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University Church of St. Mary the Viirgin

St. Mary  the Virgin, on High Street, holds a special place in the history of Oxford  University. It was here that the first library of the university was  established, and legend has it that the first gatherings of Masters and students  was held here as early as the 12th century.

More  dramatically, St. Mary's was the site of the trial of the "Oxford Martyr's",  when Bishops Latimer and Ridley, and Archbishop Cranmer, were tried for heresy  in 1555.

The  church, at the meeting of High Street and Catte Street, forms one side of  Radcliffe Square, facing the domed Radcliffe Camera. The most notable feature of  St. Mary the Virgin is its spire, which contains elements of the original 13th  century construction. The view from the top of St. Mary the Virgin is superb,  and you can look down into the quads of several nearby colleges, notably  neighbor All Soul's College.

gargoyle on St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford
Gargoyle on  St. Mary's


If you  do mount the 127 stairs to the top of the tower you will also be rewarded with a  close view of St. Mary's gargoyles, which are some of Oxford's finest (or should  that be, most grotesque?).

Also  keep an eye open for the unusual "barley-twist" columns supporting the front  portico to St. Mary's.

Entry to  the church itself is free, but there is a nominal charge to climb the tower. St.  Mary's is open from 0900- 1900 during July and August, and until 1700 during the  rest of the year.

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