Oxford Four Gates Pilgrimage to the Centre – 5 miles, 1 day

Oxford was built around a cross-road pattern, and its old city plan resembles that of a cathedral. At Oxford’s centre is Carfax Tower (‘carfax’ is Latin for crossroads), but its spiritual centre is Frideswide’s Shrine in Christ Church Cathedral. To connect Frideswide’s out-of-town dwelling at Binsey with her final resting place, pilgrims start at St Frideswide’s Well in the secluded grove around Binsey Church. Pilgrims walk across the wildlife-rich Port Meadow towards St Barnabus’ Church of Jericho (beloved of many famous writers) and on to the Oxford Oratory and Pusey House to connect with a Anglo-Catholic aesthetic, then St Giles’ Church and the Martyrs Mark on Broad Street.

Then, to make a circumambulatory journey around the line of the old city boundary to the centre of old Oxford (in the same way that you would do upon entering a Gothic cathedral), pilgrims enter via the Northgate at St Michael’s Saxon Tower before heading up the tower of University Church to achieve a birds-eye panorama of the dreaming spires. Back down at street level, pilgrims head east via Queen’s Lane to the site of the old Eastgate at St Edmund Hall before connecting via Logic Lane south to Merton College and its grand yet peaceful chapel. After Merton, pilgrims follow the River Thames as it clings to the Christ Church meadows to Folly Bridge, the site of the old city’s Southgate and the river crossing which inspired the name ‘Oxford’. Then it’s a little further along the river until reaching St Ebbe’s old bathing place on the approach to the Oxford Mound and the medieval Westgate now marked by St Peter’s College Chapel. Having circumambulated the city round to its Westgate, it is time to walk the central axis to the centre, Carfax Tower, before the final few yards to the sacred centre of Chist Church Cathedral, housing the shrine of Frideswide, the female patron saint of Oxfordshire.

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Tom Jones

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