Thursday, May 5, 2011

May Day Morn and 1st History and Architecture of Oxford Tour

I'll go light on the words this time (but heavy on the pictures).

May Morning was this past Sunday morning. It's a 500 year old tradition for the Magdalen College Choir to sing from the top of Magdalen Tower at 6am. (More on the event here:

Well, the window by my bed opens out on to High Street, and the Tower is about a football field away. The whole city shows up for the event, so I was first woken up by the giant crowd that assembled out on the street. Right at 6am, the Choir sang, so I got up and joined the crowd.

After the singing was over, I went back to my room to go back to sleep. But then some sort of drum and dance performance started up right under my window. They didn't go away, so this is a picture of them from my window.

For the rest of the week through to today, I have mainly been doing a bunch of work for classes and the bit of dancing that I wrote about in the last post. I also did some running and played some soccer, but that's pretty much it.

Except for yesterday, when, for my History & Architecture of Oxford class, I went on a two hour tour of Oxford. This time, we explored Romanesque/Classically-influenced architecture in Oxford, mainly from the Early and Late Medieval periods.

First stop: the crypt at St. Edmund's Hall, which Dr. Tyack calls one of the best remaining examples of Romanesque architecture here. Note the classical arches supported by very Romanesque pillars. The proportions aren't quite Roman, but the English did the best they could.

This wasn't exactly part of the tour. This is a view of High Street, where I live and which we walked down to get to our next stop. I just thought I'd include a snapshot of the amazing street I walk down daily.

Our next stop was Christ Church, long ago St. Frideswide's Priory. Here is a picture of the nave and alter of the church.

We sat in the pews for a while, as Dr. Geoffrey Tyack, our teacher (not "Professor," since few teachers have the title "Professor" here), explained the architectural significance of what we were looking at. Again, note the Classical arches and pillars behind him.

The heads on the statues of saints were all knocked off during the Protestant Reformation in England. The shrine of St. Frideswide was also destroyed, and the church was renamed Christ Church.

Here is one of the newer installations of stained glass in the cathedral. I couldn't post all of them, but this one is pretty sweet. It tells the story of St. Frideswide. Note the Gothic arches.

Here is a shot of the vault of the nave of the church. Note the elaborate clustered ribs, and, if you can, the hanging star-shaped pendants. If it looks at all familiar to you, it might be because this is the handiwork of William Orchard, who also made the vault for the Divinity School at Oxford, which was featured as the infirmary in the Harry Potter movies.

In the center of this stained glass window, with ornate tracery, you might be able to make out Thomas Becket being killed by the knights of Henry II.

This is a shot of the church tower from outside.

This staircase should remind you of Harry Potter. It was in the movies.

This is the tower at the entrance to Christ Church.

Some buildings around the large quadrangle of Christ Church. And a fountain in the middle.

Our last stop was outside Oxford Castle. Next to the castle was a mound, which used to support a tower. The tower and mound protected a well. Now it protects a great view of the city.

This is from the walk back from Oxford Castle. It's a shot of Cornmarket Street, a pedestrian street in the middle of the city where a lot of the shops (and people) are.

That is all.

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