All Souls College

During our last few visits to Oxford this has been a college that we were only able to view through these beautiful iron gates. On Tuesday September 20th, 2022, the day after the Queen’s funeral, we were fortunate to get to High street at the right time to see the doors to this college open.

I will copy and paste some of the history of this college and if it further interests you, you can click here to read more.

The ‘College of the souls of all the faithful departed’, commonly called All Souls College, was planned, built, and endowed in the 1430s by Henry Chichele, long-serving Archbishop of Canterbury. It received its foundation charter in 1438 from King Henry VI, co-opted by the Archbishop as the College’s co-founder. Chichele was in his seventies at the time, and this, his third Oxford benefaction, situated right at the University’s heart, was the fruit of careful reflection about what was needed in a new college.

Pass through the gate house and you again see an essentially medieval building. Here lived the Warden (in rooms beside the gatehouse); the forty Fellows, who until the eighteenth century shared sleeping quarters (still indicated by the wider ‘two-lighted’ windows), but had individual studies (the narrower, ‘single-light’ windows); and a number of chaplains, choristers, clerks, and servants. Today the quadrangle still houses Fellows’ bedrooms (now individual) and studies, as well as administrative offices. The Chapel takes up the whole north side of the quadrangle.

All Souls had two functions. The first, common to all colleges, was religious. The Warden and, originally, forty Fellows were to pray in chapel for the souls of the founders, of those who had fallen in the long wars with France (at the time not being prosecuted with much vigour), and of ‘all the faithful departed’. The second function was academic, and in this, then as now, the College was distinctive. Chichele envisaged the medieval equivalent of a graduate college, an institute of advanced study of a very practical kind. With minor exceptions, the College never took in undergraduates. Its Fellows were previously to have studied somewhere else for at least three years and most would already have a BA. Once admitted they were to study or teach for the higher degrees of theology, law (civil and ‘canon’, or Church, law), and medicine – especially theology and law. The Fellows, all in Holy Orders, had to prepare themselves, not for life in the ivory tower, but for service to Church and government. They were, as Chichele himself put it, an ‘unarmed militia’, trained for the unashamedly patriotic task of restoring national prestige and good order in the face of heresy at home and stalemate abroad.

In this view you can see Radcliffe Camera outside the iron gates we first peeked through.

The central accent of the sundial, the design of which is attributed to Christopher Wren, was absent in the eighteenth century. Moved to its present position only in Victorian times, it was placed initially between the south-facing pinnacles of the chapel.

Heading into the chapel.

15th century Fan Vaulting in the vestibule of the chapel.

The baroque Chapel screen, designed by Sir James Thornhill in 1716, and restored and gilded in the late twentieth century. It replaced a screen which was attributed to Christopher Wren.

Most of the antechapel windows contain some fifteenth-century stained glass.

The Chapel still retains its original medieval hammer-beam roof, which together with the gilded wooden angels that adorn the ends of the beams dates from the fifteenth century. The angels owe their current brilliance to a late twentieth century regilding.

The reredos of the Chapel dates from c. 1447. Its niches contain statues of saints, bishops, and monarchs, arranged in rows on either side of a Crucifixion scene, just above the altar, and a Last Judgement, high up under the roof. The original statues, destroyed in the sixteenth century Reformation, were not replaced with the present Gothic imitations until the nineteenth century. 

reredos: A screen or a decorated part of the wall behind an altar in a church, especially when the altar does not stand free, but against the wall; an altarpiece.

Each school and chapel we were able to visit was unique and we enjoyed seeing the differences. We were not able to view the dining hall at All Souls because it was closed to the public during our visit.

Forward to January 2023. I’m finishing this post on Saturday morning in Orange, California. We are safely tucked into our home away from home for the next several days. Our travel by car on Thursday went well after Dear’s follow-up appointment. His follow-up was good for those of you who were wondering. Our flight on Friday evening, after a delay, was non-eventful and enjoyable with a serendipitous seating next to a couple who has the same doctor we had when we lived on the west side of the Cascades. We had a lively and long conversation connecting the dots. Later today we are having a small family reunion with three or four of my siblings and several nieces and nephews.

Auntie Lolo got this selfie of us at the airport before checking in. Our sons are missing from the photo since they were parking the vehicles after we unloaded ALL our luggage, etc.