Before I had even set foot in Cambridge, I knew of The Round Church.
I had researched Cambridge in detail before I moved there in 2008 and the thought of a church that had been situated in the heart of Cambridge since the 11th century really triggered my imagination.
The Round Church, or The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is located on the corner of Bridge Street and Round Church street, close to St. John’s College.
It is of a rare design in England and is one of only four medieval round churches in England still in use today.
It is Cambridge’s second oldest building.
Between 1114 and 1130, land was granted to the Members of the Fraternity of the Holy Sepulchre by Reinald the Abbot of Ramsey.
The current round church we see today was begun, and the oldest part of the church has been dated to around 1120 – 1140.
The original church consisted of a round nave, with an ambulatory and a semicircular apse, and by the 13th century it became the parish church under the control of the Barnwell Priory.
The church escaped damage in the reformation during the 16th century, but wasn’t so lucky during the Civil War of the 17th century. Many carvings that were deemed as ‘idolatry’ were destroyed.
By the 19th century, the church was in a poor state of repair and in 1841 part of the Ambulatory collapsed.
Anthony Salvin was commissioned to repair the church, and among structural work, he interestingly replaced the original Gothic windows with windows in the Norman style.
The floor in the Nave is inset with the Royal Arms of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
In 1942, the East Window was destroyed by a bomb and replaced by a new window in 1946, dedicated to Christ in Majesty.
By 1994, the church was deemed too small for the congregation and they moved to nearby St. Andrew’s the Great.. I know needs must but it still surprises me that the 2nd oldest church in Cambridge has no regular congregation.
The church today is well looked after by Christian Heritage, and included an exhibition which tells the story of Cambridge.
My favourite things about the Round Church have to be the Norman influences.
I especially love the fabulous carving of the Norman West Door, and the kooky faces that have looked down on the people for centuries.
It’s a popular spot on the tourist trail, so I recommend visiting outside of peak tourist season so you can experience it as it was meant to be.