Original features

January 8, 2009

Although less well known than its namesake in Cambridge, the chapel of King's College London is a Grade I listed building designed by the eminent Victorian architect George Gilbert Scott.

It was completed in 1864 at a cost of just over £7,000 and was always intended to have "the character of an ancient basilica".

As the chapel is situated above the London college's Great Hall, the monumental effect had to be achieved with comparatively lightweight materials.

Most of the stained glass was damaged or destroyed during the Second World War. But a major restoration programme, which was started in 1996, enabled Joseph Nuttgens to design new windows that build on Scott's original plan - featuring biblical figures, with scenes from the life of Jesus in the apse above the altar - while also alluding to King's College's changing educational mission.

"Christ in the carpenter's shop", "Christ healing the sick" and "Christ and the lawyers" make clear reference to the modern disciplines of engineering, medicine and law. Even more striking, "Christ teaching the people" depicts Jesus conducting what looks like a university seminar. An image of a double helix pays tribute to the key role of King's researchers Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin in deciphering the structure of DNA.

Suggestions for this architectural series are welcome: matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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