ChurchSights and activitiesUniversity Church of St Mary the Virgin

To £4

The University Church of St Mary the Virgin, also known as St Mary’s, SMV or the University Church, lies at the centre of the University of Oxford and most of its parish consists of university buildings.

A church has stood on this spot from at least 1086 and the oldest part of the current church building dates from around 1270 with the main part of the church dating from the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

The church is recognised as the university’s original building. The university’s first library was inside the church and graduation ceremonies and other university events were held here until the opening of the Sheldonian Theatre in 1669.

University Church of St Mary the Virgin in Oxford, Oxfordshire (Photo: Dmitry Dzhus [CC BY-SA 2.0])
University Church of St Mary the Virgin in Oxford, Oxfordshire (Photo: Dmitry Dzhus [CC BY-SA 2.0])

What to see at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin

It is a lovely church with a 15th- and 16th-century nave and the university’s original library that was used prior to the opening of the Bodleian Library.

The main reason people visit this church is for the panoramic views available from the 13th-century church tower, which features beautiful carved stonework with gargoyles and grotesques.

The University Church of St Mary the Virgin offers a unique vantage point with brilliant views of the Radcliffe Camera (Photo: sagesolar [CC BY-SA 2.0])
The University Church of St Mary the Virgin offers a unique vantage point with brilliant views of the Radcliffe Camera (Photo: sagesolar [CC BY-SA 2.0])
The tower is accessed via a medieval circular staircase with 127 steps that take you past the Old Library and the bell chamber. It is a narrow space that can feel claustrophobic, but it offers amazing views of Oxford. Because of its location, the tower has Oxford’s best view of the Radcliffe Camera.

The 13th-century church tower of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin in Oxford is reached via a narrow medieval spiral staircase that some people may find claustraphobic (Photo: James Mitchell [CC BY-SA 2.0])
The 13th-century church tower of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin in Oxford is reached via a narrow medieval spiral staircase that some people may find claustraphobic (Photo: James Mitchell [CC BY-SA 2.0])

Visiting the University Church of St Mary the Virgin

The church is in the centre of the university area directly facing the Radcliffe Camera.

Although there is no entry fee to visit the church, there is a £4 charge to visit the tower.

Wheelchair access is available to the nave, the Adam de Brome chapel and the Old Library but the gallery and tower are not wheelchair accessible. Visitors in wheelchairs need to enter via the High Street entrance.

There is a very nice coffee shop with vaulted ceilings and outdoor seating in the church’s garden area.

Amenities
  • Cafe/restaurant

There are no comments yet.

Submit your review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Plan your next trip to England with us

Planning a trip to England? englandrover.com is your independent source of travel information with information about how to get around, what to see and do and where to stay on your next trip to England.

Plan your next trip to England with us

Planning a trip to England? englandrover.com is your independent source of travel information with information about how to get around, what to see and do and where to stay on your next trip to England.

The South

The Midlands

The North

Back to England Rover home

Copyright 2018–2022 by BUG Travel Publishing Ltd.

Back to England Rover home

Copyright 2018–2022 BUG Travel Publishing Ltd

Login

Register

Your personal data will be used to support your experience throughout this website, to manage access to your account, and for other purposes described in our privacy policy.

Already have account?

Lost Password

Please enter your username or email address. You will receive a link to create a new password via email.