A Brief Chronology of Catholic Oxford
Early Middle Ages: the beginnings of the University
912 First mention of Oxford, in the Saxon Chronicle, when it is recovered from the Danes by King Ethelred
1120 Theobald of Etampes teaching at a school with '60 or 100 clerks more or less'. Since no foundation of such a school is likely between 1066 and 1120, this school probably dates from before the Norman Conquest. This gives some plausibility to the tradition of a foundation by King Alfred the Great.
1161 English students banned from Paris by Henry II. Many of these congregated in Oxford: this is one explanation of the rise of Oxford as a centre of scholarship.
c.1195 St Edmund of Abingdon studies at Oxford, on the site which developed into St Edmund's Hall.
1221 Party of the newly founded Dominican 'Order of Preachers', the 'Blackfriars', set off to found a house of studies in Oxford. They establish themselves first in Jewish quarter, then move to area around Speedwell Street.
1225 Franciscan friars, the 'Greyfriars', found a house of studies in Oxford, in St Ebbes / Westgate.
1249 University College ('The Great Hall of the University') founded, to support ten masters.
1263 Balliol College founded (by John de Baliol, King of Scotland), as a hall of residence for poor scholars.
1264 Merton College founded, the first college to combine masters and students in one institution.
1281 Benedictine monks of Gloucester Cathedral found a house of studies, Gloucester Hall (where Worcester College now stands). This is soon used by many Benedictine houses of the South and West.
1281 Cistercians found Rewley Abbey as a house of studies. Later, they found St Bernard's College, where St John's now stands.
1286 Durham College (where Trinity College now stands) founded, a house of studies for the Benedictines of Durham Cathedral and the North.
1310 Duke Humphrey's Library founded.
1314 Exeter college founded, to train priests for the diocese of Exeter.
1326 Oriel College founded, for secular clergy of all dioceses.
1340 The Queen's College founded, for the secular clergy of the North.
Reconstruction after the Black Death (
1347 - 1350)
1362 Canterbury Hall founded, a house of studies for the Benedictines of Canterbury Cathedral, and the secular clergy of the Province of Canterbury
1379 New College founded, for the secular clergy of the South.
1427 Lincoln College founded, for the secular clergy of the diocese of Lincoln.
1437 All Souls College founded as a community of scholar-priests, to say Masses for the dead of the war with France.
1448 Magdalen College founded
1509 Brasenose College founded, for the secular clergy.
1516 Corpus Christi College founded by Bishop Fox, especially for the study of Greek.
1526 Cardinal College founded by Cardinal Wolsey; refounded as Christ Church in 1546, by Henry VIII.
The Protestant Revolt
1530 Oxford delays its response to King Henry's question about the validity of his marriage to Katharine of Aragon; finally, the theology faculty, not the University, supplies the desired answer.
[1532 St Thomas More resigns as Lord Chancellor over the question of Henry VIII's divorce.]
[1533 Henry VIII marries Anne Boleyn and is excommunicated by Pope Clement VII; Cranmer appointed Archbishop of Canterbury.]
[1534 Act of Supremacy: Henry VIII declared Supreme Head of the Church of England.]
1535 College libraries ransaked. St Thomas More and St John, Cardinal Fisher beheaded.
1536 Dissolution of smaller monasteries in England, carried out by Thomas Cromwell. This leads to the Pilgrimage of Grace, centred in Yorkshire.
1538 Suppression of the Friars' houses in Oxford.
1539 Dissolution of the large religious houses. Abbots Blessed Richard Whiting (Glastonbury) and Blessed Hugh Farringdon (Reading), executed. Monastic colleges destroyed.
[1540 Carthusian martyrdoms in London.]
1541 Suppression of Shrines, including the shrine of St Frideswide in Oxford, located in Christ Church cathedral, which had been an important centre of pilgrimage. The valuables were confiscated and the shrine smashed to pieces.
1547 Edward VI, King of England and Supreme Head of the Church of England: Duke of Somerset acts as Protector. Chantries Act destroys the chantries and seizes their assets.
