Founded 1524, by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, suppressing 9th century St. Fridewide’s Priory. Refounded in 1546 as Christ Church by Henry VIII. Sister College – Trinity College Cambridge. Men and Women – Undergraduates 434 Postgraduates 188.
Christ Church nestles comfortably in the heart of Oxford, surrounded by the college meadow complete with cows, and the two rivers Cherwell and Isis. The vibrant academic community is one of the largest in Oxford and has 188 postgraduates and 434 undergraduates. Christ Church became coeducational in 1980 and now half the students are women. It has a habit of providing the country with leading politicians including 13 prime ministers and a host of cabinet ...view middle of the document...
Impressive architectural heritage
Christ Church has been blessed with an impressive architectural heritage. The Romanesque cathedral was constructed in the 12th century and replaced earlier religious buildings of which nothing survives. Much change and restoration has occurred over the years – some bays were removed to accomodate Tom Quad and the rose window is a Victorian addition. The interiors are a heady mix of heavy Norman aches topped by intricately crafted Gothic fan vaulting.
The ambitious 18th century library, completed in 1772, allowed the college to enjoy the same satatus as the great classical libraries of Trinity College Cambridge and Trinity College Dublin. Originally the books were placed on the first floor to avoid fears of damp and flood -– a wise move given the college position between the two rivers. Still on display are wooden characters from Alice in Wonderland written by Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, who was sub-librarian in the 19th century.
The first Christ Church library of 1562 was housed in the former dining hall of the original priory and was furnished with recycled lecterns from the dilapidated medieval University Library. The large Latin books were imported from Europe, but bound in Oxford and then chained to the wooden lecterns.
In 1525 the mediaeval fabric was demolished in favour of a great Gothic quadrangle, the largest quad in Oxford, now known as Tom Quad. Stonemason Thomas Redman and glazier James Nicholas were entrusted with the construction. The project was so ambitious that it was not completed in their lifetime and was to stall until well after the English Civil War (1642-51). At the time of the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 the Christ Church dean (and bishop), John Fell, finally completed the job to the original designs. In 1681 Christopher Wren was commissioned to suppress his classical leaning and design a Gothic bell tower to house the college bell known as Great Tom. The tower gate ceiling contains coats of arms belonging to many of the college’s benefactors.
Peckwater Quadrangle occupies the former site of a medieval inn, run by the Peckwater family, and was constructed between 1707 and 1714. The quad was designed by Henry Aldrich (1647-1710) -– cannon and dean of Christ Church, theologian, philosopher, and author – a true Renaissance man. He wrote a book on logic and more importantly a work on classical Palladian architecture. Aldrich commissioned William Townsend to build his vision and the results are as close to classical perfection as is possible. The extravagant first floor rooms are much sought after by undergraduates.
Neo-Gothic Meadow Building divided opinion
The Meadow Building faces the wide and open Christ Church Meadow to the south and was built, in 1863, by Irish architect Sir Thomas Dean, later to become Mayor of Cork. The Victorian neo-Gothic...