The Seat of Learning...Chirst Church College (Oxford/United Kingdom)

Christ Church College, originally known as the Cardinal College and named after its founder Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, is the largest of the Oxford University colleges.

Its grandeur owes much to the pride of one man, its founder, Cardinal Wolsey. Being the chief advisor to Henry VIII, in 1525 Wolsey began construction of a grandiose complex of buildings around a green quadrangle.

The hallmarks of Wolsey, ambition and magnificence are visible on both of his great building projects, Cardinal College as well as Hampton Court. His college was planned on a scale not even imagined before in Oxford.  Its hall was intended to be the most splendid in the university and the Great Quadrangle which he planned at its heart, which now is Christ Church's famous Tom Quad, remains the largest quadrangle in Oxford. But Cardinal Wolsey died, keeping the entire project incomplete. Re-founded by Henry VIII from the remains of Wolsey's Cardinal College, Christ Church was born and since then has been a pioneer in education, occupying a unique position among the colleges of Oxford University.

We reached this most highly regarded center of learning of the World by an Oxford shuttle service from Victoria, London, A smooth drive of two hours and the bus reached the Gloucester Green Bus Station of Oxford. Regular town trips are organized from this station in frequent intervals.

We had earlier booked ourselves for the Christ Church college tour where we would be taken on a guided tour of the entire college premises, the cathedral, the Tom Quad or the bell tower, the library, the great hall and the picture gallery, walking past the thick walled corridors and wide flight of steps.

Our walking tour of Oxford began at Carfax, the centre of the Old Saxon city. The nearly 500 year old institution with its marvelous architectures, had once taught eminent personalities like Albert Einstein, William Gladstone and Lewis Carroll, though the prominence of Lewis Carroll, the creator of ‘Alice’ of Alice in Wonderland, is felt everywhere. In 1851 Charles Dodgson came to Christ Church to study mathematics. He spent the rest of his life here as a student and teacher. It was when he wrote for a student paper, that he gave himself the name, Lewis Carroll.

The college played an enormous part in the creation of the adventures of Alice. Alice Liddell was one the daughters of the then Dean, Henry Liddell and she was Dodgson’s special friend. She with her other sisters visited him in his rooms and he took them out on boat trips, and in was on these occasions he would tell them stories. ‘Alice in Wonderland’ was written for this little girl.

The World’s best collection of Lewis Carroll is respectfully treasured in the Christ Church New Library. Listening to the story of Alice we moved along with our guide who turned out to be an excellent narrator. We went past the Great hall, the concept of which had been used in Harry Potter films and then moved on to the famed picture gallery that had a collection of about 300 paintings and 2,000 drawings.

Our next stop was the cathedral. Apart from being a college, Christ Church is also the cathedral to the Oxford Diocese and has a world famous choir. This twelfth century church is amongst the oldest buildings in Oxford, and one of the smallest Anglican cathedrals in England. Cathedrals have always given me a feeling of peace and it had not changed in Christ church. It was a unique place of worship where music too plays an important role; its choir sings throughout each week during term time.

Our last stop of the day was Tom Quad, presently known more as the ‘Tom Tower,’ Oxford’s well-known dreaming spires. Sir Christopher Wren constructed the square tower with the octagonal lantern on top of an arched entrance with turrets, which dates back to the 16th century. The whole is topped with a dome. ‘Tom’ the 6-ton bell rings every hour and 101 times at 2100 hours. This is an old signal for closing the gates and 101 gongs represented the original 101 students of this institution.

There is also an Alice tour that needs prior booking and we, not being aware of that, missed it. But that also gave us an excuse to re-visit the place.