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Jesus College
Jesus College Entrance.jpg
College gatehouse seen from the "Chimney"
Jesus College heraldic shield
Coat of arms of Jesus College, being the canting arms of the founder John Alcock, Bishop of Ely
No scarf found for Jesus 2-sided
University University of Cambridge
Location Jesus Lane (map)
Coordinates 52°12′33″N 00°07′24″E / 52.20917°N 0.12333°E / 52.20917; 0.12333 (Jesus College)
Full name The College of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint John the Evangelist and the glorious Virgin Saint Radegund, within the City and University of Cambridge
Latin name Collegium Beatissime Marie Virginis Sancti Johannis Evangeliste et Gloriose Virginis Sancte Radegundis iuxta Cantebriggiam
Abbreviation JE
Motto Prosperum iter facias (Latin)
Motto in English "May your journey be successful"
Founder John Alcock
Established 1496; 528 years ago (1496)
Named after Jesus
Sister college Jesus College, Oxford
Master Sonita Alleyne
Undergraduates 538 (2022-23)
Postgraduates 395 (2022-23)
Jesus College, Cambridge is located in Central Cambridge
Jesus College, Cambridge
Location in Central Cambridge

Jesus College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. The college's full name is The College of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint John the Evangelist and the glorious Virgin Saint Radegund, near Cambridge. Its common name comes from the name of its chapel, Jesus Chapel.

Jesus College was established in 1496 on the site of the twelfth-century Benedictine nunnery of St Mary and St Radegund by John Alcock, then Bishop of Ely. The cockerel is the symbol of Jesus College, after the surname of its founder. For the 300 years from 1560 to 1860, Jesus College was primarily a training college for Church of England clergy.

Jesus College has assets of approximately £344m making it Cambridge's fourth-wealthiest college. The college is known for its particularly expansive grounds which include its sporting fields and for its proximity to its boathouse. Three members of Jesus College have received a Nobel Prize. Two fellows of the college have been appointed to the International Court of Justice.

Sonita Alleyne was elected master of Jesus College in 2019, 40 years after the college began admitting women as students. She is also the first black leader of an Oxbridge college.


When founded in 1496, the college consisted of buildings taken over from the Nunnery of St Mary and St Radegund, which was founded at the beginning of the 12th century; the chapel is the oldest university building in Cambridge still in use and predates the foundation of the college by 350 years, the university by half a century.

The Benedictine Convent, upon dissolution, included the chapel and the cloister attached to it; the nuns' refectory, which became the college hall; and the former lodging of the prioress, which became the Master's Lodge. This set of buildings remains the core of the college to this day and this accounts for its distinctly monastic architectural style, which sets it apart from other Cambridge colleges. A library was soon added, and the chapel was considerably modified and reduced in scale by Alcock. At its foundation, the college had a master, six fellows and six scholars.

Academic profile

Jesus College admits undergraduate and graduate students to all subjects at the university though typically accepts a larger number of students for engineering, medicine, law, natural sciences, mathematics, economics, history, languages, and human, social and political sciences. The college offers a wide range of scholarships.

The college consistently performs well in the informal Tompkins Table, which ranks Cambridge colleges by undergraduate results. Along with students from Trinity, King's, Christ's and St John's, students of the college have been members of the Cambridge Apostles.

Buildings and grounds

Jesus College, Cambridge - - 1062931
The Gatehouse looking into First Court


The main entrance to Jesus College is a walled passage known as the "Chimney". The term is derived from the Middle French word cheminée, for "little path" or "little way". The Chimney leads directly to the Porter's Lodge and then into First Court. All the courts at the college, except for the cloister, are open on at least one side.


Quincentenary Library

Jesus College Cloister
Cloister Court

The Quincentenary Library is the main library of Jesus College and is open 24 hours a day. The library was designed by Eldred Evans and David Shalev in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the foundation of the college in 1996. Completion of the library was shortly followed by a new accommodation building in 2000, now known as Library Court. The Quincentenary Library has a particularly large law collection, housed in a law library on the ground floor.

Old Library

The Old Library was in regular use until 1912. It still contains over 9,000 books and is available to private researchers upon appointment. The Old Library includes the Malthus Collection, being the family collection of alumnus Thomas Malthus, famous for his study An Essay on the Principle of Population which influenced Charles Darwin.

