COLLEGES OF OXFORD

COLLEGES OF OXFORD

MERTON COLLEGE. Merton has a fine garden and a library housing the first printed Welsh Bible. Tolkien lectured here, inventing the language of Elvish in his spare time. The college’s Mob Quad is Oxford’s oldest and least impressive, dating from the 14th century, but nearby St. Alban’s Quad has some of the university’s best gargoyles. Residents of Crown Prince Narahito’s native Japan visit daily to identify the rooms he inhabited in his Merton days. (Merton St. s276 310. Open to tours only, daily 2-4pm. £2.)

UNIVERSITY COLLEGE. This soot-blackened college from 1249 vies with Merton for the title of oldest, claiming Alfred the Great as its founder. Percy Bysshe Shelley was expelled for writing the pamphlet The Necessity of Atheism but has since been immortalized in a prominent monument, to the right as you enter. Bill Clinton spent his Rhodes days here. (High St. 276 676. Open to tours only.)

ORIEL AND CORPUS CHRISTI COLLEGES. Oriel College (a.k.a. The House of the Blessed Mary the Virgin in Oxford) is wedged between High St. and Merton St. and was once the turf of Sir Walter Raleigh. (276 555. Open to tours only, daily 2-5pm. Free.) South of Oriel, Corpus Christi College, the smallest of Oxford’s colleges, surrounds a sundialed quad. The garden wall reveals a gate built for visits between Charles I and his queen, residents at adjacent Christ Church and Merton during the Civil Wars. (276 693. Open to tours only.)

ALL SOULS COLLEGE. Only Oxford’s best are admitted to this prestigious graduate college. Candidates who survive the admission exams are invited to dinner, where it is ensured that they are well-born, well-bred, and only moderately learned. All Souls is also reported to have the most heavenly wine cellar in the city. The Great Quad, with its fastidious lawn and two spare spires, may be Oxford’s most serene. (Corner of High St. and Catte St. s279 379. Open M-F2-4pm. Closed Aug. Free.)

QUEEN’S COLLEGE. Around since 1341, Queen’s was rebuilt by Wren and Hawksmoor in the 17th and 18th centuries in the distinctive Queen Anne style. A trumpet call summons students to dinner, where a boar’s head graces the table at Christmas. The latter tradition supposedly commemorates an early student who, attacked by a boar on the outskirts of Oxford, choked his assailant to death with a volume of Aristotle. Alumni include starry-eyed Edmund Hailey, the more earthly Jeremy Bentham, and actor Rowan Atkinson. (High St. 279 121. Open to tours only.)

MAGDALEN COLLEGE. With extensive grounds and flower-laced quads, Magdalen (MAUD-lin) is considered Oxford’s handsomest college. It boasts a deer park flanked by the Cherwell and Addison’s Walk. The college’s decadent spiritual patron is alumnus Oscar Wilde. (On High St. near the Cherwell. s276 000. Open daily l-6pm. £3, concessions £2.)

TRINITY COLLEGE. Founded in 1555, Trinity has a splendid Baroque chapel with a limewood altarpiece, cedar lattices, and cherubim-spotted pediments. (Broad St. s279 900. Open M-F lOam-noon and 2-4:30pm. £1, concessions 5Op.)

BALLIOL COLLEGE. Students at Balliol preserve the semblance of tradition by hurling abuse over the wall at their conservative Trinity College rivals. Matthew Arnold, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Aldous Huxley, and Adam Smith were all sons of Balliol’s mismatched spires. The interior gates of the college bear scorch marks from the immolations of 16th-century Protestant martyrs. (Broad St. s277 777. Open daily 2-5pm during term, Su only in summer. £1. Students and children free.)

NEW COLLEGE. This is the self-proclaimed first real college of Oxford; it is here William of Wykeham in 1379 dreamed up a college that would offer a comprehensive undergraduate education under one roof. The bell tower has gargoyles of the

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