I had a great day in some of the libraries in Oxford today. I started out in the library of the Theological Faculty, just across the street from St. John’s College. I had a seat at a desk at ground level looking out the window at the people visiting Oxford. They come from every country, in every size and color. It was a wonderful opportunity to do some research on early biblical manuscripts.
I then went on a tour of the Bodleian Library. It is one of the oldest libraries in Europe, going back to 1488. It wasn’t heated, there were no chairs or tables to work at, and the books were chained to the shelves. One would have had to have been very committed to their research. It is second in size only to the British Library, and is one of six legal deposit libraries which means that it receives a copy of every book published in England, which means that about 1,200 new books arrive every week. When it was restored in 1598 after a period of decline, through a grant from Thomas Bodley, candles were forbidden which meant that research could only be done in daylight hours. Three scenes from the Harry Potter movies were filmed in various parts of the library, the infirmary scene, the dancing scene and a library scene.
There are various buildings comprising the Bodleian Library, and there are nine doors leading off of the main courtyard with the title above the doorways of the discipline housed in that part of the library: the seven Liberal Arts (The Trivium: Logic, Grammar, Rhetoric; and the Quadrivium: Arithmetic, Astronomy, Geometry, Music), the Philosophies, and Languages.
I ended up at the Wycliffe Hall library, kindly arranged by my host, Markus Bockmuehl. Many of my friends have studied for the ministry here. I was fortunate to see Peter Walker, a recent visitor to St. Francis. He has taken a new post at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, replacing a friend of mine who has gone to be a Bishop in Ethiopia. Peter will be in Jerusalem while I am there and so I’m hoping to connect with him again.
One of the sites that I find most moving in Oxford is the simple cross in gold bricks on Broad Street that memorializes the deaths of Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer who were martyred for their faith by Queen Mary. Their commitment to, and zeal for, the gospel are very challenging to our modern apathy and lethargy. You will see the cross in the road in the slides.
signing off, Father Wismer