The First Oxford Colleges

This is some more from Highways and Byways of Oxford and the Cotswolds by H A Evans:

“Before the coming of Walter de Merton the Oxford students had lived in private houses – whether called halls, inns or hotels… the discipline and supervision to which they were liable were merely such as could be supplied by the rather remote agency of the university officers. ..It was he who saw the gain which would result from the formation of a society bound together by the domestic bond of a common habitation and a common discipline – a society the whole aim and purpose of which should be the advancement of learning and the training of citizens qualified to serve God in church and state. To this end … in 1264 he drew up the code of statutes to which Merton College owes its inception. …The very buildings which he designed for its use proclaimed its non-monastic character. Like the religious houses they included a common church and a common refectory, but they were plainly marked off from them by the absence of that distinctive feature of the convent, the cloister. It was in the cloister that the chief part of the indoor labours of the monk were performed; here he pursued his studies, copied his manuscripts, or composed the chronicle of his housel The members of a college, on the other hand, had their private chambers, and the cloister became superfluous. It is true that in the next century the magnificent founder of New College so far reverted to the ancient plan, but the cloister which he attached to his splendid foundation was designed for no monastic use. It might serve as a place of exercise and mediation for the living, and as a place of sepulchre for the dead, but essentially it was a survival, and I imagine that the paramount idea in the mind of the founder was, that like the tower the cloister was an appendage indispensable to the completion of the great ecclesiastical structure which he had reared. “

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