College grounds

Jesus College has large sporting grounds on-site. These include football, rugby, cricket, tennis, squash, basketball and hockey pitches. The Jesus College Boat House is 400 yards away, across Midsummer Common.

The college frequently hosts exhibitions of sculpture by contemporary artists. It has hosted work by Sir Antony Gormley, Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, and Barry Flanagan. The college grounds also include a nature trail, inspired by poetry composed by Samuel Taylor Coleridge during his time as a student.

Jesus College is one of the few colleges to allow anyone to walk on the lawns of its courts, except First Court, Cloister Court and those that are burial sites for nuns from the original nunnery.

Chapel and choir

Chapel Court


The Chapel, Jesus College, Cambridge - - 1057669
Jesus Chapel

The College Chapel was founded in 1157 and took until 1245 to complete, and is believed to be the oldest university building in Cambridge still in use. Originally it was the chapel of the Benedictine Convent of St. Mary and St. Radegund, which was dissolved by Bishop John Alcock.

The original structure of the chapel was cruciform in shape and the nave had both north and south aisles. A high, pitched roof was surmounted by a belfry and steeple; this collapsed in 1277. The chapel was also used as the parish church of St Radegund. Twice the chapel was ravaged by fire, in 1313 and 1376.

When the college took over the precincts during the 15th century, the parish was renamed after the college as Jesus parish, with the churchyard still being used for burials. This, however, was short-lived, as by the middle of the 16th century Jesus' parish was absorbed into that of All Saints. Significant alterations were carried out to the church under Alcock, transforming the cathedral-sized church, which was the largest in Cambridge into a College chapel for a small group of scholars. A large part of the original nave was replaced by College rooms, and subsequently part of the Master's Lodge.

The misericords were created by the architect Augustus Pugin between 1849 and 1853. Pugin used fragments of the misericords dating from 1500, which had been preserved in the Master's Lodge as templates. Repairs were also undertaken by George Frederick Bodley between 1864 and 1867, who commissioned decorative schemes from Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. The same firm returned in the 1870s to install stained glass.

Said and sung services are held every day during term. Choral Evensong takes place four times a week (Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays), and sung Eucharist on Sunday mornings. There are also Compline twice a term, as well as Masses on major holy days. The chapel, famed for its warm but clean acoustics, is also a much sought-after space for concerts and recitals, as well as recordings.

Jesus College Glass
Stained glass of John Alcock


Jesus College maintains two highly regarded choirs, the College Choir and the Chapel Choir.

  • The College Choir consists of male and female students and sings regular services twice a week in the chapel. One of the leading choirs in Cambridge, its singers are mainly drawn from the college's students but also include singers from other colleges. Evensong is sung by the College Choir on Tuesdays at 6.30 pm and Sundays at 6.00 pm during Full Term; Sunday Eucharists are sung by a consort of singers from the College Choir.
  • The Chapel Choir, which is likely to have existed since the foundation of the college, consists of around 20 younger choristers combined with the lower voices of the College Choir and also sings services twice a week in the chapel. It is unique among Cambridge college choirs in that the choristers are volunteers: that is, they are drawn from schools around the city and do not attend a particular choir school. The Chapel Choir sings Evensong on Thursdays and Saturdays at 6.30 pm.

Between September 2009 and December 2016 Mark Williams, former assistant organist at St Paul's Cathedral, served as director of music, being succeeded by Richard Pinel, former assistant organist at St George's Chapel, Windsor and Organ Scholar at Magdalen College, Oxford, in January 2017. After Pinel's departure at the end of the 2022 academic year, Peter Wright served as acting director until the appointment of the current director Benjamin Sheen, who took up the post in January 2023. Former Organ Scholars include Malcolm Archer, who (until 2018) was the Organist and Director of Chapel Music at Winchester College, James O'Donnell, Organist and Master of the Choristers of Westminster Abbey, and Charles Harrison, Organist and Master of the Choristers of Chichester Cathedral.,

College grace

Jesus College, Cambridge by Loggan 1690 - Folger 046539W5
Jesus College in 1690, by David Loggan

Before dinner

The following Latin grace is recited before formal dinners at Jesus College (Oratio Ante Cibum; English: "Prayer before Food"):

Oculi omnium in te aspiciunt et in te sperant, Deus. Tu das illis escam tempore opportuno. Aperis tu manus, et imples omne animal benedictione tua. Benedic nobis, Domine, et omnibus tuis donis, quae ex larga liberalitate tua sumpturi sumus, per Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum. Deus est caritas. Qui manet in caritate manet in Deo et Deus in illo. Sit Deus in nobis, et nos maneamus in illo.

