Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Dreaming Spires Part 1

Last weekend I went to Oxfordshire for a few days. The real object of the journey was to join a private tour of a couple of houses and I could have got there and back in one day with an early start and a late finish but I decided to stay over for a couple of nights and take the opportunity to visit Oxford - the City of Dreaming Spires. As ever clicking on the photos will make the details clearer.

This is Christ Church College which was founded by King Henry VIII in 1546, it is built on the site of the Priory of St Frideswide and the priory church became both the College chapel and one of England's smallest cathedrals. In the 19th Century the maths tutor at Christ Church was called Charles Dodgson, he is better known now as Lewis Carroll the author of 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Through the Looking Glass'. The Alice of the stories was one of the children of Henry Liddell the Dean of Christ Church.

This lovely 12th century cloister is also part of the original Priory.

All Harry Potter fans will be familiar with this scene, the Great Hall of Christ Church College was the model for Hogwarts Hall in the films and this is where the Sorting Hat decided which House the new first year pupils would be assigned to. The photograph is taken looking down the Great Hall towards the entrance. During the English Civil War (1642-1651) King Charles I lived in Oxford and held his Parliament in the Great Hall of Christ Church.

This is High Table where the Fellows of Christ Church College dine. The large portrait in the centre is of Henry VIII the College's founder.

The steps leading up to the Great Hall - Professor McGonnagall stood at the top of here to welcome all the new First Year pupils to Hogwarts.

This exquisite fan vaulted ceiling is above the staircase and dates from 1640.

The interior of the chapel which dates back to the 12th century, the wonderful vaulted ceiling was added around 1500.

The Saint Catherine window is one of five stained glass windows designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, the Pre-Raphaelite artist, for Christ Church chapel. The face of Saint Catherine, the central figure, is modelled on that of Edith Liddell, the sister of Alice Liddell.

More of Edward Burne Jones' work, this is the Vyner Memorial window.

This is the shrine of St Frideswide, patron saint of the city of Oxford. She came to Oxford in the 7th century fleeing from King Algar of Mercia who wanted to marry her. The king was blinded but Frideswide saved his sight on condition that he would no longer pursue her. She founded a religious house and died there in 735AD. Her bones were eventually brought to the priory church of St Frideswide in 1180. On the right you can just see the watching chamber which has a stone base and a wooden upper section and dates from about 1500, from here the monks could keep an eye on the shrine and(possibly more importantly!) all the rich treasures which surrrounded it.

This brilliantly coloured and intricate window is behind the shrine, it is by Edward Burne Jones and tells the story of St Frideswide in pictures. Do enlarge it and look on the right at the very back of the bottom righthand panel. You will see the very incongruous sight of a pink toilet!! Heaven only knows why Burne Jones included this!

A detail from the window showing St Frideswide being carried to heaven on a 'ship of souls'.

The Becket window is the oldest stained glass window in the chapel and it dates from 1320. It portrays the murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. You will definitely need to click on this to see it.

Detail from the Becket window.

The Great Quadrangle with Sir Christopher Wren's Tom Tower over the gatehouse which is the main entrance to Christ Church. Great Tom is the 7 ton bell which hangs in the tower. Every night Great Tom strikes 101 times at 9.05pm - one strike for each of the original 101 students of the college.

Lewis Carroll must have been familiar with this sundial, it is close to the Library where he worked and often looked out of the window and saw Alice Liddell's cat Dinah sitting in a chestnut tree - Dinah became The Cheshire Cat. Like me Lewis Carroll was born in the county of Cheshire.

More of Oxford in the next post - anyone who has got this far must be all historied out by now!


Lynda (Granny K) said...

How interesting that visit must have been. Lovely pictures too. I wonder if the pink toilet is supposed to be something else?! it does look like one though!

Mary said...

The St. Catherine and Vyner windows are just awesome Rowan - great pictures and a wonderful tour around Oxford. Unfortunately I've never been there but would love to see everything.

Look forward to Part II.
Hope all is well and tht you are enjoying late Spring in good weather.
Hugs - Mary.

Thimbleanna said...

Wowie Wow!
Don't you just stand in awe when surrounded by all that grandeur? I think that's perhaps one of my favorite things about visiting England -- you can stand in the midst of buildings that are close to a thousand years old. For us here in the states, that's just mind boggling! Sooo beautiful -- thanks for sharing! Oh, and I learned someting new -- didn't know that Lewis Carroll was a maths professor -- I knew he'd been at Oxford, but not as a maths professor!

Julie said...

Dear Rowan,

No, never "historied out". I had been missing such posts. I am glad you are getting out and about and visiting your lovely English sites once again.

miss*R said...

so much history! another place it seems I must visit when I come over.. thankyou so much for the tour Rowan!

Sal said...

Beautiful photos and such a lot of history,which I love!!;-)

Gillian L. said...

What wonderful photographs and I am so appreciative of all the information you have shared. My dream vacation is to one day travel to England to see all these beatiful places - so much history. Thank you.


Ragged Roses said...

I love visiting Oxford, I always have such a good time there. Love too Edward Burne Jones, so a big thank you for this post.

Rosie said...

Oh, those 'dreaming spires' - wonderful photos especially of the stained glass windows and all the history behind them - I don't think I could ever be 'historied out' :) Funnily enough I'm off to Cambridge next week and will have a day exploring whilst my husband is in an examiners meeting.

smilnsigh said...

Beautiful all... Thank you for taking me with you, to many places I'll never see for myself.

Oh I love the Great Hall! I think I like the whole ambiance of Harry Potter, more than the story. The story is cool, of course. But when something has fantastic ambiance like that... oh my, it takes my attention. :-)

And how nice that Byrne Jones gave St. Frideswide a pink 'potty'! -giggles-

Thank you, again...

'Smilnsigh' blog

Tea & Margaritas in My Garden said...

Amazing. It`s so hard to imagine what people must have been like in the 1300`s. Beautiful windows!


PAT said...

Beautiful post, Rowan!


PS, I did the white bedroom at the lake, because I don't think there is any way possible I could have a white bedroom here! The one at the lake should be easy to maintain. We'll give it the "test" over 4th of July, when there will be lots of kids and a big dog (Molly) there!

solsticedreamer said...

a great post thank you rowan~i am afraid i am one of those people who can never be 'historied out'!!!!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Thank you for the marvelous tour! I loved the Burne Jones windows. You have a lovely blog!

Bovey Belle said...

What a beautiful tour, MORE please! It's nearly as good as being there. Excellent potted history along the way too.

KerrdeLune said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you - it has been far too long since I was there.

kate smudges said...

Rowan, this was a wonderful tour - the Burne-Jones stained glass windows are incredible. I'm looking forward to seeing more photographs and hearing more about your time there.

FrauKlug said...

That was wonderful! Thanks for the tour of such an amazing place. It's like getting to visit a special part of England, while I sit here having my morning coffee.
Hope Midsummer was good for you and yours!

Lavinia Ladyslipper said...

This reminded me alot of why I love the show "Morse Mysteries".

It is set in Oxford.....the hallowed halls...