Corpus Christi College
Arms: see below
LocationMerton Street, Oxford OX1 4JF
Coordinates51°45′03″N 1°15′13″W / 51.750909°N 1.253702°W / 51.750909; -1.253702
Full nameThe College of the Body of Christ in the University of Oxford[1]
Established1517; 507 years ago (1517)
Named forCorpus Christi, Body of Christ
Sister collegeCorpus Christi College, Cambridge
PresidentHelen Moore[2]
Undergraduates252[3] (December 2017)
Postgraduates93[3] (December 2017)
Endowment£160.7 million (2018)[4]
JCRCorpus Christi JCR
MCRCorpus Christi MCR
Boat clubCorpus Christi College Boat Club
Corpus Christi College, Oxford is located in Oxford city centre
Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Location in Oxford city centre

Corpus Christi College (formally, Corpus Christi College in the University of Oxford; informally abbreviated as Corpus or CCC) is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Founded in 1517, it is the 12th oldest college in Oxford.

The college, situated on Merton Street between Merton College and Christ Church, is one of the smallest in Oxford by student population, having around 250 undergraduates and 90 graduates. It is academic by Oxford standards, averaging in the top half of the university's informal ranking system, the Norrington Table, in recent years, and coming second in 2009–10.[5]

The college's role in the translation of the King James Bible is historically significant. The college is also noted for the pillar sundial in the main quadrangle,[6] known as the Pelican Sundial, which was erected in 1581.[7] Corpus achieved notability in more recent years by winning University Challenge on 9 May 2005 and once again on 23 February 2009, although the latter win was later disqualified.[8][9]

The Visitor of the college is ex officio the Bishop of Winchester, currently Tim Dakin.



Corpus Christi College was founded by Richard Foxe, Bishop of Winchester, and an accomplished statesman. After entering the clergy, Foxe worked as a diplomat for Henry Tudor. He became a close confidant of his and, during Henry's reign as Henry VII, Foxe was appointed Keeper of the Privy Seal and promoted up the bishoprics, eventually becoming Bishop of Winchester. Throughout this time he was involved in Oxford and Cambridge Universities: he had been Visitor of Magdalen College and of Balliol College, had amended Balliol's statutes for a papal commission, was master of Pembroke College, Cambridge, for 12 years and had been involved in the foundation of St John's College, Cambridge, as one of Lady Margaret Beaufort's executors.[10]

Foxe began to build from 1513. He bought a nunnery, two halls, two inns and the Bachelors' Garden of Merton College.[11] Building was probably completed by 1520.[12]

Foxe was assisted in his foundation by his friend Hugh Oldham, Bishop of Exeter, and Oldham's steward, William Frost. Oldham was a patron of education and donated £4,000 and land in Chelsea towards the foundation. For this, he was styled præcipuus benefactor (principal benefactor) by Foxe, remembered in daily prayers and a scholarship was established for students from Lancashire, where Oldham was born.[13][14] Frost bequeathed his estate in Mapledurwell to the college, for which he and wife were remembered in a yearly prayer and a scholarship was founded for his descendants.[15][16]

Foxe was granted letters patent for the foundation by Henry VIII in 1516.[17] The college was officially founded in 1517, when Foxe established the college statutes.[18] These specified that the college was to contain 20 fellows, 20 students, three lecturers, two priests, two clerks and two choristers.[19]

The library of the college was "probably, when completed, the largest and best furnished library then in Europe".[20] The scholar Erasmus noted in a letter of 1519 to the first President, John Claymond, that it was a library "inter praecipua decora Britanniae" ("among the chief beauties of Britain"), and praised it as a "biblioteca trilinguis" ("trilingual library") containing, as it did, books in Latin, Greek and Hebrew.[21]

Founding fellows of the College included Reginald Pole, who would become the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury.[22]

Later developments

In its first hundred years, Corpus hosted leading divines who would lay the foundations of the Anglican Christian identity. John Jewel was Corpus' Reader of Latin, worked to defend a Protestant bent in the Church of England and the Elizabethan Religious Settlement.[23] John Rainolds, elected president in 1598, suggested the idea of the King James Bible and contributed to its text.[24] Richard Hooker, author of the influential Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, was deputy professor of Hebrew.[25]

No one county in England bare three such men (contemporary at large) [Jewel, Rainolds and Hooker] in what college soever they were bred, no college in England bred three such men, in what county soever they were born.