English translation:

The eyes of all look towards you and trust in you, O God. You give them food in due season. You open your hands and fill every living thing with your blessing. Bless us, O Lord, and all your gifts, which through your great generosity we are about to receive, through Jesus Christ our Lord. God is love. He who abides in love abides in God and God in him. May God be in us and may we abide in him.

After dinner

The following Oratio Post Cibum (English: "Prayer after Food") is sometimes read after dinner:

Deus pacis et dilectionis semper maneat nobiscum; tu autem, Domine, miserere nostrum. Agimus tibi gratias pro omnibus tuis beneficiis, qui vivis et regnas, Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Deus conservet Ecclesiam, Regem, regnum, senatum, et pacem.

English translation:

May the God of peace and love always abide with us; have mercy upon us, O Lord. We thank you for all your mercies, who live and reign, God, for ever and ever. May God preserve the Church, the King, the realm, Parliament and peace.

However, after a normal formal dinner in Hall the following short responsory is usually used:

  • The Presiding Fellow: Laus Deo (Praise be to God)
  • The college: Deo Gratias (Thanks be to God)

Student life

Jesus College May Ball, 2012 2
Jesus College May Ball, 2012

Student societies

Although Jesus College is one of the older colleges at the university, it is known for having a relaxed and informal atmosphere. This is in large part attributable to its active student unions, the Jesus College Student Union (JCSU) and the Jesus College Graduate Union (MCR). These unions organise a wide range of social, cultural, welfare and sporting events throughout the year. The John Hughes Arts Festival, founded by College students in 2014 in memory of the late Dean of Chapel, John Hughes, enters its third year in 2017, providing a broad programme of arts events.

Jesus College hosts an annual May Ball. Musician James Bay played at the 2015 May Ball. The headliners for 2016 were Coasts, Clean Bandit and Jack Garratt.


Jesus College offers a large number of sports, including rowing, football, rugby, hockey, tennis, squash and basketball. The college typically fields several teams in each sport. The Jesus College Boat Club is particularly strong, with the 1st Men's VIII never having dropped below 12th place in the May Bumps and 11th position in the Lent Bumps. The JCBC organises the annual Fairbairn Cup Races.


A three-course dinner known as Formal Hall is served in the college's main dining hall five nights a week. Gowns are worn by all members of the college, along with lounge suits for men and formal dresses for women. A four-course dinner for graduate students of the college known as Grad Hall is served in Upper Hall each Wednesday. Unlike most traditional Oxbridge colleges, the college allows graduate students to dine at High Table on Tuesdays.

The college also offers informal dining at lunch and dinner known as Caff, as well as brunch on Saturday mornings and a brunch on Sundays. The college also has a popular student bar known as JBar which sells a wide variety of drinks, including JPA (Jesus Pale Ale).

Masters and fellows

Masters of the college

Sonita Alleyne was elected master of the college in 2019. She was preceded by Ian White, former Van Eck Professor of Engineering at the university. Previous masters of the college include:

  • Robert Mair (2001–2011), former Sir Kirby Laing Professor of Civil Engineering at the university;
  • Professor David Crighton (1997–2000), former Professor of Applied Mathematics at the university;
  • Baron Renfrew of Kaimsthorn (1986–1996), former Disney Professor of Archaeology at the university;
  • Sir Alan Cottrell (1973–1986), former Goldsmiths' Professor of Materials Science and later Chief Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister; and
  • Sir Denys Page (1959–1973), former Regius Professor of Greek and President of the British Academy.

Fellows of the college

Three members of the college have received Nobel Prizes. Philip W. Anderson was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics (1977). Anderson was a fellow from 1969 to 1975 while he held a visiting professorship at the Cavendish Laboratory and has been an Honorary Fellow since 1978. Peter D. Mitchell, an undergraduate and later research student, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1978). He became an Honorary Fellow in 1979. Eric Maskin was a joint winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2007. Maskin was a research fellow from 1976 to 1977 and has been an Honorary Fellow since 2009.

