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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wren Chapel at the College of William and Mary


This summer, I have the pleasure to attend my nephew’s wedding at the chapel in the Sir Christopher Wren Building, the oldest college building in the United States. Today, the College of William and Mary is obviously much larger than this one building. Construction of the Wren building, known then as simply “the College” began in 1695, before the city of Williamsburg was founded. Not many buildings (in the U.S.) can boast being built before then and are still in use! And not many colleges can say they've cancelled classes because 'the British invaded.’ (According to the college’s website: http://web.wm.edu/about/wren/wrenchapel)

The design of the chapel is similar to that of many collegiate chapels in Great Britain. The pews face the aisle rather than the front. The paneling is of native pine and walnut. The royal arms of Kings George I and II are displayed on the front of the gallery. The crypt beneath the Chapel houses several distinguished Virginians--Sir John Randolph, his sons John "the Tory" and Peyton, Bishop James Madison--as well as Lord Botetourt.


Besides its service as a college with classrooms and living quarters for the students and faculty during the Colonial period, during the American Revolution (the Battle of Yorktown) the building served as a French hospital. In 1861, Confederate troops used the Wren Building for quarters and later for a hospital. Once Union forces took control in 1862, the Fifth Pennsylvania Cavalry burned the building to prevent Confederate snipers from hiding there. Its walls became part of the Yankee line of Williamsburg’s eastern defenses. According to the official website, "the invaders looted the chapel crypt, prying silver ornaments and valuable furnishings from the coffins." However, I wasn't sure who the invaders were--Yanks or Johnny Rebs. Either way, the building has quite a history!

Being a history buff, I can't wait to see it (and of course witness my nephew's wedding!) I’ll post pictures when I return!

2 comments:

Tee said...

What a neat experience to attend a wedding at Wm& Mary.We have been going to Williamsburg since 67 and
have counted some 37 visits.Also as reinactors we were in the battle of Yorktown in 82. We live in reproduction Williamsburg house That you might see in our blog.
Tee. Simple and southern blogspot.com

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