Corpus Christi College

Main Entrance To Corpus Christi College

Corpus Christi College Cambridge

founded in 1352

Founded during the aftermath of the Black Death in 1352,  Corpus Christi College is the 6th oldest college within The University and the only college out of 31 to be founded by Cambridge locals. The college is now best known for the deliberately terrifying Corpus Clock, designed to represent a slightly morbid relationship with time.

Foundation of Corpus Christi College

Corpus Chisti is the 6th oldest college, founded in 1352 during the years following the Black Death.

The college was established to train young priests in an effort to increase parish numbers following the decline caused by the plague.

Corpus Christi is slightly unusual in that it is the only college out of 31 to be founded by local townspeople. Most of the Cambridge colleges were founded by members of the church, royalty or wealthy members of aristocracy, however Corpus Christi was formed by two local guilds: The Guild of Corpus Christi and the Gild of The Blessed Virgin Mary. Guilds were medieval associations of merchants and craftsmen, formed to protect the professional interests of its members. The land for the college was supplied by Margaret Andrew 1349, another Cambridge local who lived in Chesterton.

The Ghost of New Court

The Old Court is the oldest continually inhabited courtyard in England and is said to be haunted by one of the college’s former Masters. During the Civil War, many of the colleges had been evacuated due to a resurgence in the plague. The college Master at the time decided to live in the college alone in order to help organise supplies. After 3 years, the college Master was found hanged, unable to cope with the solitude. Since this day, many students report seeing a dark figure walking around Old Court during the night.

Peasants Revolt

Although the college had been founded by the townspeople, it still came under attack during the peasants’ revolt in 1381, social movement throughout the south east of England caused by socio-economic and political tensions following the Black Death. Led by the town Mayor, a number of townspeople, as well as a number of college students, raided the college in protest against ‘candle rents’, a form of tax enforced by the college. Many of the college’s books and documents were destroyed during the raid, however the college survived.

St. Benets Church Cambridge

St.Benet’s Church & The Eagle Pub

The college chapel was built in 1577 , prior to this the college was known as St.Benet’s college due to its use of St.Benets church which sits adjacent to the college.The eagle pub is owned by Corpus Christi college and was opened  just under 100 years after the construction of the college chapel in 1667.

Corpus Clock

Corpus Christi is also home to the deliberately terrifying Corpus Clock, located on the outer wall of the Taylor library. Designed by John Taylor, a former student and inventor who made his fortune working with electric kettles. The clock was unveiled in 2008 by Sir Stephen Hawkins and has since become one of Cambridge’s most iconic landmarks. 

1.5 metres in diameter, the clock face is plated with 24-carat gold and cost £1 million to build. Time is displayed with LEDs placed around 3 concentric rings, with seconds placed on the outer ring, minutes in the middle and hours in the centre. Ripples can be seen between the rings to represent The Big Bang.

Above the clock sits a grasshopper-like creature known as a ‘chronophage’, which translates from Greek into ‘time eater’. The Chronophage can be seen constantly feeding the seconds of time into its mouth and is a reminder from John Taylor that time is not on our side. 

The clock timings are only accurate once every 5 minutes, fluctuating ahead or behind time to represent the irregularity of life. The clock marks the hour by dropping a metal chain into a small wooden coffin hidden behind the clock. Below the clock marks an inscription ‘mundus transit et concupiscentia eius is’ from Vulgate 1 John 2:1, which translates to ‘the world passeth away, and the lust thereof’.


Corpus Christ Clock Cambridge
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