Before this location was made a college by Thomas Welsey, it was a monastery: the St Frideswide monastery to be exact.
Thomas Welsey lost his power in 1529, the college became property of king Henry VIII. In 1546, King Henry re-founded the college.
Between 1642 and 1646, during the English Civil War, King Charles I lived in Christ Church. The monastery was restored in 1660, after the war.
St Frideswide Monastery
This monastery was founded by St Frideswide, a noble Saxon lady. Algar, the prince of Leicester, had asked for her hand several times, but she refused. She founded this nunnery for herself and twelve more ladies, at the end of the 7th century. Algars attempts to get her hand became more and more desperate, and before he could do yet another attempt, St Frideswide and her ladies fled. They stayed away a couple of years in Binsley. St Frideswide did healing miracles over there. On her return to Oxford, Algar, still desperate for her hand, besieged the city of Oxford. Frideswide called down blindness on Algar, who eventually left her alone.
Frideswide passed away in 737, and was canonised in 1480. Pilgrims came to her shrine in the priory church already before she was canonised.
The nunnery was destroyed in 1022, later it was it was a monastery of secular canons (people who lived as monks, but didn’t live inside the monastery and did have some possessions).
Tom Tower and Tom Quad
Tom tower is a bell tower. It is named tom tower because the big bell in the tower is called Great Tom. This tower is designed by Christopher Wren, and built in 1681 and 1682.
The bell, the Great Tom, is the loudest bell in Oxford. It’s very heavy, it weighs 6.25 tonnes. Nowadays it is situated in the Tom tower, however it was located in the Osney Abbey first. Every day, this big bell is rung 101 times at 9 PM, for the 101 scholars in this college.
Tom quad is the largest quadrangle in Oxford, measuring 264 by 261 feet. Cardinal Wolsley started with the process of building it, but he wasn’t able to finish it because he lost his power. Three of the four sides were finished at that time. Tom Quad was finished in 1665 by bishop John Fell.
Tom tower is located at the west of Tom Quad. At the south, the Great Hall is located.
The hall is the centre of college life; every day the students dine here. Several portraits of famous students are hanging on the walls, and The Hall also has a beautiful ceiling, a so called ‘hammerbeam’ one; which is typical English Gothic architecture. ‘
For the Harry Potter movies, this hall was replicated in the film studios to create Hogwart’s Hall.
Christ Church Cathedral
Christ church cathedral dates back to the 12th century, making it the oldest building of Christ church college.
Some facts about this cathedral:
‘ The Cathedral was first the church of the St Frideswide priory.
‘ Christ church cathedral has its own choir, the Christ Church cathedral choir. It is 500 years old. This choir consists of twelve men, sixteen boys and two organists.
‘ This cathedral was the smallest cathedral in England until the 20th century, then several smaller churches got the cathedral status.
‘ The cathedral features a gothic and Romanesque architectural style.
‘ It has two roles, which is quite unique: as a college chapel and as a cathedral.
Still, everyday services are held in this cathedral, which you are able to visit. On weekdays there’s a morning prayer (7.15 AM), holy communion (7.35AM), and a chloral evensong (6 PM).
This college has educated many famous people during its existence. Thirteen prime-ministers have studied at this college, along with various other politicians. Albert Einstein has studied at Christ church for five years. Co-winner of the nobel prize for medicine John B. Gurdon has also studied at Christ Church.
The college has also produced various important theologians, such as John Welsey, the leader of the Methodist-movement and Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury.
Also, Lewis Caroll, the writer of the book ‘Alice in Wonderland’ has studied here.