This past week, I finally got to visit Corpus Christi College, Oxford. This has been problematic because the college is always closed, at least every time I’ve walked by during my three stays in Oxford.
But I have discovered that polite asking can get you a long way in England. Some Oxford colleges especially put up a front of being almost inaccessible. (And when there are hoards of tourists about, I do not blame them.) But that is often an illusion. If you are polite and earnest and ask, it is surprising how far that can get you here.
So, with Corpus Christi closed, of course, I went to the Porters’ Office and pleasantly told the two porters I am a student from Corpus Christi, Texas, that I’ve been in Oxford three times, but I have never gotten to visit the college and very much wanted to do so.
With a smile he let me right in with the only restriction that the Chapel is the only building I should enter.
And Corpus Christi is an amazing college to visit. It is the smallest college in area in Oxford. So I was not expecting much. But it makes marvelous use of its space. The main quad is simple but stately with a tall sundial in the middle and with a formidable statue of the founder, Bishop Foxe glaring over you. There are two smaller quads – much smaller. Remember that Corpus Christi is hemmed in by Christ Church and Merton College and so has little space with which to work. But the smallness of those quads make them that much more interesting.
The Chapel is the narrowest I’ve seen in Oxford, but still impressive and peaceful with interesting monuments, a nice screen and the oldest eagle lectern in Oxford.
But my favorite part of the college is its garden. It is an oasis with three huge shade trees and a high wall that looks over Christ Church’s gardens and Christ Church Meadow. The garden is narrower than other colleges' for sure, but you do not feel hemmed in at all. Just the opposite. It is surely a most pleasant place to sit and read as I saw one student doing.
My visit to Corpus Christi College was interesting and refreshing. I am very glad I asked my way in.