University Church - Oxford

There has been a church on this site for a thousand years, standing in the very centre of the ancient walled city of Oxford.

In the early thirteenth century the University began to develop as scholars and teachers, with their classes of scholars, moved into small halls of residence here. They needed a central meeting place and they came to this Church, using it for academic lectures as well as for Christian services. Indeed, even the University’s court, treasury and library were housed here for a time!

And that is how a parish church of St Mary became University Church.

By about 1420 the Church had become too small for all these activities. Gradually the University moved its lectures, library and official ceremonies to other buildings nearby, especially the Bodleian Library and Sheldonian theatre, on the other side of Radcliffe Square. But the importance of the Church did not diminish and it is still the site for major events, within the University, the city of Oxford, and the national Church.

Thomas Cranmer

In 1556 Thomas Cranmer, the first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury, was tried in University Church. One of the pillars in the nave is damaged, and it is thought that this happened when a platform was built for the trial. Cranmer’s trial was organised by the government of the Roman Catholic Queen Mary, who detested Cranmer’s Protestant religion. Moreover, Cranmer had encouraged Mary’s father King Henry VIII to divorce her mother, Katherine of Aragon. Cranmer was responsible for the new English Prayer Book and for many of the Protestant changes to the Church; when Mary came to the throne she was determined to destroy him.  At his trial, he refused to abandon his faith and in March 1556 he was burned at the stake on Broad Street, just round the corner.

University Church - Oxford

University Church - Oxford

6 Comments CherryPie on Mar 25th 2015

6 Responses to “University Church of St Mary the Virgin”

  1. What would this world be without any religion? ;)

  2. Hi Cherie, I have just read all about your visit to Oxford, totally fascinating and most informative, thank you for sharing this with us.
    The photography is great particularly of the gargoyles on the buildings.
    The church certainly holds a great part in the history of this country and particularly the history of the church of England,
    Being an Anglican of the High C of E. I believe that the Church was already established by St Cuthbert and St Augustus and the monks of, Holy Isle Northumberland but at that time, the Country was ruled by a Roman Catholic Monarch Henry VIII, they were outlawed until Henry conveniently made himself head of the C of E, so that he could lay down the rules, including allowing divorce, thus allowing him to divorce Kathryn of Aragon.

    Di .xx

    • CherryPie says:

      Early Christian history of the British Isles is interesting. Christianity had come to the mainland before the Church of Rome spread its wings in that direction. The Catholic faith became dominant in the British Isles and the early Christians converted to become Catholic. Then as you say King Henry got involved…

  3. ....peter:) says:

    WOW!!! Cherie… you present all the beautiful features of this magnificent church with one presentation… it would take me a week to post this many superb images….peter:)