The University Church of St. Mary the Virgin has reopened to the public following extensive restoration work.
The completed refurbishment, costing £5.5 million, officially opened on Friday 8 March. It marks the greatest change to the church building since the late nineteenth century.
The renovation included the restoration of the chancel and nave, the painting of the ceiling and the addition of a new ‘celure’, which recreates a celestial sky in paint.
Improvements have also been made to the public access of the church, including the re-grading of the garden to provide wheelchair access and the installation of a lift designed to fit with the building’s historical structure.
The Reverend Canon Brian Mountford, vicar at the University Church, said in a statement, “We are delighted with the results of this restoration project and we hope our congregation and hundreds of thousands of annual visitors will be just as pleased with the Church.
“Our attention now turns towards our education project, which will celebrate the Church’s historic relationship with the community of Oxford and the University.”
The restoration took two years to complete, and was funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, Clore Duffield Foundation, University of Oxford and the Parish Church Council. The medieval building, which plays host to Oxford’s tallest spire, boasts an average of 300,000 visitors every year.
Rachel Hunter, a first year undergraduate, commented, “The Church is beautiful inside and made the long queue when I went up the tower significantly more enjoyable.”
Liz English, Christian Union rep at Hertford, told Cherwell, “Believers and passers-by alike would recognise that the Church is an integral part of Oxford. It helps to make Oxford what it is…For the cityscape and Christian life of Oxford, the University church was certainly worth saving.”