Clare College Cambridge

Dining in Hall

Dining in Hall with the Fellows is an important aspect of life in all the Colleges. Since the foundation of Clare, eating together has been the main means of meeting people from other disciplines and of forging a close scholarly community. Although we call it Formal Hall, the formalities have been reduced to the minimum, and students are no longer required to wear gowns, although they are welcome to do so. There are, however, some basic conventions of behaviour. The beginning of the meal is signalled by the entry of the Fellows, for which everyone stands. This is out of respect for the College’s heritage and not because the Fellows wish to manifest superiority. A gong is struck, and a Grace is read in Latin, as required by the College statutes.

During the course of the meal itself, Fellows and students are expected to remain in their places, to converse only with those sitting nearby, and to cooperate with the serving staff.

At the formal ending of the meal, everybody stands when the Senior Fellow present sounds a gong and says a brief Grace; they remain standing while diners at the High Table leave the Hall. Once the Fellows have left the Hall, students may treat the rest of the meal in a less formal manner. 

The two Graces are a reminder of the foundation of the College as a Christian institution, and those who wish to give thanks in this way are welcome to say ‘Amen’. Those who do not identify with the words of the Grace are invited to treat them as a traditional way to start and finish a formal meal, and perhaps as a general expression of gratitude for belonging to a College which has been dining together for nearly seven hundred years. The Latin text, and English translation, is as follows:

Oculi omnium in te sperant Domine:

Tu das iis escam eorum in tempore opportuno.

Aperis tu manum tuam:

Et imples omne animal benedictione tua.

Sanctifica nos, quaesumus,

Domine, per verbum

et orationem, istisque tuis donis, quae de tua

bonitate sumus accepturi, benedicito

per Christum Dominum nostrum,



The eyes of all await upon thee, O Lord,

And thou givest them their food in due season.

Thou openest thy hand,

And fillest every living thing with thy blessing.

Sanctify us, we beseech thee, O Lord, by thy

word and our petition; and bless the gifts which

of thy bounty we are about to receive,

through Christ our Lord.