Several prominent figures in the law have been fellows of the college. Professor Glanville Williams, described as Britain's foremost scholar of criminal law, was a Fellow from 1957 to 1978. The Glanville Williams Society, consisting of current and former members of Jesus College, meets annually in his honour. Justice David Hayton, editor of Underhill and Hayton's Law of Trusts and Trustees and current judge of the Caribbean Court of Justice was a Fellow from 1973 to 1987. Professor Robert Jennings was a Fellow of the college and later Whewhell Professor of International Law (1955–1982) before his appointment to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), where he served as a Judge (1982–1991) and later as President (1991–1995). Professor James Crawford was also a Fellow of the college and later Whewhell Professor of International Law (1992–2014) before his appointment to the International Court of Justice in November 2014. Current Honorary Fellows include Lord Roger Toulson of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Sir Rupert Jackson of the Court of Appeal, and Sir Colman Treacy, also of the Court of Appeal, all of whom were students of the college.

Notable alumni

List of notable alumni
Name Born Died Details
Double dates may indicate Old Style and New Style dates.
Thomas Cranmer 1489 1556 Archbishop of Canterbury
John Bale 1495 1563 Bishop of Ossory
Thomas Goodrich 1494 1554 Bishop of Ely
Arthur Golding 1535/6 1606 Protestant propagandist
Fulke Greville, 1st Baron Brooke 1554 1628 Elizabethan poet, playwright, statesman and biographer of Sir Philip Sidney
Sir Robert Cotton, 1st Baronet, of Connington 1570/1 1631 Antiquarian, MP and founder of the Cotton Library.
Thomas Beard 1632 English cleric, theologian, Puritan and schoolmaster of Oliver Cromwell.
Francis Higginson 1588 1630 Early Puritan minister in Colonial New England, and first minister of Salem, Massachusetts.
Richard Sterne 1596 1683 Archbishop of York, Master of Jesus College (1634)
John Eliot 1604 1690 Puritan missionary who translated the Bible into Algonquian.
Sir Richard Fanshawe, 1st Baronet 1608 1666 English diplomat, translator and poet.
John Strype 1643 1737 English cleric, historian and biographer
William Beale 1784 1854 Master of Jesus College (1632)
John Flamsteed 1646 1719 First Astronomer Royal
Thomas Herring 1693 1757 Archbishop of Canterbury
Matthew Hutton 1693 1758 Archbishop of Canterbury
John Jortin 1698 1770 Ecclesiastical historian
David Hartley 1705 1757 Philosopher
Laurence Sterne 1713 1768 Novelist
Henry Venn 1725 1797 A leader of the Evangelical movement in the Church of England
Gilbert Wakefield 1756 1801 Principal of two nonconformist academies
Thomas Robert Malthus 1766 1834 Population theorist
William Otter 1768 1840 First Principal of King's College London
Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1772 1834 Poet, critic and philosopher
David Barttelot 1821 1852 Cricketer
James Wemyss 1828 1909 Politician
William Percy Carpmael 1853 1936 Founder of the Barbarians' Rugby Club
Sandford Schultz 1857 1937 England cricketer
Charles Whibley 1859 1930 Journalist and author
Herbert Williams 1860 1937 Bishop of Waiapu, New Zealand
Steve Fairbairn 1862 1938 Rowing coach
Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch 1863 1944 Novelist and critic
Henry Hutson 1868 1916 Cricketer
Gregor MacGregor 1869 1919 Scotland Rugby Union player and England cricketer
Bertram Fletcher Robinson 1870 1907 Author, journalist and editor
John Maxwell Edmonds 1875 1958 Classicist, poet. dramatist and writer of celebrated epitaphs
Robert Stanford Wood 1886 1963 First Vice-Chancellor of the University of Southampton
Bernard Vann 1887 1918 Recipient of the Victoria Cross and League footballer for Derby County from 1906 to 1907
Sir Harold Scott 1887 1969 Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service from 1945 to 1953
E. M. W. Tillyard 1889 1962 Literary critic, master (1945–1959)
Hon. F. S. G. Calthorpe 1892 1935 England cricket captain
Tom Lowry 1898 1976 New Zealand cricket captain
Alistair Cooke 1908 2004 Broadcaster
