The Harry Potter film series embodies the magical world created by J. K. Rowling. Most of the film’s scenes were re-created in film studios, presenting a make-believe Britain that excited British Harry Potter fans.
However, many of the film’s sets were based on real locations that today are visited by a number of Potterheads from around the world. According to the BBC, one of the most popular locations of this kind is Christ Church College in Oxford, England, founded in 1546 by King Henry VIII and the alma mater of 13 British prime ministers.
A few of the scenes in the Harry Potter series were filmed in the complex of the college and the 16th-century cathedral, an integral feature of Christ Church College.
Since the 12th century, Oxford was a significant European educational center. Oxford University is a collective of 38 modern independent colleges and Christ Church is one of them, resting in the heart of the city. It was founded almost five centuries ago as a part of a Renaissance educational reform that strove towards raising a generation of young men who would lead an active life and still observe the church conduct.
According to the college’s official website, in 1524 Cardinal Wolsey planned to build a new Cardinal’s College and provide the necessary financial funding by closing the St Frideswide Priory in Oxford, which seemed like a perfect place for the future college as it included a church and several buildings. Wolsey also hoped to use this opportunity to boost his social status as a “humanist intellectual” by using the wealth of the church.
Five years later, however, his plan was off after he fell from power. In 1546, Henry VIII took over the college and established it as Aedes Christi or the House of Christ. Henry’s ambition was to keep the college as an educational institution and also to include the magnificent Romanesque church.
The church has a distinguished history and was once considered the smallest cathedral in England, mainly famous for its bell tower which was designed in 1682 by Sir Christopher Wren, an alumnus of the college. Today, the cathedral is completely separated from the work of the college and open to all. Despite being a college chapel, the members of Christ Church are not required to attend services or belong to the Christian faith in order to observe the ceremonials.
Due to Henry VIII’s administration, Christ Church was highly appreciated by the royal family as several historical records have shown. Reportedly, during the 17th century, Charles I was a long-term resident in Christ Church and stayed for four years during the English Civil War. He regularly attended the services in the cathedral and used the Great Hall of the complex as a venue of his parliament.
The vastness of the college’s complex, as well as its lively academic atmosphere, has attracted a myriad of influential persons from the realm of politics or religion. The famous philosopher John Locke taught there, as well as Lewis Carrol, the writer of Alice in Wonderland, who was a math professor.
Undoubtedly, each corner of this ancient educational complex has its secrets to tell. Nevertheless, Christ Church’s most praised section is the Hall. Until the 1870s it was the largest hall in Oxford, a title which was later overthrown by Keble College. The BBC has reported that the eye-catching Renaissance design of the Great Hall captivated Harry Potter’s producers, who came up with the idea of building a replica of the Hall in the film studios in London. The Hall represented Hogwart’s vast dining hall, while the staircase leading to the Hall was used for the arrival scene of the new Hogwarts students in both The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets.
Today, tourists gladly pay to go on a tour with an itinerary including both the college and the cathedral. Apparently, the Harry Potter mania has significantly increased the number of visitors to Oxford’s Christ Church who are eager to see more of the film locations. Currently, Christ Church College estimates an annual number of 350,000 visitors.
According to the college’s officials, however, this huge number puts a pressure on the college complex and its facilities so, every year the admission fees rise in the summer in order to control the number of visitors.