The Quirks of Christ Church, Oxford

“None but the most blindly credulous will imaging the characters and events in this story to be anything but fictitious. It is true that the ancient and noble city of Oxford is, of all the towns of England, the likeliest progenitor of unlikely events and persons. But there are limits.”
― Edmund Crispin

Christ Church College, Oxford, is a unique one. It is the only academic institution in the world that doubles as a cathedral. It’s the seat of the Bishop of Oxford, but incidently in its charter the resident ecclesiastical overseer is the monarch. Which is, of course, thanks to Henry VIII and his truly staggering sense of self-importance. Reformations can be such messy things.

It’s also a really lovely place to visit and is chock full of fun historical odds and ends.

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Hideous grounds. How can any right thinking person work there? Horrible…

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If the Hall looks familiar, it’s because it was used as a model for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. The pictures don’t move, but Henry VIII looms (of course he does) from the place of honor above the head table.

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Sir Robert Peel was a graduate of the college but not always popular in elections. A later student tattooed his political opinion on a door of the college, which let it stand permanently!

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The cathedral itself is a beautiful building, but it’s hidden bits are easily my favorite parts. I mentioned that reformations are tricky, and nowhere more complexly than Britain. These might not look like much but they are the remains of a medieval painting that was whitewashed over when Catholicism went out. Since medieval era church art like this was often scrubbed away, stripped, and burned, whitewashing is practically a gift since in many cases it preserved the art beneath it.

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One of the most famous graduates was Charles Dodgson, better known by his pen name, Lewis Carroll. Look closely in the windows of the Hall and you may discover a delightful tribute hidden away. See them?

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The Duchess is one of my favorite characters. Rare indeed is the cooking expedition in which pepper is called for and I do not belt out, “More pepper!” in honor of her cook as I rummage in cupboards. I’ve even got Jeff doing it, it’s officially a family quirk.

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The Mock Turtle is a delight!

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