Known to its members as 'The House', Christ Church was founded as 'Cardinal College' by Wolsey in 1525, but was re-founded as 'Christ Church' in 1546 after Wolsey had fallen out of favour. During the Civil War until his downfall in 1646, King Charles held his court in the college. The main quadrangle off St Aldate's is dominated by Tom Tower, designed by Sir Christopher Wren (who studied at Wadham) and housing the seven ton bell known as 'Great Tom'. Every evening at 9.05pm it tolls a curfew of 101 strokes, originally a warning to the college's 101 students that the gates were about to close. 'Tom Quad' is the largest quadrangle in the University; the old stone basin in the middle is surmounted by a graceful modern figure of Mercury.
The walls of the lofty medieval Hall are adorned with a magnificent collection of portraits by such artists as Sir Thomas Gainsborough and Sir Joshua Reynolds: their subjects include Henry VIII (who banqueted in the Hall in 1533), Wolsey, Gladstone and the Rev C.L. Dodgson. The last was a maths tutor who, under the name of Lewis Carroll, wrote "Alice in Wonderland". It is said that Queen Victoria enjoyed the book and informed Dodgson that she would be delighted to receive more of his works - she was sent 'The Syllabus of Plane Geometry". Dodgson himself denied this story. In recent years, Christ Church has become famous as part of the set for the Harry Potter films (its hall is Hogwarts' dining room).
The Picture Gallery contains more fine paintings and drawings. In typical Christ Church style, the college chapel is actually a Cathedral, and is the chief church of the diocese of Oxford. One of the smallest of English cathedrals, it is this building that elevates Oxford to the status of 'city'. There has been a church on this site since Saxon times and three arches on the East wall of the cathedral are thought to date from about 700 A.D. Much of the present building is 12th Century and is an example of the transition between the Norman and Early English styles. The Cathedral choir is of the highest standard and choral services are held daily. Adjacent to the Cathedral are the 15th Century Cloisters and the Chapter House where there are occasional exhibitions of church plate.
Lying beyond the Meadow building is Christ Church Meadow. The 'Broad Walk' runs from the War Memorial Garden off St Aldate's to a branch of the River Cherwell; the 'New Walk' runs from the college to the River Isis. The visitors' entrance to Christ Church is from the meadow - the College is open Mon-Sat 09:00-18:00; Sun 11:30-18:00. The Hall is closed 12:00-14:00 every day (students need to eat). The Cathedral is open Mon-Sat 09:00-17:00; Sun 14:00-17:00 except when in use; admission £6 (adult), £4.50 (concs) or £12 (family). The Picture Gallery is £2 (£1 concs), or less when you have already paid the college entry fee. For exhibition details tel 01865 276172. Admission charges are reduced when the Hall or Cathedral are closed.
There is a fine selection of beautiful images of Christ Church and its surroundings on the college's website, here.
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