If some things get better with age, Winchester College is just about perfect. Just ask bride Catalina Raisbeck (known as Cata), who discovered the medieval campus for the first time when her then-boyfriend, Mark Julien, invited her for a visit to his native Britain.
“Mark went to school at Winchester, so he wanted me to see it,” Raisbeck says of the boys’ boarding school. “The whole place is magical, beautiful.”
The chapel has been enchanting brides-to-be for centuries: One of the college’s original structures, it dates back to the late 14th century, when William of Wykeham, the Bishop of Winchester and Chancellor (today’s Prime Minister) of England, decided that the central government would be well served by an educated clergy. A self-made man in an era when entrepreneurial sprit wasn’t exactly de rigeur, Wykeham had considerable fortune and influence to see his dream made true. He received the charter for the school in 1382, and by the end of the 14th century, 70 scholars—young men of great promise who studied at no cost to their families—were ensconced in their studies at Winchester College.
Today, the campus is home to an architectural anthology that represents six centuries of design, spanning from the late-medieval era through the 20th century. “You’ve never seen a more spectacular place,” Raisbeck says. When Julien proposed, Raisbeck suggested Winchester College as the perfect spot to get married.“I love the decorations and the cloisters and flying buttresses, the antiquity. It feels like another era.”
So, on an uncharacteristically sunny day in July, Raisbeck and Julien exchanged vows in the chapel. Raisbeck wore a bespoke Chantilly-lace-and-organza gown and cape inspired by an Elie Saab design and made by her friend, up-and-coming designer Kyle Pearson. Not a single flower, aside from those in the crowns on the heads of her flower girls, decorated the church because “less is more in a place as gorgeous as this,” Raisbeck says.
A choir, led by the school’s conductor, sang beautifully haunting selections from the medieval and Renaissance musical canon, including “Ave generosa” by Hildegard von Bingen and “Ego flos campi” by Jacobus Clemens non Papa. “If you closed your eyes, you felt like you were in the Paris Opera House,” Raisbeck says. The chapel’s gas lights—the only permissible source of artificial lighting—flickered.
After the ceremony, the white-tie celebration continued in College Hall, the dining room reserved exclusively for the school’s 70 scholars, who—in one of modern education’s longest-enduring traditions—still live together amid the school’s larger population. “It’s romantic, this idea of getting to dine in a space that’s usually off-limits, this room that’s been inaccessible to most people for a long, long time,” Raisbeck says. “Mark attended Winchester from the time he was 13 until he was 18, and he had never dined [in College Hall] until the night of our wedding.”
The white-tie elegance paired beautifully with the room’s 600-year-old wooden benches and tables, worn smooth with time and topped with simple white bone china place settings and vintage lanterns. Raisbeck wore a green mermaid dress by Andrew Gn—to save the lace on her wedding gown from snags while she, her groom, and their guests danced on “the slickest floor in England.” (Perhaps that’s what happens after 600 years of waxing.)
All in all, “it was a glorious day,” Raisbeck says. “I love the energy in this place. It’s so pure and peaceful. You feel like you’re walking into the 14th century at Winchester. It’s one big antique.”
Photography by: Lee Garland