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Schools Quadrangle, Oxford
17th Century

Click on photos to enlarge.
Notes in italics from Oxfordshire by Jennifer Sherwood and Nikolaus Pevsner (1974)
Yale University Press, New Haven and London.



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East North South

The Schools Quadrangle, considering its date, 1613-24, is a formidable building, and without parallel in the secular architecture of those years. The conception, one speculates,  may have been less the master-masons' .. than Bodley's, although only the second floor was built for his purposes and the rest indeed for the Schools. ... The building is to the outside an unrelieved block, very nearly square, three storeys high, with very widely spaced identical straight-headed four-light windows ... all lights being cusped round arches. The windows are thus Gothic in intention, and Gothic are the carvings of the top frieze, the battlements, and the pinnacles. In the middle, again in the Oxford tradition, stands a tower, two more storeys high. ... The top of the tower is a pierced Gothic parapet with eight pinnacles. To the N and S the system is identical, only the doorways .. are not in the middle. So the motifs are all those used by colleges at the same moment as well, but the regularity with which Bodley had them employed was new. ...


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Through the archway under the tower into the quad. One should on arrival turn back at once; for such a frontispiece as this one will never see again. With five tiers it is the biggest in England, and that means anywhere. The' parti' of these frontispieces is of course Italo-French Renaissance in origin. ... It starts with a plain stage of coupled Tuscan columns. Next slim Roman Doric pairs, with a broad band of mixed strap and foliage motifs also around the pedestals of the columns. In addition, the columns have their lower tow-fifths decorated.. Six-light, transomed window. Top frieze of strapwork. Next stage Ionic columns ... Next stage Corinthian columns, and between them a big panel showing James I seated in a niche under a canopy which, taking in the niche, is round in plan, and to his l. Fame, to his r. the kneeling University. Above and reaching into the top stage three statuettes. Composite columns with strapwork plinths and frieze, and another six-light window. The polygonal angle turrets end in crocketed spires, and between them is a big pierced strapwork cresting. 


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View of tower from Sheldonian cupola

The west side of the Schools quadrangle is the Proscholium, entrance to the Bodleian Library and the Divinity School.


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