the Virtual Tour of Brasenose College

The Chapel, a remarkable building, one of very few begun in England during the years of the Protectorate and long attributed to Sir Christopher Wren. The architect was in fact John Jackson (died 1663), also employed as master mason at St. John's College, and his bold blend of styles can already be seen in the external features, Gothic lines mixing with classical detail. The urns along the roof suggest Vanbrugh's later experiments in English Baroque.

Inside the surprises continue, for the narrow entrance portal leads into a high and sombre antechapel which likewise gives a certain sense of the Baroque. The W. window has painted glass of 1776 by James Pearson, to a design by J. R. Mortimer in the possession of the College. There are some interesting monuments here to former fellows, notable those for Walter Pater and Albert Watson, the latter an early work (19o5) by Eric Gill.

Eastward lies the main body of the Chapel, dominated by an extraordinary ornamental ceiling. Not by accident is this 'glorious climax of the seventeenthcentury Gothic revival' (Nikolaus Pevsner) the focal-point of the building, for the rest of the building was literally constructed around it. The College transferred from its Frewin Hall site a wooden hammerbeam roof of c. 1440 which had belonged to the chapel of the Augustinian canons there. This determined the dimensions of the new Chapel and was covered by Jackson in an elaborate plaster fan-vault which no doubt owes something to the inspiration of the choir in Christ Church Cathedral.

The ceiling was painted by C. E. Kempe in the 1890s and has recently been refurbished. The Chapel fitments belong mostly to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: the brass lectern is dated 173 1, the chandeliers and marble reredos are c. 1750. The organ-case of 1892 (by T. G. Jackson) houses an instrument lately renewed by means of a benefaction from Maurice Platnauer (Principal 1956-60, died 1974).

© Copyright 2001
University of Oxford

 

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