St John's College, Cambridge

Template:Oxbridge College Infobox St John's College is one of the colleges making up the University of Cambridge, and was founded by Lady Margaret Beaufort in 1511. It is now Cambridge's second largest college by size of its membership, after Trinity College.

The college was founded on the original site of the 13th century Hospital of St John in Cambridge at the suggestion of John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester and chaplain to Lady Margaret. However, Lady Margaret died without having mentioned the foundation of St John's in her will and testament and it was largely the work of John Fisher which ensured that the college was founded. He had to obtain the approval of King Henry VIII of England, the Pope through an intermediary Polydore Vergil, and the Bishop of Ely to suppress the religious hospital and move ahead with its conversion to a college. Nevertheless the college received its charter on April 9 1511. Further complications arose in obtaining money from the estate of Lady Margaret to pay for the foundation and it was not until October 22 1512 that a codicil was obtained in the court of the Archbishop of Canterbury. In November 1512 the court of Chancery allowed Lady Margaret's executors to pay for the foundation of the college from her estates.

First Court was converted from the original hospital on the foundation of the college. It has since been gradually changed until finally the original 13th century hospital chapel and other buildings were demolished in the middle of the 19th century. The new chapel was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and includes in its interior some pieces saved from the original chapel. The original chapel foundations can still be seen in First Court. First Court was used as a prison in 1643 during the English Civil War, when the college was on the Royalist side, while the city of Cambridge was largely on the Parliamentary side.

The Main Gate of St John's College, decorated with the  of the foundress.
The Main Gate of St John's College, decorated with the arms of the foundress.

Second Court, built from 1589 - 1599, has been described as 'the finest Tudor court in England'. Reputedly under the Oriel window in the north range of the court the treaty between England and France which established the marriage of King Charles I of England to Queen Henrietta Maria. Now the Combination Room, but before the 19th century part of the Master's Lodge, the first-floor gallery along the north range has the largest single ceiling in Cambridge. The college has blocked the installation of electrical power sockets and lighting in the room, and all meals held after dark in the Combination Room are traditionally lit, with large numbers of candles.

The Old Library was built in 1624, largely with funds donated by John Williams, Bishop of Lincoln. It includes a very fine bay window overlooking the River Cam which has the letters ILCS on it, standing for Iohannes Lincolniensis Custos Sigilli, or 'John of Lincoln, Keeper of the Seal'. The remaining parts of Third Court were added in 1669 - 1672.

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St John's College Chapel was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott

Connecting Third court to New Court is New Bridge, more commonly known as the Bridge of Sighs. It is named after the Bridge of Sighs in Venice which it resembles. The other bridge over the river, the Kitchen Bridge (named after the lane it followed the line of, Kitchen Lane) which is to the south of the Bridge of Sighs was partly based on plans made by Sir Christopher Wren.

The 19th-century Gothic New Court, probably one of the most famous buildings in Cambridge, was the first College building on the West Side of the River. It was built mainly as a result of the need to accommodate the increased numbers of students. Its prominent location (especially when seen from the river) and flamboyant design has led it to be nicknamed the "wedding cake building" by students of other colleges.

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St John's College New Court (19th-century)

The School of Pythagoras, built in cir.1200 is built on land which was owned by Merton College, Oxford until 1959. It predates any of the other buildings in the College, although it was originally a private house, rather than part of the college.

St. John's is also famous for possessing what is generally acknowledged to be one of the finest collegiate choirs in the world. The choir has a distinguished tradition of religious music and since the 1670s has sung the daily services in the College Chapel during the University Term. The services follow the Cathedral tradition of the Church of England, Evensong being sung during Term six days a week and Sung Eucharist in addition on Sunday mornings.

During the University Vacation the Choir carries out engagements in the UK and overseas. Recent tours have taken the Choir to various places, including Holland, the USA and France. The Choir has also made a large number of recordings.

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The 16th century dining hall has a very fine hammerbeam roof.
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View over the rear buildings of St Johns from the Chapel.

John's figures heavily in the sporting rivalries of the university and is the subject of a song: "I would rather be at Oxford than at John's", which is sung by students of neighbouring colleges to the tune of "She'll be coming round the mountains." Its lyrics are based on the professed belief that Oxford should be viewed with disdain.

I'd rather be at Oxford than at John's
Ohh - I'd rather be at Oxford than at John's
I'd rather be at Oxford
Rather be at Oxford
I'd rather be at Oxford than at John's

There is also a verse replacing 'Oxford' with 'Reading', owing to a recent University Challenge defeat of John's by Reading

I'd rather be at Reading than at John's
Ohh - I'd rather be at Reading than at John's
I'd rather be at Reading
Rather be at Reading
I'd rather be at Reading than at John's

The song sung by students at John's is 'You'll Never Be at John's' to the tune of "You'll never walk alone".

Sign on, sign on, with hope in your hearts
But you'll never be at John's
You'll never be at John's

The College cocktail is the Red Boy, which is made of a bottle of Diamond White, grenadine, and a mixture of shots.

The 'Red Boys' is the nickname of the 1st XV Mens Rugby Team, and the Red Boy is the name of the red jumper they wear. The 'Red Girls' is the nickname of the 1st Womens Rugby Team.


Famous alumni

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The Bridge of Sighs, across the River Cam


Science, Mathematics and Technology



Colleges of the University of Cambridge Arms of the University

Christ's | Churchill | Clare | Clare Hall | Corpus Christi | Darwin | Downing | Emmanuel | Fitzwilliam | Girton | Gonville and Caius | Homerton | Hughes Hall | Jesus | King's | Lucy Cavendish | Magdalene | New Hall | Newnham | Pembroke | Peterhouse | Queens' | Robinson | St Catharine's | St Edmund's | St John's | Selwyn | Sidney Sussex | Trinity | Trinity Hall | Wolfson

de:St John's College (Cambridge)



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