Today we drove three quarters of a kilometre to a city car park and walked our little feet off all over the ancient university city of Cambridge. Like Bologna, Padua and Oxford, Cambridge can lay claim to being one of Europe’s earliest universities. It is a beautiful city with its university colleges, impressive shopping centre, lovely river and boats and quite stunning Art Gallery, the Fitzwilliam Gallery. Cambridge has more churches per square foot than any town I have ever been in even Rome! Cambridge also has the most amazing bookshop Waterstones with four floors of wonderful books to browse in. Like being in Oxford with the martyrs shrine to Latimer and Hughes it is moving to be in Cambridge where so many Christian movements for evangelism came from and so many effective scholars laboured including Simeon, the Cambridge Seven, Lewis who worked at both Oxford and Cambridge and J B Lightfoot.
Cambridge is of course also loaded up with amazing University colleges with their own grounds, lecture theatres, quarters for students and amazing facilities. It is a place where one feels like going back to university for the pure enjoyment of the environment; it is also a place of a thousand bikes per 100metres.
Of course the standout building in Kings College and perhaps in Cambridge is the C15th Chapel of Kings so famous for its choral work especially its annual Christmas Carol service which requires considerable effort to obtain tickets for. It is in many ways a simple Gothic construction based to a degree on the St Chapelle Chapel in Paris with its high straight stained glass windows. The view is interrupted by the remarkable vault holding the large organ in the centre of the Chapel. The fan vaulting in the ceiling is remarkable as are the highly carved choir stalls. The Communion table is simple and dominated by the large Rubens painting “The Adoration of the Magi” above. There is a brilliant explanation of the Chapel’s history and political ups and downs in a side corridor. Of particular interest is the link with the Eton chapel and St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.
The Honourable Richard Fitzwilliam, 7th Viscount of Merrion (1745-1816) bequeathed his substantial art collection, library and the substantial sum of 100 000 pounds to provide “a good substantial museum repository” for the collection. The collection has grown through the years and a further generous bequest i 1908 by Charles Brinsley enabled the Gallery to be doubled in size. The original building has a fine Palladian external appearance and the entry foyer and staircase with the dome is simply stunning.
Everyone sees different things in a Gallery/Museum. The Fitzwilliam is brilliantly curated and the setting is majestic. At the moment there is a “personal treasures” exhibition which includes all of those things that folk of different ages have seen as desirable for their homes since earliest times. In addition there is Ruskin’s contribution of 48 paintings by Turner beautifully displayed and annotated and a very detailed display of English landscape painting and on loan from the V & A the Gilbert collection of jewellery and trinket boxes. A further highlight is the Rothschild Michelangelo sculptures. Their origin is contested but a powerful defence of their authenticity is mounted with the display and in any case both pieces are stunning. All of this is in addition to a remarkable art collection of all periods, strong in French impressionism, mediaeval Italian and of course English artists of all periods as well as a large number of bronzes and sculptures of both G E Moore and Jacob Epstein. This is in addition to very significant holdings of early Greek, Roman and Egyptian artefacts of the highest standard especially the Egyptian sarcophagi and the Greek vases. All in all this is a stunning gallery indeed. A very personal selection with limited photographic skills is included here….wonderfully curated gallery..needs a week. We gave it two hours!