Chapel History

The first chapel

The original chapel was built for the Benedictine Durham College and dedicated on 27 January 1410. Sir Thomas Pope bought the buildings of Durham College to found Trinity College in 1555, and the chapel served his college for a further 150 years.

Sir Thomas Pope’s wife, Elizabeth, made provision in her will for a tomb in the chapel to house the her remains and those of Sir Thomas, which still survives. Trinity is the only college in Oxford to contain the tomb of its founder.

The new chapel

Work on the current chapel began in 1691 instituted by Ralph Bathurst, president of the college, dean of Wells Cathedral and vice-chancellor of the University. He personally met the expense of the shell of the building, and seems to have directed its design with the master mason Bartholomew Peisley. The design was modified by Sir Christopher Wren, a friend of Bathurst and fellow member of the Royal Society. The interior involved the royal sculptor, Grinling Gibbons, and the French Huguenot painter, Pierre Berchet.

The chapel was consecrated in 1694 and was hailed by contemporaries as the most magnificent chapel in the University. Its dynamic integration of architecture, sculpture and painting is unrivalled amongst surviving ecclesiastical interiors in England.

The chapel has been changed little since it was built. The stained glass was added in 1885, the gift of the then Bursar, later President, Henry Woods. The organ, and organ loft, were installed in the 1960s.

The Chapel of Trinity College Oxford – Martin Kemp (Scala, 2013) provides a more detailed history and can be purchased from the college.

chapel photo