On a beautiful later September morning, it was a pleasure to walk into town travelling with only a tripod and camera fitted with Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0L lens. Todays visits were both chapels without stained glass and were almost immediate neighbours, separated by about 50m. Neither had I seen before, although I was very much aware of the huge Blackfriars site.
St Benet’s Hall
What a stunning small chapel, just of St Giles’ – on of the main roads in the very centre of Oxford. This was very much of the size I have become accustomed to, and it seemed rather typical of a Friary or similar. The lighting, while bright, was perfect as I had no need to photograph any stained glass.
St Benet’s Hall is a Permanent Private Hall of the University of Oxford. Established in 1897 by Ampleforth Abbey, it is a Benedictine foundation whose function was to allow its monks to be able to study for secular degrees at the university.
For seven years (1897–1904) St Benet’s Hall was established at 103, Woodstock Road. For the succeeding eighteen years (1904–22) it occupied 8- 9 Beaumont Street, where now is the Oxford Playhouse. Its current location was previously occupied by a boarding and day school for girls, run by French Ursuline nuns. The school opened in 1909, with the chapel being added in 1911. The community of nuns returned in 1922 to Versailles and the site was purchased from them by the Benedictines of Ampleforth Abbey in the summer of that year.
From the main road, Blackfriars has always looked big, but I was amazed by the size of its interior… it is vast, with a choir larger than most of Oxford’s chapels. I was given the choice of photographing from floor level, or from a gallery at window level. The latter lent itself to a more pleasing composition and provided a much greater feeling of space.
First established in Oxford in 1221, Blackfriars is the home of a community of Dominican Friars. The current Priory, designed by Edward Doran Webb and was established on 15 August, 1921, 700 years to the day after it was first established. It fulfils the role of monastery, college, seminary and church. Since 1994, Blackfriars has been a Permanent Private Hall of the University of Oxford.
The lack of ornate decoration is perhaps unusual for a Catholic chapel, but the simplicity of the Priory Chapel forms a perfect stage for the visually impressive drama of Mass. The plain glass throughout bathes the space in light, with the seven-light liturgical East window (faces west) framing beautifully the foliage within the Priory garden.