The Divinity School, Oxford – History and Harry Potter in the Bodleian Library
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Planning your visit to Oxford’s Divinity School? From history to Harry Potter, here’s what you need to know.
The Divinity School is one of the most beautiful places in Oxford – no easy task in a city that is packed with gorgeous spots. Ornately decorated with an intricate ceiling (more on that later) and light streaming through the windows – it’s a must for any visit to the city.
Tucked away inside the Bodleian Library, the main research library of the university, the Divinity School sits opposite the Sheldonian Theatre and featured… you guessed it – in the Harry Potter films.
So, what’s so special about Divinity School and why should you visit?
We’ve got you covered. History, Harry Potter and a few fun facts are included for good measure. Here’s everything you need to know about Oxford’s Divinity School.
What is the Divinity School?
The Divinity School is a 15th-century Gothic building built in the perpendicular style that forms a part of the University of Oxford. It occupies the lower storey of Duke Humphrey’s Library and it’s mostly used for oral exams, lectures and discussions on theology.
In fact, as the Divinity School was built between 1427 and 1483, it’s actually the oldest purpose-built university building that’s still in use today.
Sure, that’s all interesting enough but the Divinity School is best known for its striking ornamentation and spectacular vaulted ceiling.
Designed by William Orached in the 1480s, it consists of lierne vaulting and 455 sculptural roof-bosses with hanging pendants in each bay.
The History of the Divinity School
Built between 1427 and 1483, the Divinity School is one of the most impressive rooms in the university – but there’s a lot more to it than being a plain old university building.
Don’t believe me? The Divinity School was also used as a seat of Parliament several times throughout the 17th Century and during the time of the English Civil War.
In 1625, the House of Commons sat in Divinity School for the first time to avoid the plague that was wreaking havoc in London.
Twenty years later Charles I decided to move his court to Oxford during the Civil War and in 1644 the Royalist Parliament, comprising about one-third of the House of Commons also sat in Divinity School.
Today, the Grade-I listed building is used for lectures, oral exams, discussions on theology and occasionally as a filming location (we’re getting to that).
The spectacular venue is also available for public hire, and many people hire it year on year for lavish parties and events. It certainly has the wow factor to be a backdrop for grand parties!
Wait… Don’t I Recognise the Oxford Divinity School from Harry Potter?
Divinity School’s intricate gothic vaulted ceiling is best recognised from Harry Potter – 10 points to Gryffindor if you can guess which films it features in.
It served as Hogwarts Infirmary in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Need a little more help?
The Divinity School was the backdrop for when Harry Potter had just encountered his first terrifying meeting with Lord Voldemort. Hospital beds were lined up in Bodleian Library underneath that iconic gothic ceiling, and Dumbledore eats and ear wax every flavour bean.
It’s also the hospital wing in Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets when some of the students were petrified. It’s also featured again in the Prisoner of Azkabhan when Harry was injured by the Dementors.
During the Half-Blood Prince, Ron has a short stint at the Divinity School when he drinks poison that was meant for Dumbledore.
Practical Tips for Visiting Oxford’s Divinity School
- To visit Divinity School, you’ll need to book yourself a ticket for a self-guided tour. Tickets are available in advance or on the day of visiting, and tickets are £2.50 per person. Entrance to the courtyard is free.
- Divinity School is open seven days a week, Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm, Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm.
- No food or drink is allowed in Divinity School