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Day Out in Oxfordshire: Three Churches and a Roman Villa

Posted on May 22, 2007 by Holly Hayes
Part of: Graduate School in Oxford

After a long rainy spell we were blessed with mostly-sunny weather this weekend, so we headed out for some local sightseeing.

We started out at the North Leigh Roman Villa, which is not far from Blenheim Palace to the west of Oxford. It is the ruins of a country estate built by a rich Roman aristocrat in the 4th century. There wasn't a whole lot to see, but the location couldn't be beat! It was about a 10 minute walk from the road to the villa, down this beautiful path:

path to north leigh roman villa

It reminded us so much of Oregon, except for the fact that we were walking to Roman ruins! And here they are:

north leigh roman villa
The building on the left is a little storage cottage; the building on the right protects a floor mosaic. In between are the ruins of the Roman villa, which is pretty much just foundations and not super exciting.

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The mosaic is large and well-preserved but you have to look at it through a window in the protective building (above right).

near north leigh roman villa train at north leigh
Ancient and modern modes of transportation down by the villa.

The next stop was Minster Lovell, which has a nice church:

minster lovell church

And behind the church is a bonus: the interesting ruins of a medieval mansion called Minster Lovell Hall.

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Once again the location was part of the attraction: it's in a peaceful rural setting with a stream running behind the ruins.

Last on our agenda was the church of South Leigh, which is way out in the sticks on a single track road. It was very worth it, though! It's a cute little church on the outside...

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...and on the inside it is covered in glorious medieval paintings! More than any other church we've visited, South Leigh gave us a real sense of what churches were like when they were covered in brightly-colored paintings. So different from the modern whitewash!

south leigh

Over the arch in front is what's known as a "Doom" - a depiction of the Last Judgment. It gave the congregation something to think about while sitting in church. This was quite common in medieval English churches, but not very many survive.

south leigh
In the center, the trumpets of angels wake the dead.

south leigh
On the left, the redeemed rise out of their graves to heaven.

south leigh
On the left wall, St Peter lets them into the kingdom of heaven.

the damned
On the right, the damned are snared in a thorn and pulled into the jaws of hell.

south leigh
The devil and other scary creatures await the damned.

st michael the archangel
On the right wall is a less scary but similarly-themed mural: St. Michael the Archangel weighing souls after death. On the left, the Virgin Mary helps out by lifting the scale with rosary beads. On the right, devils do their best to tip the scales the other way.

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Other murals of historical figures and the cross beneath the arch.

From there we headed home, but made a quick stop at the church in Cassington since we were driving right by it.

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Unfortunately it wasn't open, but we did get to pet a funny grey cat and visit some friendly horses.

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