— Thomas Fuller, The Church History of Britain[26]

The Spanish humanist Juan Luis Vives taught at Corpus during the 1520s while tutor to Mary Tudor, later Mary I of England.[citation needed] John Keble, a leader of the Oxford Movement, was an undergraduate at Corpus at the start of the 19th century, and went on to a fellowship at Oriel and to have a college named after him (Keble College, Oxford).[citation needed]

Having been founded nearly half a millennium earlier as a college for men only, Corpus Christi was among many of Oxford's men's colleges to admit its first female undergraduate students in 1979 (though women graduate students had been admitted five years earlier).[27] Between 2015 and 2017, 0.6% of UK undergraduates admitted to Corpus were black.[28]

Buildings and gardens


The main buildings on the main college site are the Main Quad, the West Building, the MBI Al Jaber Auditorium, the Fellows' Building, Gentleman-Commoners' Quad and Thomas Quad.

The aisle of the library as seen from the former President's Study in the far west end. The chapel is visible through a pane of glass at the end of the library.

The Main Quad was built for the college's foundation and designed in a late Mediaeval style. The quad was constructed by distinguished builders associated with Henry VIII's Office of Work: master mason William Vertue, master mason William East and carpenter Humphrey Coke (Warden of the Carpenter's Company in London).[29] The quad's architecture later inspired that of Oglethorpe University.[30]

The chapel adjoins the library and is just off the Main Quad. Its location is unusual: many colleges (even small ones) had their chapel in their main quad, with some colleges placing them on the first floor to fit them in (e.g. Lincoln and Brasenose).[31] Its lectern is one of the first bronze eagle lecterns in Oxford; it is the only pre-Reformation one and was a gift of the first president. The chapel's altarpiece is a copy of Ruben's Adoration of the Shepherds, a gift from the antiquarian Sir Richard Worsley.[32][33]

Later buildings on the main site include the Fellows' Building of 1706–1716, the Gentlemen Commoners' Building of 1737 and the Emily Thomas Building, designed by T.H. Hughes, of 1928.[14][34]

On the corner of Merton Street and Magpie Lane, lie the Jackson and Oldham buildings and Kybald Twychen, which all house students. In 1884–85, the architect T. G. Jackson had first installed a 'New Building and Annexe', replacing town houses on Magpie Lane.[35] In 1969, this work was trimmed and modified to make space for a further new building created by Philip Powell and Hidalgo Moya using a modernist beehive design, while leaving Jackson's Annexe substantially intact.[36] Powell and Moya's building uses local limestone rubble and has the architects' characteristically large windows mounted within an exposed concrete frame. Particular attention was paid to placing the design within the existing architectural context, including the plain wall of Oriel College, Merton's Gothic chapel and Jackson's heavily ornamented Annexe.[37] In 2017, the New Building and Annexe were substantially renovated and renamed the Oldham and Jackson Buildings, respectively.[38]

Corpus also owns several buildings further afield: the Liddell Building on Iffley Road (built with Christ Church in 1991),[38] the Lampl Building on Park End Street (completed in 2014 and named after Sir Peter Lampl)[39] and houses on Banbury Road.

Pelican Sundial

A sketch by Robert Hegge of the dial c. 1600.

