Sunny May Day in Oxford

Posted on May 1, 2007 by Holly Hayes
Part of: Graduate School in Oxford

may day, christ church meadow

Happy May Day! It really feels like May here, as the weather is just glorious. It is at least mid-70s with a clear, blue sky. I had another outing with my camera in the sunshine today and had a wonderful time.

Today started off (but not for me) with the annual Oxford ritual of May Morning, where the Magdalen Boys' Choir greets the sunrise from the top of the tower and everyone goes to the pub afterwards - nothing like a good lager at 7am!

Last year it was freezing cold on May Morning and we said we'd go next year. This time it was perfect weather, but we completely forgot. But also it would be difficult for David because it fell on a weekday and it would be difficult for me because I don't do early. :)

The picture on the right is by fellow Oxford photographer Brother Lawrence, showing the choir boys waving from the tower after singing.

Academic Stuff

In other news, I am very pleased to announce that I am done with my dissertation! Well, mostly. It's never truly done until it's bound and turned in (which will be 31 May), but I have finally finished writing it and I e-mailed it to my supervisor late last night. I now have other essays to write and exams to study for, but after lots of hard work over the past week or so, I am taking a break today! And what a day for it.

christ church college, oxford

I started off by going to an 11am lecture that is part of a Patristics Seminar series held at Christ Church. The lecture was by Jane Baun and was on popular stories about the Virgin Mary that circulated in medieval Byzantium (i.e. the Greek-speaking East), and was quite interesting. Jane is writing a book on the subject. She made some comparisons between devotion to Mary and Kwan Yin, the Buddhist goddess of compassion. I have heard of this comparison before and always found it interesting - I plan to write an Web article on it one day.

Revisiting Christ Church Cathedral

The lecture was over by about noon and we were all invited to go out for lunch afterwards, but I decided I'd rather go next door and take pictures of Christ Church Cathedral! It was nice and empty in there and I had a lovely time adding to my photo collection and working on my skills in dealing with difficult lighting.

Just for fun, here's a satellite view of Christ Church, with some personalized labels. This image is from Microsoft Virtual Earth - for some reason Google Earth still doesn't have high-resolution imagery for Oxford. Lame. You can click to enlarge.


Christ Church Cathedral is small for a cathedral, and is unique in that it also serves as a college chapel. Christ Church College was originally founded by Cardinal Wolsey in 1525, after he and King Henry VIII suppressed the Catholic abbey and shrine of St Frideswide that stood on this site. The shrine of Frideswide, the patron saint of Oxford, has been reconstructed and stands in front of a fine Victorian stained glass window depicting scenes from her life. Here are some photo highlights from today's visit.

christ church cathedral
Spiny exterior of the famous Great Hall (dining hall) where Harry Potter was filmed.

christ church cathedral, oxford
Tower and cloisters of the cathedral.

can 209 can 210
Some funny faces on the cloister ceiling.

shrine of st frideswide
The reconstructed Shrine of St Frideswide.

choir and rose window
View to the east rose window through the choir.

choir angels
Wooden angels in the choir.

tomb of lady montacute (d.1354)
The tomb of Lady Montacute (d.1354), with carved portraits of her 10 children on the sides. They lost their faces at the Reformation.

You can see more photos of this lovely church in the Christ Church Cathedral Photo Gallery on Sacred Destinations.

From there I headed down "The New Walk" through Christ Church Meadow, just as David did the other morning. The trees were blowing in the warm wind, the sun was sparkling on the river, everybody was out and about - it was beautiful.

christ church meadow
View across Christ Church Meadow to the tower of Merton College Chapel.

may day on the river, oxford
Swans a-swimming on the Thames River.

Tower Climb at St Michael's Church

Then I headed down to St Michael at the North Gate on Cornmarket and paid £1.80 to climb the tower for some lovely views. The tower is famed as "Oxford's Oldest Building" - it dates from Saxon times, around 1040. When we first arrived in Oxford a year and a half ago, we climbed this tower to get our bearings. It was fun to revisit it now that I know what I'm looking at.

oxford cityscape
Seen here is the spire of Exeter College Chapel, the little green dome of the Sheldonian Theatre (center) and the bigger dome of Radcliffe Camera (right).

A view of busy Cornmarket from above.

Back down the tower, I took some snaps of St. Michael's Church itself. Its most interesting feature is a 14th-century baptismal font, but it also has some nice stained glass windows.

st michael at the north gate st michael at the north gate font, st michael at the north gate font detail, st michael's font detail, st michael's

Then I headed back to Broad Street to catch the bus home.

broad street