History Blog

Advent Day 15 - St Bene't, Cambridge

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Yesterday's post on Reed was about the Anglo-Saxon features of the church, when I started writing this I didn't realise the next day would be similar! The beautiful church St Bene't stands in the middle of Cambridge, where many people walk by it without realising how old it is. In fact it's the oldest church in Cambridgeshire, and boasts an Anglo-Saxon tower! 015AA

The actual date when St Bene't's (the unusual name is a contraction of St Benedict) was founded is unknown, but was probably built around 1020, during the reign of King Cnut. Despite Cambridge's history as a college town, the church was one for the locals until the 1350s, when land just behind the church was purchased and used to build a new college - Corpus Christi. The first building, now known as "Old Court", ended up being the College's only building due to an on-going lack of funds. As a result there was no college chapel until the 16th century, and neighbouring St Bene't became the College's place of worship.

The tower isn't the only remaining Anglo-Saxon feature, inside the church the tower doorway is an arch dating from the 11th century, and parts of the walls (especially the corners) are also Anglo-Saxon. Other parts of the church, namely the chancel and nave, were remodelled or rebuilt in the 14th century. Most of the bells in the tower date from the 1600s, and the church went through the usual Victorian restoration during the 19th century. If you step through the main church door and look up you'll see a series of painted wooden angels on the ceiling, probably done during the restoration.

St Benet's is free to enter and holds services every day. If you're already visiting Corpus Christi, go and see their old spiritual home too!

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  1. Leanna Howlett

    I had no idea that was the oldest one in Cambridge! I guess I just assumed it was one of the more grander ones o_o I will definitely be dropping that little tidbit to the other half next time we're going through the area ;)

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