King’s College Chapel 1515–2015: Art, Music and Religion in Cambridge

The book cover

The book cover

A new book will be published early next month, marking the 500th anniversary of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, in 1446 by Henry VI. This book commemorates the anniversary and pays tribute to the artistic, musical, religious and cultural history of the building, from foundation to the present. The interdisciplinary volume contains essays on new research by eminent scholars, encompassing many aspects of the chapel’s history. The essays engage with politics, drama, iconoclasm, as well as the structure and aesthetics of the building, an outstanding example of Perpendicular architecture. The book is organized into three main sections; ‘Fabric and Furnishings’, ‘Life and Visiting’ and ‘Music and Performance’. Despite generous donations by subsequent monarchs, the distractions of civil war meant that it was not until the reign of the first Tudor king, Henry VII, that the bulk of work was done, and only in the summer of 1515 was the chapel’s stonework finally completed, with the installation of its spectacular fan vault, under the patronage of Henry VIII. The effects of the change in service ritual, religious practice and musicological values on the chapel’s life and existence are explored in this volume.

The joiner at the Nailing to the Cross, east window, King's College Chapel, Cambridge.

The joiner at the Nailing to the Cross, east window, King’s College Chapel, Cambridge.

Amongst chapters on the engineering of the vaulting, the chapel’s altar pieces, the establishment’s musical culture, and the personalities who had an impact on the chapel and the college, are chapters dedicated to the stained-glass windows. The painted and stained glass of King’s College Chapel remains one of the glories of sixteenth-century northern European art and showcases the skill of European glaziers Barnard Flower, Galyon Hone and James Nicholson. The sections ‘Glassy Temporalities: The Chapel Windows of King’s College, Cambridge’ by James Simpson, and ‘The Great Glass Vista: A Condition Survey of the Stained Glass in King’s College Chapel’ by Stephen Clare are bound to be of particular interest to Vidimus readers. For images of the stained glass, visit the CVMA Picture Archive. The first volume to be produced by the British CVMA was its supplementary volume on King’s College Chapel, by Hilary Wayment. The genesis of this volume is discussed in detail in the history of the British CVMA’s establishment under the auspices of the British Academy.

The essays are accompanied by over 240 illustrations, most of which are produced in colour. The images show the chapel, its furnishings, documents and objects, as well as pictures of those who have made an impact on the college, and include prints, watercolours, oil paintings, photographs, architectural drawings, plans, maps and postcards.apt

The chapters are as follows:

Fabric and Furnishings

King’s College Chapel: Aesthetic and Architectural Responses
Jeremy Musson

The Structure and Construction  of the Chapel
John Ochsendorf and Matthew De Jong

Glassy Temporalities: The Chapel Windows of King’s College, Cambridge
James Simpson

Provost Robert Hacumblen and his Chantry Chapel
Nicola Pickering

The Altarpieces in the Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge
Jean Michel Massing

The Great Glass Vista: A Condition Survey of the Stained Glass in King’s College Chapel
Stephen Clare

Life and Visiting

The College and the Chapel
Peter Murray Jones

A Spanish Choirbook and Some Elizabethan Book Thieves
Iain Fenlon

The Chapel Imagined, 1540–1830
Nicolette Zeeman

The Start and Stop of Simeon
Ross Harrison

Drama in King’s College Chapel
Abigail Rokison

Music and Performance

Chapel and Choir, Liturgy and Music, 1444–1644
Roger Bowers

The Chapel Organ – A Harmonious Anachronism?
John Butt

‘As England knows it’: ‘Daddy’ Mann and King’s College Choir, 1876–1929
Nicholas Marston

‘A Right Prelude To Christmas’: A History of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols
Nicholas Nash

‘The Most Famous Choir in the World?’ The Choir since 1929
Timothy Day

Epilogue: The Sound of the Chapel
Stephen Cleobury and Nicolette Zeeman


The book is edited by King’s College fellows Jean Michel Massing (KC 1981) and Nicolette Zeeman (KC 1995) and is published by Harvey Miller. It costs £29.95 (plus P&P) and is available for pre-order from The Shop at King’s.
For more information download the flyer.

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