The Pelican Sundial is the large pillar in the centre of Corpus' main quad and dates from 1579. The sundial is named after the gold-painted Pelican on an armillary sphere at the top of the pillar.[40] "Pelican Sundial" is a misnomer, as the pillar contains 27 separate sundials.[41] Nine of the sundials are found easily: four on each face of the square frustum beneath the pelican, four beneath each coat of arms on the cuboid and one facing south on the curved pillar shaft.[42] The remaining sundials are found on the hollows and scallops surrounding the east and west arms. The symbols surrounding the sundials are used to reckon feast days and the signs of the Zodiac.[43] The pillar shaft is covered by three tables: one for calculating the dates of the movable and fixed feasts and the Oxford and legal terms; one being a perpetual calendar and one for finding the time by moonlight.[44]

History and copies

The Pelican Sundial was designed by Charles Turnball and is sometimes called the Turnball Sundial after him. Turnball lived in Corpus for 8 years, reaching the degree of MA.[45] He went on to publish the book A Perfect and Easie Treatise of the Use of the Coelestial Globe in 1585, but it is otherwise unknown what he went on to do.[45]

The Pelican Sundial was not the first sundial at Corpus. Before it was erected, one had been designed for the college by Nicholas Kratzer, an astrologer and horologer for Henry VIII.[46] Like Juan Luis Vives, he was probably one of Cardinal Wolsey's lecturers who resided at Corpus while waiting for the completion of Cardinal College.[47] Kratzer designed many dials, however only three can definitely be attributed to him: fixed ones for the University Church of St Mary the Virgin and Corpus and a portable one for Cardinal Wolsey. Only Wolsey's survives;[a][49] Kratzer's Corpus dial stood in the garden until around 1706, when the gardens were remodelled for the construction of the Fellows' Building.[50]

The dial has required regular maintenance throughout existence. The markings were replaced many times over the centuries and, despite restorations overseen by a professor of natural sciences[51] and a historian of science, Robert Gunther,[52] more and more errors crept into the pillar's tables. The dial also developed a lean. This was fixed in 1967 after it was discovered that the dial had no solid foundation and that its base was made of stone panels loosely packed with rubble.[53] In 1976, the sundial was restored (and its tables corrected) to its state c. 1710 by Philip Pattenden. Since the 1710 tables were designed for the Julian calendar, they have no modern use.[54] The sundial was most recently restored in 2016.[55]

Two copies of the Pelican Sundial exist in America. The first, the Mather Sundial in Princeton University, was commissioned by William Mather as a goodwill gesture between the United Kingdom to the United States.[56] The second is on the front lawn of Pomfret School in Connecticut and was donated in 1912 by the father of a graduating student.[57]


View from Small Garden towards Main Quad

Aspects of the evolution of the college's ornamental gardens (Grade II listed) have been documented since the late 16th century.[58][b] By the turn of the 19th century, a series of strict, geometrical layouts had given way to more informal features, including a lawn in the main garden, bordered by a dense shrubbery.[58][60]

In their present form, as tended by David Leake since 1979, the gardens are considered some of the university's most unusual and exuberant.[61] Described as 'wild' gardens, the stated aim is to blend a "range of wild and cultivated flowers into a vivid yet harmonious landscape."[62] Attention to detail marks even the most intimate of spaces, such as those around the 'small garden' linking the front quad to the main garden at the back of the college.[63]

The main garden is flanked on one side by the distinctive neoclassical architecture of the Fellows' Building, which is exuberantly bordered by ornamental shrubs and perennials, overseen by climbing roses and wisteria.[59] Across the lawn, a bank shaded by a dominant copper beech leads up to a vantage point on the old city wall (above Dead Man's Walk[64]), where a line of three lime trees traces the course of a terraced avenue that was originally raised in 1623.[60] The views from here across Christ Church Meadow and into the gardens of neighbouring colleges suggest a "pleasant gardening outpost."[65]

The style of gardening is, in Leake's words, "much less formal than [in] most other colleges, but sympathetic to the atmosphere."[66] Accordingly, the library windows in the front quad are framed by seven bamboo plants.[66] Beekeeping echoes the founder's wish for the college to be a hive of activity.[61][c]

Use of herbicides and fertilisers is avoided even on the main lawn, which characteristically is allowed to incorporate plants that have self-seeded, in keeping with an overall wildlife-friendly approach (for example, spontaneous red valerian can provide a food plant for caterpillars of the hummingbird hawk-moth).[66]

