University Churches

For the first week of school, we have drawn up a list of famous university churches and chapels. Let yourself be carried away by these places which will take you back to the creation of universities in Europe, far back in the Middle Ages.

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC BY-SA 3.0

Christ Church Cathedral - University of Oxford

Christ Church College in Oxford is unique in having the only college chapel that is also a cathedral. It is said to have been founded as a convent by St Frideswide in the 8th century, but the oldest parts of the church date from the 12th century, when it was an Augustinian priory and place of pilgrimage. In 1525 Thomas Wolsey suppressed the priory and began work creating a college.

Christ Church Cathedral
Wikimedia Commons/NonOmnisMoriar

Sorbonne Chapel - Sorbonne University

The Chapel Sainte Ursule de la Sorbonne or more simply the Sorbonne Chapel is a constituent building of the Sorbonne courtyard. It was the private chapel of the college of the Sorbonne, then of the university faculties of Paris in the 19th century. The present chapel was rebuilt in the 17th century by Cardinal de Richelieu and was also his mausoleum. The plan of the former medieval chapel is still visible in the main courtyard of the present Sorbonne, marked with crosses.

Sorbonne Chapel
Wikimedia Commons/Przemyslaw Parzysz

Trinity College Chapel - University of Cambridge

Trinity College Chapel dates from the mid-16th century. The chapel was begun in 1554-55 by order of Queen Mary and was completed in 1567 by Elizabeth I. The architectural style is Tudor Gothic, with perpendicular lines and pinnacles. The chapel is famous for its choir, composed of about thirty choral students and two organ students, all graduates of the College. In addition to singing the liturgy in the chapel, the choir has an extensive programme of performances and recordings.

Trinity College Chapel
Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC BY-SA 3.0

Merton College Chapel - University of Oxford

Merton College Chapel, dedicated to St Mary and St John the Baptist, was completed in the late 13th century. The present choir, with its huge east window, was completed in 1294. Under Elizabeth I, Protestantism was imposed and Merton College found itself under siege for three weeks by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker, in defence of the old religion. The chapel replaced St. John's Parish Church and continued to serve as a parish church as well as a chapel until 1891.

Merton College Chapel
Wikimedia Commons/Scott Dexter

Chapel of St. Michael - University of Coimbra

The Chapel of St. Michael is a chapel of the University of Coimbra built between the 16th and 18th centuries. It is part of the architectural complex of the Paço das Escolas. The Chapel of St. Michael dates back to the 16th century and was commissioned by Manuel I of Portugal (1495-1521), whose decorative style is displayed on the Manueline side portal, on the windows of the central nave. The chapel, especially its interior, was later remodelled in Baroque and Mannerist style.

Chapel of St. Michael
Wikimedia Commons/Sven Marnach salvator

St Salvator's Chapel - University of St Andrews

St Salvator's Chapel, founded in 1450, is one of the two chapels of St Andrews University, the other being St Leonard's Chapel. The chapel has a late Gothic architectural style, but underwent alterations in the late 17th century, in the 1860s and throughout the 20th century. St Salvator's is the only university chapel in Scotland to have a complete set of six bells. Four new bells were added to Catherine and Elizabeth (the existing bells) as part of the university's 600th-anniversary celebrations in 2010.

St Salvator's Chapel
Wikimedia Commons/Architas

Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza - Sapienza University of Rome

Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza is a church that was built between 1642 and 1660 by Francesco Borromini. For its artistic, technical and symbolic values, the building is considered one of the architect’s masterpieces, of the Baroque and of the history of architecture in general. The works were conditioned by the pre-existence of the already built palace and courtyard, which left a very limited quadrangular space for the construction of the church. But the result is of extreme purity and apparent simplicity.

Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza
Wikimedia Commons/Zygmunt Put Zetpe0202

Collegiate Church of St. Anne - Jagiellonian University

The Collegiate Church of St. Anne is an academic church of the Jagiellonian University as well as a parish church for the parish of St. Anne. The present church was consecrated in 1703, its baroque style was proposed by the architect Tylman de Gameren who referred to the plan of the Roman church of San Carlo ai Catinari, which was also an inspiration for the university church of the Sorbonne in Paris.

Collegiate Church of St. Anne
Wikimedia Commons/Paulinum - University of Leipzig

Paulinum - University of Leipzig

The Paulinum has a double function, that of a church, "St. Paul's University Church", and that of an assembly hall. The building was constructed between 2007 and 2017 according to the plans of Dutch architect Erick van Egeraat on the site where the University Church of St. Paul was destroyed by the explosion on 30 May 1968. Completion of the building was originally planned for the university's anniversary year in 2009 but was only partially completed by that date.

Wikimedia Commons/Jean-Christophe BENOIST

King's College Chapel - University of Cambridge

King's College Chapel is the chapel at King's College in the University of Cambridge. It was built in phases by the kings of England from 1446 to 1515 during the Wars of the Roses in a Perpendicular Gothic English architectural style. The chapel has large stained-glass windows that were completed in 1531, and the chapel’s Renaissance rood screen was constructed from 1532 to 1536. The chapel is still an active place of worship home to the King’s College Choir.

King's College Chapel