All Souls College

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Radcliffe Square, Oxford, United Kingdom - 0044 1865 279379

All Souls College Oxford Reviews

king_golo king_golo
28 reviews
Great architecture and the world's weirdest ritual Jan 30, 2017
All Souls College is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful of Oxford's colleges. Looking down at its magnificent sundial from the spire of St. Mary the Virgin or up to its twin towers during dusk from Queens' Lane, this becomes particularly obvious.

The college was founded in 1438 by Henry Chichele and King Henry VI as a graduate college and rarely ever accepted undergraduates. In fact, even being accepted as a graduate is incredibly hard - only the best of the best can become part of the college.

Peeping in from Radcliffe Square, you can already see the magnificent front quad with its flawless circular lawn. Behind it are the All Souls' twin towers, built by Nicholas Hawksmoor, a student of Christopher Wren, in the first half of the 18th century. As is common in Oxford, All Souls' towers are decorated with gargoyles and grotesques. For whatever reason, many of them look rather sour... On the left side of the front quad is Christopher Wren's sundial, and in the building which it ornates the gigantic library of All Souls.

Roughly 60m long, it is spanned by a beautiful high ceiling and home to thousands of books. In the middle of the room is a statue of Christopher Codrington, the donator of the library. Unfortunately, the library is rarely open to visitors. Another interesting sight is the college chapel with so-called reredos: a wall full of niches with statues of saints, bishops and monarchs. While the original reredos were destroyed during the reformation and replaced by today's statues in the 19th century, the ceiling of the chapel is still the same as in the college's early days. Only the gilded wooden angels had to be re-gilded a few years ago. When you are in the chapel, don't forget to check the bottom sides of the chairs on the walls: they are decorated with finely carved misericords showing e.g. a bagpipe player.

All Souls college is also home to the weirdest ritual of all colleges, if not the world: Every 100 (!) years (the next time in 2101), the fellows of the college parade through the college grounds with a skewered duck singing the "Mallard Song" - in memory of the mallard that was found breeding on the college roof when the first buildings were constructed. Food was scarce back then, so the mallard suffered a rather terrible fate, but at least it's still commemorated nowadays!
All Souls College
Codrington Library
Gargoyles on the walls of All Souls
king_golo says:
I'm sure he was! In fact, the story gets even weirder as the "Mallard Song" is rather indecent and revels in the mallard's giant p... ;-) The Victorians consequently forbid the whole song.
Posted on: Jan 30, 2017
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