Examples of exotic plants that have been cultivated include Campsis radicans (trumpet vine), Dracunculus vulgaris (dragon lily), Gunnera manicata (Brazilian giant-rhubarb), Philadelphus microphyllus (littleleaf mock-orange), and Zantedeschia aethiopica (arum lily).[65] Trees include a Wollemi pine (a species rediscovered in Australia in 1994) and quince (whose fruit is given to college fellows and friends).[61]

The greenhouse was designed by Rick Mather, the creator of the college's auditorium.[61][d] Almost frameless, it presents itself as a display cabinet in which a variety of horticultural and other informal exhibits are watched over by a surreally attired mannequin named Madame Lulu.[61][66]

Coat of arms and other symbols

The coat of arms marshalls three distinct coats of arms in adjacent vertical divisions, in heraldic terminology: tierced per pale, from dexter (viewer's left) to sinister (viewer's right):

The Pelican in her Piety (pecking her own breast to draw blood to feed her chicks) in the personal arms of the founder, Bishop Richard Foxe, in Christian iconography symbolises Christ, who nourished the Church with his blood, which action is remembered in the Eucharist. The name of the college founded by him is thus well suited to that iconography, Corpus Christi signifying in Latin "the body of Christ".[citation needed]

Because of the complexity of the arms they are not suitable for use on items such as the college tie, where the pelican alone is used. The pelican also appears alone on the college flag and on top of the Pelican Sundial.[citation needed]


The grace laid out in the founding statutes is still said before every formal dinner in hall:

Nos miseri et egentes homines pro hoc cibo, quem in alimonium corporis nostri sanctificatum es largitus, ut eo recte utamur, Tibi, Deus omnipotens, Pater caelestis, reverenter gratias agimus; simul obsecrantes, ut cibum angelorum, panem verum caelestem, Dei Verbum aeternum, Iesum Christum Dominum nostrum, nobis impertiaris, ut Eo mens nostra pascatur, et per carnem et sanguinem Eius alamur, foveamur, corroboremur.[69]

which translates to

We wretched and needy mortals give reverent thanks to you, almighty God, heavenly Father, for this food, which you have given us to nourish our bodies, praying at the same time that you may bestow on us the food of angels, the true heavenly bread, the eternal Word of God, Jesus Christ Our Lord, that our souls may feed on him, and that through his flesh and blood we may be nourished, cherished and strengthened.[69]

There is also a shorter grace said after dinner, which is now only used on special occasions.[citation needed]

The college traditionally keeps at least one tortoise as a living mascot, cared for by an elected 'Tortoise Keeper'. The 'Tortoise Fair', at which the Corpus tortoise(s) are raced against tortoises belonging to other colleges and local residents, is an annual event held to raise funds for charity. As of 2013, the college tortoise was named 'Foxe', after the founder of the college.[70]

People associated with the college

Notable former students and fellows

Main article: List of Corpus Christi College, Oxford people

Former students of the college include the philosopher Isaiah Berlin, the writer Vikram Seth, the columnist Camilla Long, the financial commentator Martin Wolf, former Leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband, and former Foreign Secretary David Miliband.


Main article: List of Presidents of Corpus Christi College, Oxford

Helen Moore, Associate Professor and Tutor in English, was elected president on 19 October 2018 for a term of two years. Her research focuses on mediaeval and early modern literature; most recently she has researched the reception of foreign texts in English. She has been a fellow at Corpus since 1996.[2][71]



  1. ^ The dial is currently held by Oxford Museum of the History of Science.[48]
  2. ^ The main garden, as seen today, is situated on the land the founder acquired in 1515 from Merton College (where it had been the site of their Bachelor's Garden).[58][59]
  3. ^ A surviving foxhole also references Richard Foxe in a more humane way than the fox that can be seen chained up in a yard in David Loggan's bird's-eye view of the college engraved in 1675.[60]
  4. ^ The auditorium was built in what used to be the fellows' private garden, with its rooftop Handa Terrace providing a further viewing area for the remaining gardens and their surroundings.[61]


