Christ Church College
The largest of all of Oxford’s colleges, and the one with the grandest quad, Christ Church is also its most popular. The magnificent...
Christ Church Cathedral
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Lonely Planet review
The largest and grandest of all of Oxford's colleges, Christ Church is also its most popular. The magnificent buildings, illustrious history and latter-day fame as a location for the Harry Potter films have tourists coming in droves.
The college was founded in 1525 by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who suppressed 22 monasteries to acquire the funds for his lavish building project. Over the years numerous luminaries have been educated here, including Albert Einstein, philosopher John Locke, poet WH Auden, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) and 13 British prime ministers.
The main entrance is below the imposing Tom Tower , the upper part of which was designed by former student Sir Christopher Wren. Great Tom, the 7-ton tower bell, still chimes 101 times each evening at 9.05pm (Oxford is five minutes west of Greenwich) to sound the curfew imposed on the original 101 students.
Mere visitors, however, are not allowed to enter the college this way and must go further down St Aldate's to the side entrance. Immediately on entering is the 15th-century cloister, a relic of the ancient Priory of St Frideswide, whose shrine was once a focus of pilgrimage. From here, you go up to the Great Hall , the college's magnificent dining room, with its hammerbeam roof and imposing portraits of past scholars.
Coming down the grand staircase, you'll enter Tom Quad , Oxford's largest quadrangle, and from here, Christ Church Cathedral , the smallest cathedral in the country. Inside, brawny Norman columns are topped by elegant vaulting, and beautiful stained-glass windows illuminate the walls. Look out for the rare depiction of the murder of Thomas Becket dating from 1320.
You can also explore another two quads and the Picture Gallery , with its modest collection of Renaissance art. To the south of the college is Christ Church Meadow , a leafy expanse bordered by the Cherwell and Isis rivers and ideal for leisurely walking.
Christ Church is a working college, and the hall often closes between noon and 2pm and the cathedral in late afternoon.