1553 Parish churches stripped of their valuables, as well as of devotional images and objects.
1549 First version of Book of Common Prayer. Royal policy said to be supported by only 2 of the 13 surviving heads of colleges. Riots in Oxford are quashed, and recalcitrant priests are hanged from their church spires in Chipping Norton and Bloxham. Heads of Catholics fastened to Oxford City walls. The Western Rising, in Devon and Cornwall, eventually crushed, leads to the fall of Somerset.
1552 new version of Book of Common Prayer, with unequivocally Protestant teachings on the Sacraments and so on.
Restoration of Catholicism: Mary Tudor: 1553-1558
1555 Trinity College and St John's College founded. The Dominican Peter de Soto teaches in Oxford.
Restoration of Protestantism: Elizabeth Tudor: 1558-1603
[1559 Act of Uniformity, passed by a margin of three votes, reimposes a slightly modified 1552 prayer-book; a wave of vandalism, by Protestant fanatics and royal officials, follows. Elizabeth is made the 'Supreme Governor' of the Church of England by the Act of Supremacy, which made Catholic resistance to Protestantism a capital offence. All but one of the bishops refused to co-operate; those unable to flee ended their days in prison.]
1559 Royal Commissioners visit Oxford; Catholic students imprisoned 'in great numbers.'
1561 William Allen, later Cardinal, resigns as head of St Mary's Hall, Oxford, and leaves the country. He later returns (still a layman) and encourages Catholics in the Oxford area and elsewhere. Six students imprisoned for resisting the removal of a chapel crucifix.
1565 Allen leaves England again, and with many other Oxford scholars he founds a Catholic University and seminary at Douay, in the Spanish Netherlands (1567). The seminary produced more than 160 martyrs for the Catholic faith. Other seminaries, monasteries and convents are founded by English Catholics overseas in the succeeding years.
[1569 Northern Rising, against the imposition of Protestantism.]
[1570 Pope St Pius V excommunicates Queen Elizabeth, and declares her deposed.]
1571 White Hall, an old hall of residence, refounded as Jesus College.
1574 Arrival in England of the first priests ordained at Douay for the English mission, who include a former fellow of St John's.
1577 Rowland Jenkins, an Oxford stationer, condemned to lose his ears for distributing Popish books, at the 'Black Assize'. Arrival in England St Ralph Sherwin, an alumnus of Exeter College. (Sherwin was martyred in 1581.)
1580 Arrival in England of the first Jesuit priests for the English mission, including St Edmund Campion, formerly Fellow of St John's, and Robert Persons, formerly Bursar of Balliol.
1580 Fr William Hartley sent to Oxford (Fr Arthur Pitts to Cambridge) to encourage vocation (Hartley was martyred in 1588).
1581 St Edmund Campion's book Decem Rationes left on the pews of the University Church in Oxford; later the same year he was martyred in London. Executions of Catholic priests, ordained overseas, and those who help them, frequent for the rest of Elizabeth's reign, and into that of James I.
1581 Undergraduates required to subscribe to the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Anglican Church. This requirement was abolished in 1871.
1587 Execution of the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots by Queen Elizabeth provokes war with Spain. William Allen created Cardinal in preparation for an anticipated Catholic restoration following a Spanish victory. Elizabeth's victory marked by savage persecution of Catholics: in the four months between 22 July and 27 November, of 1588, twenty-one seminary priests, eleven laymen, and one woman were put to death for their Catholic faith.]
1589 Martyrdoms of Blessed Nichols, Yaxley, Belson and Prichard in Oxford.
Bodleian Library founded.
(James I: 1603-1625; Charles I: 1625-1649; Civil War starts 1642; Cromwell’s ‘Commonwealth’ 1649-1660; Charles II restored 1660-1685; James II 1685, expelled 1688.
1605 ‘Gunpowder Plot’: most famous of many real and imaginary ‘Popish plots’. The plotters had met in the Catherine Wheel Inn, now occupied by Balliol College.
