Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford

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Christ Church Cathedral
Cathedral Church of Christ
Christ Church Cathedral
Crossing tower and spire from the cloisters
51°45′00″N 1°15′17″W / 51.75°N 1.254722°W / 51.75; -1.254722Coordinates: 51°45′00″N 1°15′17″W / 51.75°N 1.254722°W / 51.75; -1.254722
Location Oxford, Oxfordshire
Country England
Denomination Church of England
Style Romanesque, Gothic
Years built 1160–1200
Diocese Oxford (since 1546)
Province Canterbury
Dean Martyn Percy
Subdean Edmund Newey
Canon(s) George Pattison, Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity
Nigel Biggar, Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology
Sarah Foot, Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History (Lay)
Angela Tilby, Diocesan Canon

Christ Church Cathedral is the cathedral of the diocese of Oxford, which consists of the counties of Oxford, Buckingham and Berks. It also acts as chapel for Christ Church College at the University of Oxford. This dual role as college chapel and cathedral is unique in the Church of England.[1]


The choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford
The choir, looking towards the organ and entrance

The cathedral was originally the church of St Frideswide's Priory. The site is claimed to be the location of the abbey and relics of St Frideswide,[by whom?] the patron saint of Oxford, although this is debatable.[weasel words]

In 1522, the priory was surrendered to Cardinal Wolsey, who had selected it as the site for his proposed college. However, in 1529 the foundation was taken over by King Henry VIII. Work stopped, but in June 1532 the college was refounded by the King. In 1546, Henry VIII transferred to it the recently created see of Oxford from Osney. The cathedral has the name of Ecclesia Christi Cathedralis Oxoniensis, given to it by King Henry VIII's foundation charter.

There has been a choir at the cathedral since 1526, when John Taverner was the organist and also master of the choristers. The statutes of Cardinal Wolsey's original college, initially called Cardinal College, mentioned sixteen choristers and thirty singing priests.

Christ Church Cathedral is often claimed[by whom?] to be the smallest cathedral in England, and although it did once hold this distinction[when?] there are now smaller cathedrals, as several parish churches were elevated to cathedral status in the 20th century.[2]

The nave, choir, main tower and transepts are of the late Norman period. There are architectural features ranging from Norman to the Perpendicular style and a large rose window of the ten-part (i.e., botanical) type.[citation needed]

Dean and Chapter[edit]



The organ is a 43-rank, four-manual and pedal instrument built in 1979 by Austrian firm Rieger Orgelbau.[7]


First among the notable organists of Christ Church Cathedral is the Renaissance composer John Taverner, who was appointed as the first organist by Cardinal Wolsey in 1526. Other organists (and directors of the choir) have included Basil Harwood, Thomas Armstrong, W. H. Harris, Simon Preston, Francis Grier, and Nicholas Cleobury. The post of Organist is currently held by Stephen Darlington. (As in many English cathedrals, the Organist is director of the choir, and much of the organ-playing is actually delegated to the Assistant Organist or Sub Organist.)


The main choir, the Christ Church Cathedral Choir, consists of 12 men (6 professional "lay-clerks" and 6 student "academical clerks") and 16 choristers (boys aged 7 – 13), and is directed by Stephen Darlington. They sing in university term time, at Christmas and Easter, and have an extensive touring and recording programme.

Former choristers include the composer Sir William Walton.

The Cathedral Singers consists of volunteers and is currently directed by John Padley. They are usually in residence outside of term time when the choristers and academical clerks of the main choir are on holiday.

The college choir sings every 1–2 weeks in term time and is made up of current undergraduates and postgraduates from the college.

Notable burials[edit]

John Locke memorial engraving


See also[edit]


External links[edit]