Posts Tagged ‘Christchurch’

A Day Out in Oxford

Today was our final class field trip. Naturally, we traveled to a land of literary wonderment — Oxford! Although the weather consisted of a stereotypical English drizzle, our day was still action-packed and full of adventure.

Our first stop in Oxford was the legendary Bodleian library.

Pann2Although we didn’t have time for a tour, we did stop by their new “Magical Books” exhibit. This free display featured works ranging from medieval illuminated texts depicting griffins and unicorns, to alchemist’s scrolls, to Shakespeare’s First Folio (opened to Macbeth), to the works of modern authors. My favorite part was a series of maps, of Narnia and Middle Earth, drawn by C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, respectively. I was also very enthused to see dozens of Tolkien’s drawings and paintings depicting scenes from his books, many of which were not included in publication. Just as the headline indicated, the experience was truly “magical”. :)

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Next we traveled to Christchurch College, where Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland) taught mathematics. Many members of our group found this area especially exciting, because a few scenes for the first Harry Potter film were shot here.

The tower houses a bell named "Great Tom". Fun fact: C.S. Lewis named his cat after that bell.

The tower houses a bell named “Great Tom”. Fun fact: C.S. Lewis named his cat after that bell.

 

The Great Hall (aka, cafeteria) of Christchurch College. This was the inspiration for the Great Hall of Hogwarts.

The Great Hall (aka, cafeteria) of Christchurch College. This was the inspiration for the Great Hall of Hogwarts.

For lunch, we traveled to the Eagle and Child pub. Back when they taught at Oxford, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and several of their friends would frequent this pub. They called themselves the Inklings, and would come here every Tuesday at 10 am to drink beer and gossip.

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On Thursday evenings, the Inklings would convene in Lewis’s Oxford apartments to discuss their current literary endeavors. Although the pub was decently large, our little group was privileged to sit in the very corner where the Inklings gathered every week! (We were a little bit over-excited.)

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The pub included several small touches to remind people of its famous history. For instance, Lord of the Rings books were visible, sitting on high shelves behind the bar. A quote from The Fellowship of the Ring was written on a chalkboard on the wall, and a quote from C.S. Lewis was written on one of the building’s beams. In the corner where we sat, casual photos of Inklings members hung in frames near the fireplace. I appreciated these small touches — but even more, I appreciated how the Eagle & Child stayed true to itself. They didn’t try to create Tolkien or Lewis themed menu items, nor did they decorate in a manner that denoted anything except a classic English pub. Instead, the focus was on keeping the place up as a good, traditional restaurant, and the Eagle & Child did an excellent job.

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For our next adventure, we trekked to Magdalen College, where C.S. Lewis taught. Although his home, the Kilns, was located on the outskirts of Oxford, Lewis would stay in an apartment on the Magdalen College campus during the week.

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Apartments for the professors at Magdalen.

Apartments for the professors at Magdalen.

Like the rest of Oxford, the stonework and architechture here was exceptionally beautiful. Connected to Magdalen was Addison’s Walk, a gorgeous stretch of pathway that leads around in a circle, with the River Cherwell on one side and a wide meadow on the other. It was here that Lewis frequently took long walks after dinner. One night, when Lewis was still an atheist, Lewis and Tolkien and another Inkling friend had a lengthy discussion about faith while strolling along this path. The conversation was so in-depth that the men returned to Lewis’s apartment and continued talking until 3 o’clock in the morning! It was after this conversation that Lewis became a theist, and soon after converted to Christianity.

Oxford 209Strolling along Addison’s Walk was peaceful. It felt almost dreamlike, to literally walk the paths of such a great apologist and see some of the things he would have seen as he contemplated coming to faith in Christ. 

After leaving Magdalen, we traveled to Holy Trinity Church, just outside of Oxford, where C.S. Lewis attended church on Sundays. This is also where he is buried.

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It was surreal, seeing his grave. Lewis has influenced modern Christianity so significantly, and his works are still so popular…I guess I sometimes forget he’s dead. I praise God for Lewis’s life and works, and by no means want to worship Lewis. Instead, I have a profound respect for how he followed God’s leading in his life, and how he has shaped the lives of countless people over the past six decades.

Our final stop of the day was The Kilns, the home where C.S. Lewis lived for almost half of his life. (It is so named because, in the early 20th century, a working brickyard and set of kilns were located in the home’s back yard.)

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In the 1970′s, the Lewis family sold the Kilns, and the new owners decided to significantly remodel the home. Within the past 20 years, the Lewis Foundation purchased the home and have made an effort to make the house into a setting that resembles the interior of the Kilns as Lewis would have known it. However, they have turned it not into a museum, but in a location to honor Lewis’s memory. None of the furniture is original, but this also means that tourists are free to interact more with the items in the house. Because of these light restrictions, the Kilns is an extremely welcoming environment.

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(They didn’t, however, let us check to see if the wardrobe contained a portal to Narnia…)

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The Lewis Foundation now uses the Kilns as an intentional living community for Christian scholars at Oxford. Two of the currents residents of the Kilns, Matt and Nicole, gave us a private tour. It was excellent! They were extremely informative, and super friendly. Matt was even familiar with Cedarville! Apparently he is good friends with one of our professors. (“It’s a small world after all…”)

We even got to try Turkish Delight, in C.S. Lewis's dining room! Never in my life would I have guessed that I would have that opprotunity...

We even got to try Turkish Delight, in C.S. Lewis’s dining room! Never in my life would I have guessed that I would have that opportunity…

We arrived safely home in Cheltenham this evening, tired but happy after a long day of adventures. Tomorrow begins our final weekend in England, and Regan and I plan to take advantage of this free time, and go on our most adventurous trip yet! Stay tuned for more updates. :)

Love,

Taylor

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