Before Jesus College opened its gates in Cambridge in 1496, it served as the site of a Benedictine nunnery. Now archaeologists have discovered finds that can help understand how one community - one of female devotees - came to be replaced by male teachers and their pupils.
The name Jesus College itself is derived from the chapel, used by the 12th century nuns and later by the students. While the chapel had been burnt, rebuilt and redesigned, it still serves as a chapel to this day.
Workers at Pump Court who were modernizing the kitchen block, serving today's students and teaching staff, found the remains of the cloister court, including the remains of the water well, the Cambridge Independent reported on Wednesday. The pump is long gone, but the name had stuck.
The nuns were rumored to be lacking in their spiritual practice and were dissolved by Bishop John Alcock. Their order, St. Radegund's Priory, honored the 6th century Frankish princess, thanks to a land grant from Malcolm IV of Scotland. The findings shed light on the five decades that have passed since their order was removed and the college opened.
What was discovered is that materials used for the nunnery had been used to rebuild the college. The findings will allow modern scholars to learn more about how the women lived, what they ate, and therefore what their economic range had been – for example, from where they bought animals and what pottery they might have used.
One fine example of a Bartmann jug was discovered as well as the remains of clay smoking pipes, giving modern scholars an insight into the smoking and drinking habits of the young male scholars who would later inhabit the grounds.