Christ Church

Well, that’s it; after ten days of world-class speakers, Michelin-starred banquets and endless exciting literary debuts to mark the start of summer, the Oxford Literary Festival has finally closed its doors for another year. Some of the city’s most famous landmarks played host to over 300 authors and public figures, with most days blessed with endless sunshine and a wide unbroken sky – weather which will hopefully return to us again sometime soon!

I hope you all managed to make a visit as 2012’s event was one of the best yet but don’t fear if you didn’t as there’s always next year!

Seeing as the unbelievably gorgeous Christ Church has become the festival’s principal setting (in its early years it took place in the Oxford Union but had to relocate when it became too big), I thought a few facts on this architectural gem were in order, so here goes:

  • Christ Church has been the setting and the inspiration for many of our most famous classics, perhaps most notably Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ Carroll, whose real name was Charles Dodgson, studied mathematics at Christ Church before becoming a professor there, during which time he befriended the Dean’s children Harry, Alice, Lorina and Edith. Alice in particular was a great lover of the elaborate fairytales he conjured up for the children and eventually became the inspiration for the Alice in the novel, who shared her fascination with the mythical creatures of Wonderland. The picturesque grounds of Christ Church Meadow also feature in the story and its connections with this part of Oxford can be seen in many establishments around and about, including the chic Cafe Loco and tourist souvenir central ‘Alice in Wonderland’ shop.
  • The Harry Potter film crew also took great inspiration from the college when they chose Christ Church’s Great Hall on which to base Hogwart’s Hall at the London film studios. The 16thcentury staircase which leads to the hall actually did feature for real in the film, in the scene in which Harry and his fellow first-years enter Hogwarts and are greeted by Professor McGonagall. The cloisters were also used for filming in various scenes, such as when Harry is shown the trophy his father won as a seeker in Quidditch.
  • Christ Church has educated many influential figures in its time: philosopher John Locke, writer W.H. Auden, scientist Albert Einstein and no less than 13 Prime Ministers are just some of the college’s infamous alumni and it continues today to be one of Oxford’s most established colleges in a wealth of subjects such as English, maths and science.
  • Originally founded by Cardinal Wolsey as Cardinal’s College in 1524, the building was built on the site of St Frideswide’s Monastery, which dated back to the earliest days of Oxford as a settlement in the 9th Century AD. During its turbulent history it has been property of both King Henry VIII and, during the 1642-1646 Civil War, King Charles I. Two of the building’s most striking features are the stunning Romanesque cathedral and Sir Christopher Wren’s Tom Tower, which fronts the beautifully landscaped Tom Quad and houses the bell on which both tower and quad were named.
  • The Greenwich Meridian Line places Oxford time as five minutes behind that of London, therefore it is at 9.05pm (9pm Oxford Time) every evening that the college’s bell Great Tom rings out 101 times.  This dates from the foundation of the college when the bell rang once for each of the college’s original 101 students, in order to tell them to return to the college before the gates were locked. The bell then remains silent until 8am the next morning when it returns to striking every hour, on the hour (Greenwich Time) until 9pm in the evening.

If you want to learn more about this fascinating place, you are welcome to have a mooch around much of the grounds for free, and the Picture Gallery for a small charge. Tours can be booked via the website and venues can also be hired for special events, if you truly want a location with wow factor! There are numerous public events, such as the Oxford Literary Festival, held here throughout the year so make sure to check those out too. The Christ Church Meadow has a gorgeous circular walk which is perfect for a sunny day and provides a glimpse of the rare Longhorn cattle who call it home – lucky beggars! You can even punt on the river if you fancy more of a challenge! All we need now is the summer weather to return…

PS: A few posts ago, in ‘The Dead of Jericho,’ I mentioned the ‘Last Bookshop’ in Jericho which I have since been advised has now sadly shut down. Jericho does still feature many wonderful literary gems, such as ‘The Albion Beatnik’ which I also mentioned, but if you still want the bargains of ‘The Last Bookshop’ make sure to head to St Aldates instead: the branch there is still running strong and features many great titles – all for £2!!

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  1. […] link: Christ Church « Posted in Church Tags: became-too, become-the-festival, christ, church, festival, few-facts, […]

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