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Plants, animals, and scientists set in stone

As with the Natural History Museum in London, I like the building of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History just as much as the collections it contains. There is so much to be seen on the stonework: squirrels eating acorns, carved tulips, pineapples, irises, orchids, meat-eating plants, ferns unfurling, birds and a frog hiding between leaves, and a fair number of plants and animals I don’t recognise.

Not only are the stone pillars adorned with carvings of animals and plants, the iron pillars are beautifully decorated with leaves and branches as well. Whale skeletons seem to swim in this sea of pillars.

Statues of eminent men of science stand guard in the court on the ground floor.

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All Souls College

All Souls College, or ‘College of the souls of all the faithful departed’ as it is formally called, was planned and built in the 1430s. It received its foundation charter in 1438.

The Fellows of the College, next to their scholarly work, had the obligation to pray in chapel for the souls of the founders, of those who had fallen in the long wars with France (at the time not being prosecuted with much vigour), and of ‘all the faithful departed’.

The antechapel has beautiful stained glass windows, some dating from the fifteenth century. The niches behind the altar contain statues of saints, bishops, and monarchs. In the centre are a Crucifixion scene, and a Last Judgement, high up under the roof. The original fifteenth-century statues were destroyed in Reformation. They were replaced with these Gothic imitations in the nineteenth century. Gilded wooden angels adorn the ends of the roof beams.

 

 

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The North Quadrangle, facing Radcliffe Square, is dominated by its iconic twin towers.

 

 

 

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The Codrington Library contains about 185,000 volumes, about a third of which were printed before 1800.

 

 

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