Greetings from Cambridge

We’ve had our orientation for the Templeton-Cambridge journalism fellowships, held here in Cambridge England at Queens’ College. We had a ripping fine tour by a Cambridge historian, Mark Goldie, who talked about the three phases of the University’s history (Medieval, Renaissance and modern (since 1850). He described Cambridge as being about the service of the Church in Medieval [med-i-E-val] times (1200-1450), the service of the state in Renaissance (re NAY zance] times (1400 to 1750) and the service of the economy in modern times (since 1850).

He gave us some background on the loose confederation that is the university, which comprises 31 colleges (the biggest and best-endowed is Trinity, with about 900 students). Each college has its own chapel, apparently (there are a ton of churches here. You really can’t go a block in the university area without running into one), though Churchill college, which was founded in 1960 with a science and tech specialty, has a chapel that is at the college but not of the college (Francis Crick resigned from its board in protest over the chapel being included).

Mark took us around to a variety of notable sites, and gave us great background on them. How else would we know that on one little street, we were looking at rooms that might have been Marlowe’s at Corpus Christi, and that the rooms were there when Marlowe was, since Corpus Christi’s courtyard is one of only three at Cambridge that date back to the founding of the school (in this case 1352). Meanwhile, across the street is the old home of the Cavendish Lab, where the atom was first split, and where Crick and Watson would figure out the double helix structure of DNA.

We also got the lowdown on the church of St. Edward King and Martyr, which has a sign claiming that it is the cradle of the English Reformation. Mark said that was a bit over the top, but did talk about the Lutherans who preached there before it was acceptable and England, some of whom were burned for their efforts.

We got to tour Caius [keys] college, including a walk up the fellows stairs (fellows are appointed to teach at the college and get their own set of stairs up to the dining hall. Students take the student stairs). Caius has had luminaries like Crick as students, and he now has his own stained glass window, along with several other notable graduates of Caius. Stephen Hawking’s portrait is the largest in the dining hall. Behind a drape is a box with the flag Scott took to the South Pole (a Caius graduate was with Scott on that ill-fated trip).

We also toured Trinity’s massive courtyards, with the magnificent Wren library on one end and the ‘chariots of fire’ courtyard on another.

If I have time and figure out how to do it, i’ll post some pictures from the tour.

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