of St. John, which was in existence by the early 13th century on the site of what later became St. John’s College.  In 1280, Hugh de Balsham, Bishop of Ely, tried to introduce scholars into this foundation, but the monks and the academics did not get along so the the academics moved down the road to found Cambridge’s first true college, Peterhouse.

The hospital survived until the 16th century in a dilapidated state until it came to the attention of John Fisher, the Bishop of Orchester and a leading figure in the University.  Fisher was a friend of an confessor to Lady Margret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII. who had already re-funded God’s house as Christ’s College, (one of the colleges I did not see), and persuaded her to re-found the Hospital as a College.  Unfortunately she died in 1509 before any progress had been made on this new plan.  It took John Fisher two years to obtain the necessary approval from Henry VII, the Pope, and the Bishop of Ely.  The college of St. John the Evangelist was finally granted on April 9, 1511.  Got all that?

I tried to whittle down the history from the pamphlets I got when I entered each of the Colleges.

I am now on the train heading to London and I anxiously await the apartment I rented for the next eight nights and seven days will be like.  I’ll update you tonight.

1.Louis.skypala@verizon.net © Louis M. Skypala 2014