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Church of St. Mary the Great

Climb to the top of the tower for enchanting views of the city’s famous spires and learn about the church’s rich history.

The Church of St. Mary the Great is the official university church of Cambridge and has played an important role in the development of the city and the colleges. Admire the late Perpendicular design of the church and its 19th century stained-glass works, then ascend to the top of the tower for stellar city views.

A church has existed at this site since the 1200s, although the current structure was only built at the end of the 15th century, during the reigns of Richard III and Henry VII. Today, the church plays a small role in university legislation, stipulating that some staff and students must live within a certain distance of it.

Take a walking tour of the church with a docent to learn about its long history. Inside, you’ll find several interesting features including exquisite 19th-century stained glass and intriguing relics from the past, such as the hearse cloth for Henry VII.

Be sure to check out the 17th-century University Organ, which is used for the academy’s services. It is thought that this organ may have the largest repository of pipework by famous organ builder Father Bernard Smith in a single instrument. Rather unusually, the church also has a second organ, which was built in 1991.

To hear one of the organs in action, attend a recital here. Classical music concerts are often held in the church to take advantage of its excellent acoustics. Upon exiting, explore the market beside the church, where you will find all sorts of trinkets and treasures, such as antiques, books and food.

The church is open year-round from morning until late afternoon. There is a small fee to climb the tower, with discounts for families.

The Church of St. Mary the Great is found on the King’s Parade near the River Cam in the center of Cambridge. Take the bus here or walk to the church from the city center. Nearby attractions include the Cambridge Corn Exchange and the Cambridge City Council.


Guide to Exploring Church of St Mary the Great


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