Oxford Christ Church College - Image courtesy ofArnaud Malon

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Christ Church College

Christ Church College, located in Oxford, England, is one of the most prestigious and historic colleges within the University of Oxford. Founded in 1546 by King Henry VIII, Christ Church is renowned for its stunning architecture, rich history, and academic excellence.

Christ Church is celebrated for its magnificent architecture, which includes a combination of medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque styles. The Great Quadrangle, also known as Tom Quad, is the largest quadrangle in Oxford and features beautiful stone buildings adorned with elaborate carvings and decorative details. The Tom Tower, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, stands at the entrance to the quad and houses the Great Tom bell, which rings 101 times each night.

The Christ Church Dining Hall is famous for its grandeur and historical significance. It served as the inspiration for the Great Hall in the Harry Potter films, with its impressive wooden ceiling, long oak tables, and rows of portraits depicting notable alumni and figures associated with the college. The dining hall continues to be used by students for meals and special events.

What's the History of Oxford's Christ Church College?

The College was re-founded in 1532 by King Henry VIII as “King Henry VIII’s College” and renamed as “Christ Church” in 1546. The original College, however, dates back to 1525 when Thomas Wolsey, then  Lord Chancellor of England and Cardinal Archbishop of York, suppressed the Priory of St Frideswide (a priory of Augustinian canons regular created in 1122) and founded Cardinal College on its lands.

By 1546, and after the King had acquired great wealth through the dissolution of monasteries across England, converted the partially demolished priory church into a cathedral. Since then, the College has seen major additions through the centuries. 

Wolsey's Great Quadrangle and the 101 Bells

To this day, the famous gate-tower designed by Sir Christopher Wren that stands in the Great Quadrangle rings its bell 101 times at 9 pm in the former Oxford time (9:05 pm GMT/BST) every night. This commemorates the 100 original scholars of the college (plus one added in 1664).

The bells used to ring at midnight, when the school gates were supposed to close. However, the bells took 20 minutes! So the ringing was moved back. Curiously, the gates still close at 20 past midnight today.

The Great Quadrangle or “Tom Quad” is the heart of Christ Church. Its scale and grandeur are a fitting tribute to its creator, Thomas Wolsey, and his vision of Gothic splendour.

Christ Church Graded Buildings and Grounds

Christ Church sits in a land of about 175 acres (71 hectares). This includes the Christ Church Meadow, which is open to the public, Aston’s Eyot (an island on the east bank of the River Thames), Christ Church recreation ground, and and School Field.

Christ Church has a number of Grade I and II, or architecturally significant buildings. These include the Christ Church Library, the Cathedral, the Peckwater Quadrangle, the Great Quadrangle or Tom Quad, the Canterbury Quadrangle, and the Chapter House, as well as the Blue Boar Quadrangle and Christ Church Picture Gallery.

Christ Church's Distinctive Architecture

The college buildings and grounds have been featured in numerous films, such as Harry Potter and Northern Lights. Several other institutions have also copied its features, including the University of Chicago, Cornell University, and Kneuterdijk Palace – all of which have reproductions of Christ Church’s dining hall.

Famous Alumni of Christ Church

Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson)

Lewis Carroll was an English author, mathematician, and poet, well-known for his notable work “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. He attended Westminster School and then the University of Oxford’s Christ Church, his father’s old college. He went into residence in January 1851. 

See more Famous Oxford Alumni >

Where is Christ Church College?

Christ Church College is situated in the heart of the city center, near the intersection of St Aldate’s and Oriel Square. The college’s main entrance is accessed through Tom Gate, which leads into Tom Quad, the largest quadrangle in Oxford.

Christ Church College is located in St Aldate’s (OX1 1DP).

Christ Church Coat of Arms
Arms: Sable, on a cross engrailed argent, a lion passant gules, between four leopards' faces azure, on a chief or, a rose gules barbed and seeded proper, between two Cornish choughs sable, beaked and membered gules.

Can you Visit Christ Church College?

Yes, Christ Church College is open to the public. 

  • Open: Mon-Sun. Please book a timed ticket online via the Christ Church website
  • Charge: Self-guided ‘multimedia guide’ tours: £16 adults, £15 concessions.
  • Groups: For 12 people or more please email tourism@chch.ox.ac.uk

Old Photos of Oxford's Christ Church

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