The Divinity School was built over six decades from c.1420 as the university lecture theatre for theology. The beauty of the vault, completed in 1483, is testimony to the undisputed status of divinity as the queen of the sciences within the medieval university, a testimony all the more impressive when compared with the 'Scholae Publicae' which served the other disciplines before the construction of the Schools Quadrangle. Far from being purely decorative, the vault also supports Duke Humphrey's Library, which occupies the entire floor above. Since the 1620s, the Divinity School has been entered from the Schools Quadrangle via the Proscholium to the east. Since 1637, the doorway to the west has lead to Convocation House. In 1669, a gothic doorway was inserted in the north wall, probably by Christopher Wren, on axis with the south door to the Sheldonian Theatre, in order to allow processions between the two buildings. Comparison with the engraving in Oxonia illustrata (1675) reveals some changes to the wooden furnishings.
Literature. E Soffe, 'The Divinity School, Oxford: The Relation Between its Architectural Form and its Perception' (2015): available here.
Credits: Howard Hotson (September 2016)