Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Trip Report: Oxford's Christ Church

It feels a bit like a castle walking through the buildings of Christ Church, yellowing stone walls, uneven pavement, and drafty halls. But it's actually a thriving college, full of student life and activity. For eight pounds, I decided to take a closer look at Christ Church, one of Oxford's most well known colleges, and its largest, and home to the creative mind of pen-named writer Lewis Carroll. Portions of the well-known Harry Pottery movies have been filmed here as well.

Many parts of the college are off-limits to visitors in order to keep the students hassle-free, however, the parts that visitors are able to access are a treat in and of themselves. Stickin
g to the tour route, which is marked as well as described in your pamphlet, the first place you visit is The Hall, where students continue to eat today. Castle life springs to mind with long wooden tables and benches stretching out before you and large stained glass masterpieces letting in a rainbow of color. The lighting fixtures above are candle-laden iron monstrosities which only add to the charm. The walls are bedecked with the Who's Who of Christ Church, including a portrait of Elizabeth I and Henry VIII. One of the windows has the characters from "Alice in Wonderland" dancing across the bottom, and a small door set in the wall in the front of the hall set the stage for the white rabbit's escape.

Other places you visit on your tour include Christ Church Cathedral, much of which is
built in late Norman style. This was originally the priory of St. Frideswide, the patron saint of Oxford. Her shrine still stands here today, and in the past, it was a major pilgrimage site. The stained glass windows here are stunning, and at its center is a rose window that makes you catch your breath. Within the Cathedral are numerous tombs which are worth a look for their eloquent language and carvings alone.

Leaving the Cathedral, there are several beautiful photo opportunities of the different quads, perfectly cut grass and cobble-stoned pathways before you. The largest quad comes complete with a Hermes statue about to take flight. On the way out, don't miss the tree hanging over the wall. It was here that the dean's daughter's cat played, the cat which eventually became the Cheshire Cat from "Alice in Wonderland". And after leaving Christ Church's beautiful grounds, you may even join him in a toothy grin.

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