Church of St Mary the Great, Cambridge
|Church of St Mary the Great|
The Church of St Mary the Great
|Style||Late Perpendicular Gothic|
|Vicar(s)||The Revd Canon John Binns, PhD|
St Mary the Great is a Church of England church at the north end of King's Parade in central Cambridge, England. It is known locally as Great St Mary's or simply GSM to distinguish it from "Little St Mary's". It is one of the Greater Churches. It has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade I listed building.
In addition to being a parish church in the Diocese of Ely, it is the University Church for the University of Cambridge. As such it has a minor role in the University's legislation: for example, University Officers must live within 20 miles of Great St Mary's, and undergraduates within three. The church also hosts University Sermons, and houses the University Organ and the University Clock. The latter chimes the Cambridge Chimes which were later used by the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament ("Big Ben").
The first mention of the church is a record of King John presenting Thomas de Chimeleye to the rectory in 1205. The first church on the site of the current one was built in 1205, but this was mostly destroyed by fire 9 July 1290 and then rebuilt. At the time, this fire was attributed to the Jewish population of the city, with the result that the synagogue was closed. Prior to 1352, it was known as The Church of St Mary the Virgin, but since that year has become known by its modern name. During its early years, the church was the property of the crown, but on 15 July 1342, the land was passed to King's Hall. Ownership then passed to Trinity College, where it has rested since.
The orders for the consecration of the new church were sent out on 17 May 1346, but were not enacted until 15 March 1351.
In the Middle Ages it became an official gathering place for meetings and debates for Cambridge University, but this ceased in 1730 when the University's Senate House was built across the street.
The church was restored by James Essex in 1766. In 1850-51 a restoration was carried out by George Gilbert Scott, followed by further work by Anthony Salvin in 1857. The south porch was rebuilt in 1888. There has been some more restoration work during the 20th century.
Various leading philosophers of the English Reformation preached there, notably Erasmus. Martin Bucer, who influenced Thomas Cranmer's writing of the Book of Common Prayer, was buried there. Under Queen Mary, his corpse was burnt in the marketplace, but under Elizabeth I, the dust from the place of burning was replaced in the church and now lie under a brass floor plate in the south chancel. The Tractarian movement in the 19th century prompted the removal of the north and south galleries, but that to the west still stands.
Originally, bells were hung in a wooden structure in the churchyard. In 1515 the bells were moved to the tower and the structure was dismantled. The bells were replaced in 1722 and in 1724, the Society of Cambridge Youths was formed to formalise the responsibility for ringing them. This society lays claim to being the oldest bellringing society in Britain and the second oldest at any church in the world with a continuous ringing history.
In 2009 the old ring of bells was replaced with a new ring cast by Taylors Eayre and Smith Ltd, made possible by a donation from Dr Martin C Faulkes. The new ring of 13 bells in the key of D (including a flat 6th providing a lighter ring of 8 bells in the key of G) has a tenor weighing 24cwt. Some of the original bells have been retained in order to continue sounding the Cambridge Chimes.
St Mary the Great is unusual in housing two self-contained pipe organs, one for the 'regular' congregation, and the other the 'University Organ'. The latter was originally purchased in 1698, but heavily rebuilt until the current version was completed in 1870. The organ was extensively restored in 1995 resulting in its rededication on 30 January 1996.
Architecture and features 
In order to accommodate the large audiences that were present for special occasions, and in particular the University Sermon, attendance of which was compulsory, the galleries were added in 1735. The church contains one of the few moveable pulpits in England. The hearse cloth of Henry VII is at the east end of the north aisle. The medieval font dates from 1632 and the sculpture behind the high altar is of Christ in Majesty. This sculpture was completed in 1960. The sculpture is by Alan Durst 
See also 
- List of church restorations and alterations by Anthony Salvin
- Holy Trinity Church in Market Street to the east
- Church of St Mary the Great, Cambridge (1126084), National Heritage List for England, English Heritage, retrieved 1 October 2012
- The city of Cambridge - Churches | British History Online
- Cooper, Charles Henry (1866) "Memorials of Cambridge (Volume 3)", Cambridge: Wm Metcalfe.
- Venables, Edward (1855). The Archaeological Journal (PDF). Longman, Rrown,(sic) Green, and Longman. Retrieved 2008-10-01.
- "St Mary's University Church, Cambridge". Sacred Destinations. Retrieved 2008-10-01.
- "Bells". St Mary the Great. Retrieved 2008-10-01.[dead link]
- "The Society of Cambridge Youths". Retrieved 2008-10-01.
- "Martin C. Faulkes Bell Fund". University of Cambridge. Retrieved 2010-01-11.
- "Dove's Guide for Church Bell Ringers". Retrieved 2010-01-11. See John Bowtell.
- "St Mary the Great". Mander Organs Portfolio. Retrieved 2008-10-01.