The University church of St Mary’s was used to host the first congregation of the University of Oxford from as early as 1252. A church has been recorded on his site from Anglo-Saxon times.
In 1555 St Mary’s was used to try the Oxford martyrs of Bishops Latimer, Cranmer and Ridley for heresy. They were Anglican bishops in the time of Queen Mary.
For many years, St Mary’s was used to host both religious services and functions of the University of Oxford. But, after the English civil war, the Sheldonian was built to provide an alternative venue for the rather rowdy student matriculations and degree ceremonies.
On June 18, 1738, John Wesley (the founder of Methodism) preached a sermon “Salvation by Faith”. He later denounced senior members of the university for their spiritual apathy and sloth – he was never asked to preach again, and he began his long travels and speeches.
In the early Nineteenth Century, John Henry Newman became an influential vicar, and helped to develop a revival of catholic spirituality – which became known as the Oxford movement. John Keble preached the ‘assize sermon’ of July 14, 1833, from the pulpit of St Mary’s – a notable event which is seen as the formation of this Oxford movement.
St Mary’s is located on the High Street and also faces on to Radcliffe Camera, which is one of the most picturesque parts of Oxford.
The Spire of St Mary’s appears from many vantage points within Oxford. For example, this is from Hertford College – framed by a Magnolia tree in April / May
Inside the church
This is the chapel to the left as you go in.
The main church to the right.
Whilst working in the city centre, I would sometimes look for a place of quiet. St Mary’s church is a bit of a tourist attraction. Though the chapel to the left is usually relatively quiet. You feel you are right in the heart of Oxford, in this particular place. The thick stone walls providing a barrier to the noise of the outside world. I had a few good experiences here. Nothing special, but a sense of silence and peace in the heart of the city.
View of St Mary’s from the River Thames
There is also a view of St Mary’s across the River Thames (or Isis as we call it in Oxford)
This is in early Autumn, the proud spire of St Mary’s framed by a gap in the tree. Behind is the Radcliffe Camera. Hidden from the trees in this shot is Merton College.
View across Isis – St Mary’s spire through the early morning mist.
St Mary’s on a frosty morning.
A close up of St Mary’s through the trees.
It’s half past five.
View from St Mary’s church Tower
It is definitely worth climbing the stairs of St Mary’s – it costs £4, but the views are definitely worth it.
Radcliffe Camera and a Gargoyle on a misty November afternoon.
Magdalen Tower – looking east.
All Soul’s college looking north east.