1609 Douay translation of the Bible, prepared mainly by Catholic Oxford scholars working overseas, appears, two years before King James’ ‘Authorized Version’.
1610 Wadham College founded on ruins of the college of the Trinitarian Friars.
1610 Martyrdom of Blessed George Napier (Napper) in Oxford.
1621 Oxford Physic Garden, later called the Botanic Garden, founded.
1624 Broadgate Hall refounded as Pembroke College.
1625 Charles I becomes king; marries the Catholic Henrietta Maria, sister of Louis XIII of France, who prevents him signing the death warrants of captured priests.]
1642 Protestant fervour stirred by the beginning of the Civil War: Catholic books and pictures burned in the streets. Townsmen favour Parliament; the University the King. Oxford becomes the King’s headquarters. The King is forced by the Long Parliament to authorise executions of Catholic priests; a spate of martyrdoms is carried out around the country.
1644 Oxford falls to General Fairfax’s Parliamentarian troops. University and town purged of Royalists; 25 Anglican clergy ejected for their religious views.
1649 Leveller (Protestant extremist) troops of the Parliamentarian garrison of Oxford mutiny; two executed in Gloucester Green. Leveller unrest around the country.
1660 James II returns in triumph to London; Royalists and High Churchmen return from exile, and often to their positions in the University.
[1673 Test Act aims to deprive English Roman Catholics and Nonconformists of public office.]
1678 Titus Oates fabricates a ‘Popish plot’ to assassinate Charles II: anti-Catholic riots in Oxford, in which effigies of the Pope were burned; elsewhere in England the last martyrdoms are suffered as a result, 1679.
685 Charles II received into the Catholic Church on his deathbed. Succeeded by the Catholic James II.]
1687 James II issues Declaration of Liberty of Conscience, extends toleration to all religions.]
1688 James II’s contest with Magdalen College over his proposal for a Catholic Dean; Catholics head University College and Christ Church, and Mass said more openly. More anti-Catholic riots in Oxford precede the expulsion of James II. Test Act reimposed, and Catholic academics are forced to leave.
Worcester College founded, on ruins of Gloucester Hall
[1791 Catholic Relief Act legalises Catholic churches, and removes other restrictions on Catholics.]
Chapel of St Ignatius, with a presbytery, was built, the first Catholic church in Oxford since the accession of Queen Elizabeth.
19th -20th Centuries
1817 George Canning rejected as Burgess of Oxford University, for his favouring a Catholic Emancipation Act
[1828 Test Act repealed; 1829 Catholic Emancipation Act removed most remaining legal restrictions on Catholics.]
1833-45 ‘Oxford Movement’ of prominent Anglican theologians, who attempted to reintroduce Catholic elements into their church. Many influenced by this, and some of its leaders, become Catholics, including the Venerable John Henry Newman, formerly Fellow of Oriel College and Vicar of St Mary’s (the University Church). He was received into the Church in 1845 while at Littlemore, outside Oxford.
1871 Thirty-Nine Articles no longer required of Undergraduates.
1875 Building of St Aloysius.
1895 Catholic Bishops allow Catholics to attend the Protestant University.
1895 Benedictines of St Lawrence’s Abbey, Ampleforth, found a house of studies in Oxford; it becomes a Hall of the University, and is known as St Benet’s Hall from 1920. (Halls were called by the name of their Master, e.g. ‘Hunter Blair Hall’, until in 1918 they could be ‘Permanent Private Halls’.)
1895 Jesuits establish a Hall of the University; known as Campion Hall from 1918.
1911 Building of St Edmund and St Frideswide, Iffley Road, and St Gregory and St Augustine, Woodstock Road
1929 Dominicans open Blackfriars as a house of studies; it becomes a Permanent Private Hall in the 1990s.
1931 Capuchin Franciscans take over St Edmund and St Frideswide, Iffley Road, and establish a house of studies; it becomes a Permanent Private Hall of the University in 1957.
(For more on Act of Parliament against Catholics, and the repeal of these, see here.)