Visiting and Learning

Whether you come on your own or as part of a group, there’s lots to see and learn when you visit our Cathedral.

The Cathedral stands on the site of an ancient Saxon Church, founded in the 8th century by St Frideswide, the Patron Saint of Oxford. Though nothing now remains of this church, a Saxon cemetery lies under the cathedral cloister.

The present building was constructed in the last quarter of the 12th century as the monastery church for a community of Augustinian Canons.

The monastery was called St Frideswide’s Priory, and inside the church stood an ornate shrine on which were kept the relics of the saint. Pilgrims visited the shrine throughout the Middle Ages, including Catherine of Aragon, who, in 1518, came to pray for the birth of a healthy son.

In 1524, just before the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Cardinal Wolsey gained permission from the Pope to close down St Frideswide’s Priory so that he could use the land to build a vast new college for the university. He planned to include a new chapel for his ‘Cardinal’s College’ but died before the building was complete, which meant that the old monastery church was retained.

In 1546 King Henry VIII moved the first Bishop of Oxford into the church, thereby creating a unique institution: a college chapel that is also the Cathedral for the Diocese of Oxford.

Please ask any of our volunteer guides, vergers or clergy if you have any questions.