King’s College Chapel

King's College Chapel

The King’s College Chapel from the front. Original photo by Chris Peters.

About the King’s College Chapel

Located on the River Cam, the King’s College Chapel was begun by Henry VI in 1446, and took over a century to complete. It is a sterling example of Gothic architecture. The chapel was finished in 1515, and is celebrating its 500th anniversary in 2015.

The massive organ located at the head of the chapel dates back to 1605. During 2009 it had to undergo some repairs, but remains largely intact in its original state. Unfortunately, much of the organ is not visible to the public.

Many alumni have gotten married in the chapel’s hallowed halls over the years, including famed author Zadie Smith.

Stained glass window from the King’s College Chapel. Photo by TheTurfBurner.

History of the King’s College Chapel

The story of the chapel’s construction is a long and winding history. Henry VI never got to see the final product of his many years of funding.

Intermittent wars delayed progress, and Henry VI was eventually murdered in 1471.

In 1483 Richard III rekindled efforts to complete the chapel. But the building remained in transition until Henry VII took over and funded the finishing touches.

The chapel made it through World War II unscathed, though the stained glass windows were removed for safekeeping.

The King’s College Chapel in Popular Culture

Due to its imposing and elegant edifice, the King’s College Chapel has been featured prominently in TV and cinema set in Cambridge. It can be seen in the movie of University of Cambridge alumnus Stephen Hawking’s life, The Theory of Everything.

The chapel and the surrounding area were allegedly the inspiration for the Pink Floyd song “Brain Damage.”

William Wordsworth, another University of Cambridge alumnus, describes the chapel among other Cambridge landmarks in his poem “Residence at Cambridge.”

King's College Chapel interior and organ

The King’s College Chapel interior and organ. Photo by Karen Corby.

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