  1. ^ "Charter of Foundation", The Foundation Statutes of Bishop Fox for Corpus Christi College in the University of Oxford A. D. 1517, translated by Ward, G. R. M., Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1843, p. xlix
  2. ^ a b Elsner, Jaś (19 October 2018). "Dr Helen Moore elected President". Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Archived from the original on 13 October 2018. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Student statistics". University of Oxford. 2017. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  4. ^ "Corpus Christi College, Oxford : Annual Report & Financial Statements : Year ended 31 July 2018" (PDF). p. 43. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  5. ^ "Undergraduate Degree Classifications 2009/10". Archived from the original on 3 October 2010.
  6. ^ "Sundials on the Internet - pillar dials". Archived from the original on 14 February 2012. Retrieved 13 November 2008.
  7. ^ Pattenden 1979, p. [page needed]
  8. ^ Corpus Wins University Challenge – Oxford News
  9. ^ "University Challenge team disqualified". BBC. 2 March 2009. Retrieved 2 March 2009.
  10. ^ Fowler 1898, pp. 6–7.
  11. ^ Fowler 1898, pp. 38–40.
  12. ^ Fowler 1898, p. 41.
  13. ^ "Oldham, Hugh". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/20685. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  14. ^ a b Salter, H. E.; Sobel, Mary D., eds. (1954). "Corpus Christi College". A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3, the University of Oxford. Victoria County History. London.
  15. ^ Charles-Edwards & Reid 2017, pp. 70, 264.
  16. ^ Fowler 1898, p. 15.
  17. ^ Fowler 1898, p. 32.
  18. ^ Fowler 1898, p. 18.
  19. ^ "1", The Foundation Statutes of Bishop Fox for Corpus Christi College in the University of Oxford A. D. 1517, translated by Ward, G. R. M., Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1843, p. 3
  20. ^ Fowler 1898, Appendix A.
  21. ^ Fowler 1898, pp. 34–35.
  22. ^ Fowler 1898, pp. 33–34.
  23. ^ Charles-Edwards & Reid 2017, pp. 64, 75–81.
  24. ^ Charles-Edwards & Reid 2017, pp. 131–132.
  25. ^ Gibbs, Lee W. (15 February 2008). "Life of Hooker". In Kirby, Torrance (ed.). A Companion to Richard Hooker. Brill's Companions to the Christian Tradition. Vol. 8. Brill. pp. 8–9. ISBN 978-90-04-16534-2. ISSN 1871-6377.
  26. ^ The Church History of Britain: From the Birth of Jesus Christ until the year MDCXLVIII, vol. 3 (3rd ed.), Thomas Tegg (published 1842), 1655, p. 231
  27. ^ Charles-Edwards & Reid 2017, p. 403.
  28. ^ "Annual Admissions Statistical Report May 2018" (PDF).
  29. ^ Tyack 1998, pp. 72–73.
  30. ^ Hudson, Paul Stephen (21 November 2016). "Oglethorpe University". New Georgia Encyclopedia.
  31. ^ Charles-Edwards & Reid 2017, p. 31.
  32. ^ Sherwood & Pevsner 1974, pp. 29, 131.
  33. ^ Fowler 1898, p. 45.
  34. ^ "Corpus Christi College". An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of Oxford. London: His Majesty's Stationery Office. 1939. pp. 48–54. Retrieved 18 January 2022.
  35. ^ Fowler 1898, pp. 46, 222.
  36. ^ Alan Baxter Associates (2014). "The Corpus Estate". Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Archived from the original on 20 August 2018.
  37. ^ Tyack 1998, p. 315.
  38. ^ a b "Completed accomodation [sic]; Projects". Corpus Christi College, Oxford. 2016. Archived from the original on 20 August 2018.
  39. ^ "The Lampl Building" (PDF). Sundial. No. 2. Corpus Christi College, Oxford. 2 September 2013. p. 10.
  40. ^ Pattenden 1979, p. 26.
  41. ^ Pattenden 1983, p. 322.
  42. ^ Pattenden 1983, p. 322–323.
  43. ^ Pattenden 1983, p. 322–325.
  44. ^ Pattenden 1979, p. 30.
