St. Marys Passage | King’s Parade, Cambridge CB2 3PQ, England
Great St Mary’s is the University of Cambridge Church and has played a significant part in the history of the City and University of Cambridge for more than 800 years. It is a Church of English parish and university curch which is proud to offer care and support to people of all faiths and none. It is a free-to-visit heritage centre, with plenty to see and do.
The tower offers unrivalled views of Cambridge, as well as an opportunity to view the bells and bellringing mechanisms. If you choose to visit the tower, bear in mind the 123-step medieval staircase, which is uneven and a challenging climb. It is also unusual for having two organs, one built in 1698 and the other in 1991. Both organs are regularly used for services and recitals. The bells are rung twice on Sundays for services, as well as on special university and civic occasions.
Great St Mary’s has an extremely rich history: it was the original home of Cambridge University in 1209, has had bells since at least 1303 and important religious figures such as Erasmus and Bucer have preached there, and more recently it was chosen for the funeral of Stephen Hawking. Many of the oak beams were donated by King Henry VIII in 1564, although it is very doubtful as to whether they were his to give!
There is a heritage centre within the church which celebrates the history and Christian heritage of the Church, with special programmes for schools and families, interactive touch screens, brass rubbings, and discovery trails.
As well as its function as a parish church, Great St Mary’s is an important cultural centre, hosting concerts, sermon, talks and lessons. The Carol concert regularly attracts over a thousand people.
Great St Mary’s is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and features a number of references to the lily flower. It can be found in railings around the churchyard and is often thought to represent a symbol of her purity.
There are also a number of images of the time when angel Gabriel appears to Mary, and these often include images of white lilies.