Phase 3 (1508-1515)

The death of Henry VII

Coffer from Henry VII's reign

Coffer in which gold and silver were sent by the trustees of Henry VII, about 1510, for the completion of the Chapel. Photograph: Ramsey & Muspratt, 1951. [Coll-Ph-917]. Larger image.

Besides private contributions in 1508, the next significant donation was once again a royal one. In March 1509, just weeks before his death, Henry VII gave £5000 and told his executors to provide sufficient funds to ensure the completion of the Chapel.

John Wastell

The master mason of the third period in the building of King’s College Chapel was John Wastell. Citing a day-book created by Thomas Clyff (clerk of works), Arthur Oswald has suggested that John Wastell may have acted as a partner of Simon Clerk. There was an age gap of nearly a quarter of a century between them but Clerk may have influenced this ‘rising young mason of ability’ .

Detail of the fan vaulting

Close-up of the vaulting at the east end of the Chapel, showing the double arrow motif. Photograph: RCHM, 1949. [Coll-Ph-740-close-up]
Larger image

Oswald suggested that ‘outside the ranks of the royal master masons John Wastell is perhaps the most significant figure in the last age of Gothic architecture in England’. Other works attributed to Wastell include the Bell Harry Tower of Canterbury Cathedral, St James’ Church in Bury and the retrochoir of Peterborough Cathedral.

If there is any doubt about who designed the fan vault, there is little doubt about its execution. Features which are characteristic of Wastell’s fan vaults include the little pairs of arrows which can be seen in this close-up.

Wastell also created the Chapel’s pinnacles, towers and battlements, for which he was contracted in 1513.

Heraldic carving

Carvings of heraldic emblems

Heraldic carvings on the walls of the antechapel. Photograph: RCHM, 1949. [Coll-Ph-836]. Larger image.

Although the Founder’s Will had suggested that he favoured simplicity, the work of the third period is easily identified by its much more elaborate and secular decoration. Many of the recurring motifs of this phase are heraldic emblems of the royal house of Tudor. As John Saltmarsh noted of the Tudors:

They seem to have taken a deliberate pride in marking off their work, not merely with ornament, but with elaborate secular ornament: symbols of the pomp and the power and the glory of this world below.

Thomas Stockton was the chief carver of this period. Figure sculpture, such as the dragons and greyhounds which appear repeatedly in the ante-chapel, in various moods, bearing the arms of Henry VII are attributed to Ralph Bowman.

Stonework completed

The third phase of the building of King’s College Chapel is thought to have been completed on 29 July 1515. All that remained to be done was the woodcarving, windows and furnishings. Though 2015 is being celebrated as the 500th anniversary of the completion of the Chapel, the building and its uses continued to evolve.

Chapel ceiling
The completed Chapel vault. Photograph: Mike Dixon © 2011 King’s College, Cambridge [CMR/250, IMG_5475]

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