Back to England - II

Carved Stone Lion Gargoyle Along the Western Wall of Saint John's College, Oxford (LEO Design)


Oxford's architectural grandeur should not distract one from the smaller details—the exquisite handcraft—which adorn this medieval city.  The University is comprised of numerous colleges—each secreted behind well-fortified walls.  Mystery abounds; what beauty lies behind each protective barrier?  Luckily, there are abundant little teases which we, the General Public, are permitted to see.    Little gems of sculpture decorate Oxford. Here are a few of them.

Shown above, one of several carved stone lion gargoyles along the Western exterior wall of Saint John's College.  The college, founded in 1555, is arranged around seven interior quadrangles.  It was all-male until 1979 when the school became co-educational.  Because of its lucrative real estate holdings (it owns the land beneath many 19th Century Oxford homes), Saint John's College is the wealthiest school in Oxford.


Carved Oak Pew Finial in Saint Mary the Virgin Church, Oxford, England (LEO Design)


Shown here, a lovely carved-oak finial atop a pew in the University Church of Saint Mary the Virgin.  A church has been on this spot since Anglo-Saxon times.  When Oxford became a school, the church became an important clerical and administrative locus—and the University grew-up around it.  Today it is considered at the center of Oxford University—presiding over the "square" created by High Street.


Triton Fountain in the Radcliffe Infirmary Courtyard, Oxford, England (LEO Design)


In the courtyard of Oxford's Radcliffe Infirmary, we find a handsome (and athletic) "Triton" blowing a stream of water through a giant clam shell.  Son of Poseidon, the Greek God of the Sea, Triton is a "merman"—half man, half fish.  The infirmary was built in the 1700's with funds supplied by John Radcliffe (who also endowed the Radcliffe Camera).  In 1858, the Triton was added—inspired by Bernini's (more flamboyant) Baroque Triton Fountain in Rome (1642-1643).  But time and weather were unkind to the original Victorian Triton.  In 2012, a sculptor created a mould from the 1858 Triton and cast a new one—which we see pictured above.


Bronze Bas Relief Sculpture of Saint Martin of Tours Sharing his Military Cloak with a Beggar, Oxford, England (LEO Design)


Atop the gateway entrance into the churchyard of the (now demolished) Church of St. Martin of Tours is this bronze bas relief sculpture of the saint himself.  History tells us that St. Martin was born in modern day Hungary, served as a Roman soldier, and later became a monk and Bishop of Tours, France.  He is known for his work helping the poor.  As a soldier, he once encountered a beggar dressed in rags during the winter.  Martin cut his military cloak in half to give the suffering man something to keep himself warm.  In this sculpted portrayal, we see him astride his horse, sword unsheathed, cutting his own cloak for the beggar standing at his feet.  Though the church has been demolished, this gateway (built in the Nineteenth Century) still stands near the center of Oxford.


Martyr's Memorial by George Gilbert Scott, Oxford, England (LEO Design)


At one of Oxford's busiest intersections stands the Martyr's Memorial, designed by George Gilbert Scott and completed in 1843.  It commemorates the Protestant Martyrs who were executed nearby in 1555.  It seems that certain Victorian Oxonians were alarmed by the growing "Oxford Movement"—a Nineteenth Century movement within Anglicanism that was seeking to incorporate more of the rites and rituals of the Roman Catholic Church (from which Henry VIII broke-away).  Eventually, some of the leading thinkers within the Oxford Movement converted to Catholicism (including Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman).  Three centuries after the executions, Oxford Protestants wanted to remind people of their city's Anglican history—and remind all who was really running the city.


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