Library, Trinity College, Cambridge University

Christopher Wren

This long two-story classical building closes in the west end of Nevile's Court, one of the larger and more impressive courts at Cambridge. (Thomas Nevile, as Master of Trinity College, was responsible for a number of buildings at that college as well as the Great Court.) Its west facade (not illustrated), with a closed lower story and a three-portal entrance, looks on to the river.

West end of Nevile's Court--the east elevation

The loggias of the Library are taller than those on the side, but the openings are not. With the lunettes filled in, the openings are square and the same height as the side loggias. Unifying the new building with the older buildings of the court was a significant problem for Wren.

Center: the central three bays; right: the outer bays

Here the lowest register has an arcade with three-quarter Doric columns topped by arched windows framed by Ionic pilasters, with a balustraded parapet above. The actual library is on the first floor (or second register). The heads of the arches on the lowest story are filled with carved lunettes.
Margaret Whinney notes: "The design, however, is not quite so straightforward as it looks. The firm horizontal between the lower order and windows above, leads one to suppose that it represents the division of the interior, and that the floor of the Library corresponds with the line of the Doric cornice. This is not the case, for the floor is dropped to the springing of the lower arches. It was chiefly for this reason that Wren filled in the lunettes. The great advantage of this device is that the book stacks could be set below the windows, and readers would enjoy the excellent light from above" (139).

Center: the balustrade with four statues; right: the end where roof heights don't meet

Please email me if you know the identity of the four statues--or their date and sculptor.

Work Cited:
Margaret Whinney. Wren. [World of Art series] London: Thames and Hudson, 1971.

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