Jacob Bronowski 1908 1974 Scientist and mathematician
Tom Killick 1907 1953 England cricketer
Lord (Saville) Garner 1908 1983 British High Commissioner to Canada, Head of the Diplomatic Service
James Reeves 1909 1978 Author and literary critic
Don Siegel 1912 1991 American film director and producer
David Clive Crosbie Trench 1915 1988 24th Governor of Hong Kong
Peter Mitchell 1920 1992 Biochemist; won the 1978 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his discovery of the chemiosmotic mechanism of ATP synthesis
Sir John Jardine Paterson 1920 2000 Businessman in India
Raymond Williams 1921 1988 Literary and cultural critic
Harry Johnson 1923 1977 Economist
Edwin Boston 1924 1986 Clergyman and steam enthusiast
Maurice Cowling 1926 2005 Historian of "high politics"
Harold Perkin 1926 2004 Social historian
J. B. Steane 1928 2011 Music critic and musicologist
Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon 1930 2017 Photographer and film-maker and ex-husband to the late Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth II's sister
Peter Hurford 1930 2019 Organist and composer
David McCutchion 1930 1972 Academic
Michael Podro 1931 2008 Art historian
Richard Hey Lloyd 1933 2021 Organist and composer
Ted Dexter 1935 2021 England cricket captain
Peter G. Fletcher 1936 1996 British conductor and author
Colin Renfrew, Baron Renfrew of Kaimsthorn 1937 Archaeologist
Herb Elliott 1938 Athlete; gold medallist in the 1500 metres at the 1960 Summer Olympics
Barry Kay 1939 2020 Immunologist
Fernando Vianello 1939 2009 Italian economist
Deryck Murray 1943 West Indies cricketer
Lisa Jardine 1944 2015 Historian
Roger Scruton 1944 2020 Philosopher
Paul Harrison 1945 Founder of the World Pantheist Movement, UNEP Global 500 Roll of Honour, author
Roger Toulson 1946 2017 Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
Sir David Hare 1947 Playwright
Stefan Collini 1947 Literary critic and historian
Sir Rupert Jackson 1948 Justice of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales
Simon Hornblower 1949 Professor of Classics and Grote Professor of Ancient History, University College London
Aidan Bellenger 1950 Historian, former abbot of Downside Abbey.
Tony Wilson 1950 2007 Journalist, founder of Factory Records
David Wootton 1950 Lord Mayor of London
Kimberley Rew 1951 Songwriter and guitarist
Malcolm Archer 1952 Director of Chapel Music at Winchester College
Bernard Silverman 1952 British statistician and Master of St Peter's College, Oxford.
Geoff Hoon 1953 Former Secretary of State for Defence, Chief Whip, Secretary to the Treasury and Secretary of State for Transport
Anthony Julius 1956 British lawyer
Andrew Mitchell 1956 Secretary of State for International Development (from May 2010)
Nick Hornby 1957 Novelist and journalist
Shaun Woodward 1958 British politician, former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
John Baron 1959 British Conservative politician
James O'Donnell 1961 Organist and Master of the Choristers of Westminster Abbey
Theodore Huckle 1962 Counsel General for Wales
Glen Goei 1962 Film and theatre director
Quentin Letts 1963 British journalist, currently writing for the New Statesman
Andrew Solomon 1963 Writer and professor of Clinical Psychology; winner of the 2001 National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize finalist
Prince Edward 1964 Duke of Edinburgh
James Wood 1965 Literary critic
Philip Hensher 1965 Novelist and journalist
Stephanie Theobald 1966 Novelist and journalist
Lewis Pugh 1969 Endurance swimmer and Ocean advocate
Turi King 1969 Professor of Public engagement and Genetics at the University of Leicester
Giles Dilnot 1971 Television presenter and journalist
Charles Harrison 1974 Organist and Master of the Choristers of Chichester Cathedral
Ros Atkins 1974 Journalist
Dominic Sandbrook 1974 Historian
Alexis Taylor 1980 Musician with Hot Chip, composer, singer
Grace Chatto 1985 Musician with Clean Bandit and Massive Violins, singer
Jason Forbes 1990 Actor, comedian

See also

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