We had a fun day going to Cambridge, England. It is a city of incredible history. I was struck by how this city has been built on the priorities of education and religion. Now, I know that a 90 minute hop-on hop-off bus tour does not near give me the stories that lie deep within this city, but none the less, it was a very interesting day.
The list of colleges runs long:
- King’s College and King’s College Chapel Grounds closed during exams (late April to mid June) though Chapel is open. Chapel opening times vary, ring for details. The most visited attraction in Cambridge, the architecture of King’s College Chapel towers above the town and its world-famous choir have spread its reputation across the globe.
- Queens’ College Founded by two Queens – Margaret of Anjou in 1448 and Elizabeth Woodville in 1465, the College stretches across both sides of the Cam, linked by the famous Mathematical Bridge. The myth goes that it was designed by Isaac Newton without the use of pins, screws, nuts or bolts, but when disassembled, the fellows and students couldn’t figure out how to put it back together again. This is sadly false, the bridge dates from 1749, 22 years after Newton’s death. The stunning medieval Old Hall is also worth a visit.
- Trinity College Large attractive courtyard and library designed by Sir Christopher Wren. The interior of the Wren Library is particularly beautiful and features medieval bibles, items from the possession of Isaac Newton, original manuscripts by Wittgenstein, a Winnie-the-Pooh manuscript by A.A. Milne, and notes by Bertrand Russell, among other things.
- St Johns College Formally the St Johns Hospital (13th century) before being refounded as a college in 1511, this college houses the oldest academic building in Cambridge (the “School of Pythagoras”). It has a number of large courtyards, and has the Cambridge “Bridge of Sighs”.
- Jesus College Attractive grounds.
- Pembroke College: The 3rd oldest college in Cambridge, founded in 1347 by the Countess of Pembroke, Marie de St Paul, is well-known for its beautiful gardens.
- Clare College: The 2nd oldest college with pretty gardens, courtyard and the oldest river bridge in Cambridge.
- Saint Catharine’s College: St Catharine’s College was founded in 1473 by Robert Wodelarke, Provost of King’s College. The College was christened in honour of the patron saint of learning and was originally known as Katharine Hall. It was largely rebuilt in the 17th century with work on the Main Court beginning in 1673; the Chapel was completed in 1704. It is worthwhile to note that the College is renowned for its academic and athletic excellence. In spite of its modest size, the college’s three-sided brick Main Court is almost unique among Cambridge Colleges.
- Corpus Christi College: Uniquely, founded by Cambridge locals (from two town guilds). Its Old Court dates from the 1350s and is the oldest courtyard in Cambridge. Old Court rooms have no plumbing, so you may occasionally be treated to a student walking across the court in their dressing gown to get to the toilet complex..
The Churches and historical churches are also quite something. There were stories of how Chapels were built before cafeteria’s because our nurturing the soul was more important than the body. There were stories of how the train station was a mile and a half out-of-town so as to not distract the students from their studies, luring them to the other cities of London. Along with that, a student could be arrested for being in possession of a train ticket. And then the day one of the colleges’s opened it’s doors to women and the male student’s wore black and hung the flag at half-mast….
And so much of this tour focused on the quality of education offered in Cambridge. They spoke of how students used to be tested by oral exam in Latin and it was known as a very grueling process of testing. Then came the time when they switched over from oral to written exams. They assured us that did not imply a more simple exam. It remained a test of philosophical thinking. One exam simply had one question: Why?
I got to thinking about that one question. Why? There is something in that question that requires me to think deeply and invites me to think more. There is something in that question that requires me to struggle with my world view, my faith, my doubts, my beliefs and even my absolutes or Truth statements. There is something in Why that seems inviting and then there is something in Why that almost feels unattainable. I love the question and all it awakens in me….and I am thankful I did not ever sit before that question as a one question essay question.