Christ Church, Oxford, is not only a college at the University of Oxford but a church as well; it is the cathedral church of the diocese of Oxford. The thirteenth of the current Oxford colleges to be founded, it was established in 1525 as Cardinal College by Thomas Wolsey, the Archbishop of York under the reign of King Henry VIII. While it was initially supposed to be impressive in scale and detail, Wolsey’s demise precluded this. King Henry VIII re-founded it as King Henry VIII’s College in 1532, and then finally as Christ Church in 1546 when the vast amount of money incurred from the dissolution of the monasteries following the King’s break with the Church poured into the royal coffers. Christ Church was now part of the reorganization of the Church of England. Its sister college in Cambridge is Trinity College.
The monastery, St. Frideswide, on the property that Wolsey acquired dated back to the 9th century. The cathedral and other buildings were completed in the 17th century (although successive centuries have provided many additions). During the English Civil War, King Charles I lived at Christ Church and convened his Parliament in the Great Hall. Soldiers paraded in the quad while the church and college tried to carry on as normal. When the monarchy was restored in 1660, in order to reward the college’s loyalty, the House of Stuart provided the funds to complete the main quadrangle of the campus. A former student, Sir Christopher Wren, designed the famous bell tower in 1682. The bell was named Great Tom and gave the tower and the quad their names: Tom Tower and Tom Quad. The campus is considered one of the most impressive architectural accomplishments in England. Some of the Harry Potter films have been filmed at Christ Church. Other universities and colleges, including National University of Ireland, Galway, the University of Chicago, and Cornell University, have modeled their buildings on those of Christ Church (particularly its dining hall).
Christ Church is referenced by several authors of note, such as Evelyn Waugh, Shakespeare (in the play Henry VIII), and W.B. Yeats. Along with John Locke, who lived there from 1652 to 1684 (when he was forcibly ejected due to his political views), notable emeriti include: Locke’s friend and patron the 1st earl of Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper; the art critic John Ruskin; the writer Lewis Carroll; the poet W.H. Auden; the philosopher John Rawls; the King of England, Edward VII; the scientist Albert Einstein; and thirteen British prime ministers, including William Gladstone.
Today Christ Church is still one of the premier colleges at Oxford. It has 450 undergraduate students and 150 graduate students. Women were admitted beginning in 1978.