Magdalen College and C.S. Lewis

On Tuesday September 20th we had plans to try to visit several colleges but at the end of the day we were only able to get into two of the colleges, Magdalen and All Souls College. This post will cover some of Magdalen College and C.S. Lewis’s history there.

We were at the Holywell Cemetery before we made our way to Magdalen along Longwall St. and we noticed this sundial. The dial is formed from metal lines and characters attached to the south facing stone wall of the Grove Auditorium. Upright hour numerals are VII – XII – VI, and hour and half-hour lines run each to their own unmarked circular arc around the gnomon root. The gnomon is a thin un-supported rod springing from a small disc on the wall. Above the dial is ‘M M’ for both Mary Magdalen and the year 2000. On with our journey to the entrance to Magdalen college on High St.

We entered to St. John’s Court through the Porter’s Lodge. This beautiful gate is beside Porter’s Lodge. We are now in St. John’s Court.

We picked up a brochure called C.S. Lewis At Magdalen from the Porter’s desk. I will be quoting from the brochure in this post. Thank you to Magdalen College.

We were sad to hear the chapel was closed to visitors because of the restoration of the organ.

In 2014 Dear and I ware able to view the chapel and that post is here.

Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) as a student at University College down the road from Magdalen College. In 1925 he was called to Magdalen to be considered for a teaching post of English Language and Literature. He was chosen and elected a Fellow at 500 pounds a year, plus accommodation, meals, and pension.

The traditional ceremony for the induction of Fellows at Magdalen is unchanged from Lewis’s time. Kneeling on a red cushion before the President in the presence of other Fellows and asked, in Latin, will you uphold the statutes of the College? They reply, Do fidem (I give my faith or I so promise) The President pronounces them admitted to the Fellowship, shakes their hand and wishes them joy. The new Fellow is then greeted by the other Fellows, one by one, who also wish him joy.

Lewis’s relationship with Magdalen would last a lifetime.

In this photo you can see the Great Bell Tower at Magdalen. Every May 1st at dawn the choir welcomes the morning in song up in the tower to crowds on the streets below. Click here to read and see more.

The 15th Century Cloisters construction commenced in 1474 which makes this medieval square of stone among the oldest parts of Magdalen.

We left the main grounds to get to Addison’s Walk along the Holywell Mill Stream.

Addison’s Walk in April of 2004 ~ Our daughter and her dad

2014-07-011

We were sad to find out on our 2022 Addison’s walk that this tree met it’s demise and is no longer on the path.

On this visit we walked further along to this second stone bridge to see this memorial tablet presented to the College by the Oxford University C.S. Lewis Society, to mark the centenary of Lewis’s birth, November 29, 1898. So this tablet has been here since 1998. I copied the poem below so you would be able to read it since the tablet has weathered over the last 25 years.

What the Bird Said Early in the Year

I heard in Addison’s Walk a bird sing clear
This year the summer will come true. This year. This year.

Winds will not strip the blossom from the apple trees
This year nor want of rain destroy the peas

This year time’s nature will no more defeat you
Nor all the promised moments in their passing cheat you.

This time they will not lead you round and back
To Autumn one year older by the well worn track.

This year, this year, as all these flowers foretell,
We shall escape the circle and undo the spell.

Often deceived, yet open once again your heart.
Quick quick, quick, quick – the gates are drawn apart.

C.S. Lewis

We walked back following the stream to where it meets up with the The River Cherwell at Magdalen Bridge. This is where you can rent a punt.

On our way back to the New Building Lawns we spotted the herd of fallow deer.

Lewis’s college rooms were in New Buildings. The buildings you see below. He enjoyed the views from his windows where he could see the College’s herd of fallow deer.

“It was in these rooms in New Buildings, several years after he became a Fellow, that Lewis moved steadily, through a long personal and philosophical struggle, towards belief in God. He had been an Atheist for the better part of twenty years. But he became convinced that reasonable argument itself is dependent on a God, whose existence he felt driven, reluctantly, to concede.”

“An important turning point was a late-night conversation at Magdalen with his friends Hugo Dyson and J.R.R. Tolkien. After dinner, the three men withdrew to Addison’s Walk, (see photos of Addison’s walk above) continuing in conversation and further in the night in Lewis’s rooms in New Buildings until three in the morning. They talked about myth and reality and the idea that Christianity, while similar to great pagan myths that Lewis found powerful and attractive, was a myth with a unique difference, because of it’s claim to be historically authentic–a claim Lewis was soon to accept.”

“The close friendship between Lewis and Tolkien was partly based on sharing and discussing the books they were writing, and these exchanges came to include other Christian friends and writers, a literary circle to be known as the Inklings. Typically meeting in Lewis’s rooms in New Buildings on Thursday nights and in the ‘Eagle and Child’ pub on Tuesday mornings, the group flourished in the 1930’s and 40’s. The Inklings read, discussed, and criticized passages from many books still in the making, among them Tolkien’s, The Lord of the Rings. Lewis so admired this book that many years later, he would nominate Tolkien for the Nobel Prize for Literature.”

As we waited for the Dining Hall to be open to viewing, we stepped into the Old Kitchen Bar to find a refreshment but no one was around. We did spot the framed photos above of the filming of Shadowlands at Magdalen college. Shadowlands is a story based on the real life story of C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman. Anyone have a copy of the DVD we could borrow?

We couldn’t walk into the dining room but we had a small cordoned off section to stand in and look and take photographs.

Edward Butler, (1686-1745) President Magdalen College University of Oxford (1722-1745)

We exited the college and made our way to Merton Street where more adventures would follow.

Back to the present on this Wednesday January 11th of 2023, we’ve had some snow melting slowly here and more bare ground showing. Some very thick fog the last few days that makes driving a challenge. Today I’ll be joining some other gals at church for our weekly prayer meeting. How can I pray for you? There’s a link at the top of my blog where you can find my email address. We are getting ready for another adventure with our whole family. Our January family trip that will cover all our January family birthdays, too. Because of this I will again be slow in visiting and keeping up with your blogs. Thursday Dear has a follow-up with the Stroke clinic in Spokane.

Like C.S. Lewis, I do hope you will concede and accept the truth of the historical Jesus, who died for your sins and is risen from the dead and reigning with all authority at the right hand of God! Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you, too, will be saved.