  45. ^ a b Pattenden 1979, pp. 30–31.
  46. ^ Pattenden 1979, p. 12.
  47. ^ Pattenden 1979, pp. 11–12.
  48. ^ "Polyhedral Dial, by Nicolaus Kratzer?, English, 1518–30". MHS Collection Database Search. Museum of the History of Science. Inventory Number 54054.
  49. ^ Pattenden 1979, p. 14.
  50. ^ Pattenden 1979, pp. 21–22.
  51. ^ Pattenden 1979, pp. 48–53.
  52. ^ Pattenden 1979, pp. 55–57.
  53. ^ Pattenden 1979, pp. 59–61.
  54. ^ Pattenden 1979, pp. 64–70.
  55. ^ "The Corpus Estate" (PDF). The Pelican Record. Corpus Christi College, Oxford. LII. December 2016.
  56. ^ Pattenden 1983, p. 321.
  57. ^ "Pomfret School Sundial, (sculpture)". Art Inventories Catalog. Smithsonian American Art Museum. Inventory of American Sculpture, Control Number CT000250.
  58. ^ a b c "Corpus Christi, Oxford". Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. (via Parks&Gardens). January 2000. Archived from the original on 25 July 2019. Agas' map (1578) shows the 'Gardaine' containing trees planted regularly below the wall, and a smaller, rectangular, formally laid-out area adjacent to the east. The raised terrace in this area, constructed c 1623-4 (The Pelican [(1979-80), pp 20-29]) against the City Wall, is shown in 1675 (Loggan [Map of Oxford]) with an elaborate two-storey pavilion at the west end, a line of trees growing along the top, and two rows of shrubs growing on the level, open area to the north, parallel with the trees. A similar layout is shown in 1726, behind Front Quad with its central sundial and the newly-built Fellows' Building to the east, which retains the smaller enclosed area east of the terrace garden, shown formally laid out in 1733 (Williams [Oxonia Depicta, 1733]). By 1814 (Ackerman [A History of the University of Oxford]) most of the formal elements in the garden south of the Fellows' Building, including the internal divisions, had been removed and the east end of the City Wall lowered, leaving an open lawn partially bordered by the raised terrace to the south.
  59. ^ a b Richardson 2018, pp. 66–67.
  60. ^ a b c Richardson 2018, p. 67.
  61. ^ a b c d e f Garth, John (16 March 2015). "Root and branch: John Garth meets the extraordinary creator of one of the most storied and unusual Oxford college gardens". Archived from the original on 23 July 2019.
  62. ^ "Corpus Christi College Oxford - The Gardens". Archived from the original on 23 July 2019.
  63. ^ Richardson 2018, p. 64.
  64. ^ "Oxford City Wall - South Wall: Christ Church, with Bastions 20 & 21". Archived from the original on 24 July 2019.
  65. ^ a b Lacey, Stephen (9 July 2001). "A free-for-all in the quad". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 23 July 2019.
  66. ^ a b c d Beck, Caroline (23 April 2016). "Me and my garden: 'It's like paradise, surrounded by beautiful buildings and overlooking Christ Church meadow'". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 23 July 2019.
  67. ^ Izacke, Richard (c.1624–1698), (improved and continued to the year 1724 by Samuel Izacke), Remarkable Antiquities of the City of Exeter, 3rd Edition, London, 1731, A Perfect Catalogue of all the Bishops of this Church ... together with the Coats of Armory and Mottoes Described, pp.25-50[1][2]
  68. ^ Oxford University Calendar 2001–2002 (2001) p.231. Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-951872-6.
  69. ^ a b "General Information and College Rules" (PDF). Corpus Christi College, Oxford. September 2009. p. 31.
  70. ^ Miller, Emily (25 May 2013). "Oxford in suspense for Corpus tortoise fair". Cherwell. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  71. ^ "Dr Helen Moore". Faculty of English, University of Oxford. Retrieved 20 October 2018.