Christ Church Crest

A Visit to Christ Church in 1710

Christ Church in David Loggan’s Oxonia illustrata (1675)

The German scholar Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach (1683-1734) visited Oxford in 1710 to examine manuscripts in University libraries. He wrote a detailed account of his visit, and commented in particular detail on the operation and contents of individual libraries, not always terribly favourably. These are his comments on Christ Church. 

Christ Church in David Loggan’s Oxonia illustrata (1675)

"Passing through the new building to the back [of Corpus] one comes straight into a very beautiful long avenue which does not belong to this college, but to Christ Church College. We walked along this avenue to hear prayers, as it was just 4 o'clock. The chapel of this college, like all the rest of it is on a great scale, and unlike the others, is built like a real church in the form of a cross of which the chapel proper takes half of the largest portion and is separated from the remainder by a wooden screen: as it was too large for the services and numbers of socii the whole church was not neccesary. [...]

In this church are various epitaphs which, like the monuments throughout England, are neither very valuable nor well sculptured, and indeed nowhere, either in London or elsewhere, did we see a memorial approaching in interest those in Luebeck or other places. One cannot but wonder at this, as in most things the English are so wasteful and expensive. The epitaphs here are mostly of young people, who studied here and stayed some time at the college. Of learned and famous people I found only a single example, namely the eminent linguist Pocock. [...]

Near the church is a great building in which the library is housed, but which we could not see on this occasion. It was too late and also just meal time, for in the colleges they dine very early in the evening. We saw the hall or dining room, which is fearfully large and high but otherwise poor and ugly in appearance; it also reeks so strongly of bread and meat that one cannot long remain in it, and I should find it impossible to dine and live there. ... The college building itself is unusually large and costly and is built of blocks of freestone without a visible roof-ridge. It is quadrangular and symmetrical, but the windows are particularly antiquated. In the centre of the square is a fountain with a Mercury, which does not play. Behind is another quite new stone building, so well and sumptuously built that it might be a royal castle. It consist of a corps de logis and two wings, one of which is not yet finished. At 7 o'clock in the evening. [...]

The morning of 30 August we devoted again to the treasures in the Bodleian, and in the afternoon we inspected Christ Church library. This is a fairly large, fine building on the ground floor, with a considerable proportion of good books in good condition. The library door is made in a special way, so that it closes behind one of itself. The people belonging to the college, who were with us, knew nothing of any manuscripts. [...]"

'Oxford in 1710', from The travels of Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach, edited by W.H. Quarrell and W.J.C. Quarrell (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1928), pp.33-3, 40.

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