OXFORD, England — Tourists flock to Christ Church College at Oxford University to see the grand dining hall and stairways that inspired the student dining hall and staircases at Hogwarts in the "Harry Potter" movies.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson toured the hall this week during his first visit to Oxford, where the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church delivered a lecture on the lessons of Watergate based on his experiences as a law clerk during the scandal's trials.
His tour of the 490-year-old campus sparked thoughts of acquaintances who studied at Oxford as Rhodes Scholars. Portraits of famous students hang in the hall, people like John Locke, William Penn, John Wesley and Charles Dodgson. Dodgson's pen name was Lewis Carroll, who borrowed features of the hall for the Mad Hatter's tea party in "Alice in Wonderland."
But Elder Christofferson spent more time in the adjacent Christ Church Cathedral, built in the 1100s and a religious site since about 700, and he lingered longest in the Old Library, established along with the college in 1526.
"This is a special treat," he said, after he surveyed medieval books, pored over a Bible published in 1613 and learned the history of the library and the college. "It's wonderful to see the place, the environment, the ambience. It's unique in my experience."
He especially appreciated the combination of Christ Church College and Christ Church Cathedral, which is the cathedral of the diocese of Oxford.
"It's a very impressive history, and it's wonderful that it is a powerful reminder of the connection between education and religion," Elder Christofferson said. "In the United States, for example, almost every university of a certain age was initiated by a religious institution — Harvard, Yale, Duke, where I went to school, was Trinity College in its initial form. BYU, of course. That has long been one of the initiatives of religious institutions, to promote eduction. This is a perfect example, where the college and cathedral are one.
"And the name is wonderful."
Christ Church Cathedral's religious roots date back to a monastery ruled by a woman named Frideswide, who achieved sainthood in the Catholic Church.
The story of Christ Church College begins with the friendship between King Henry the Eighth and Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. Henry VIII became king in 1509 and Wolsey, who had been the chaplain to the archbishop of Canterbury and a diplomatic aide to the previous king, gained immense power and influence as the chief minister to Henry VIII. The pope made Wolsey a cardinal in 1515.
Cardinal Wolsey founded Cardinal College in 1526. It later was known as King's College. Henry VIII changed it to Christ Church College after a dispute between the two old friends. Henry wanted his marriage to Catherine of Aragon annulled so he could marry Anne Boleyn. When Wolsey failed to deliver the annulment, Henry had him arrested and charged with treason.