King's College chapel

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

King's College chapel (Cambridge). Eton and King's College, Cambridge, were founded by Henry VI to celebrate his majority (aged 15) in 1437, before his reign had disintegrated into defeat in France and civil war at home. King's began in 1441 as the College of Our Lady and St Nicholas and the name was changed in 1443. Henry laid the foundation stone of the chapel on 25 July 1446. His personal interest is demonstrated by his ‘will’ or testament in 1448, which included a detailed plan. As early as 1451 Parliament was complaining that the king's endowments were ‘over-chargefull’. The chapel was not completed until 1515 and for many years afterwards totally dominated the site, since Gibbs's building, which helps to balance it, was not started until 1723 and the King's Parade neo-Gothic façade by Wilkins was only begun in 1824. The chapel was started with magnesium limestone from Thevesdale and Huddleston, west of Tadcaster (Yorks.), and finished with stone from the Northamptonshire limestone belt. Though Henry had expressed a distaste for elaborate ornamentation, much embellishment was added over the years. The fan-vaulting (the most striking feature of the interior), the stained glass, and the screen all date from the reign of Henry VIII. Henry VI's original establishment of a choir to sing daily services has been internationalized by the broadcasting of the service of Nine Lessons and Carols at Christmas, introduced at King's in 1918 by Milner-White, then dean.

J. A. Cannon