A literary bequest
The Divinity School was started in 1423, however, initial funding proved difficult to maintain. The project received a new lease of life when Duke Humfrey, the youngest son of King Henry IV stepped in. A great lover of books, on his death in 1444, Humfrey left his considerable library, some 281 volumes, to the University. This literary bequest (and the royal connections, no doubt) helped spark renewed funding for a now remodelled School to be completed, and the construction of Duke Humfrey’s Library above, to house Humphrey’s books. The School was completed in 1488, and remains, in essence, much as the visitor can see it today.
The Divinity School and Duke Humfrey’s library are notable for their fine architecture especially the extraordinary intricately modelled ceiling and the fan vaulting radiating from the twelve saints’ shrines. The ceiling also features the royal and religious shields and the raised initials of those who contributed to, or were associated with, the School’s construction. In all, there are 455 such shields and bosses, all complexly woven into the ceiling above you.
The Divinity School boasts University of Oxford’s oldest classroom and that in itself is a reason to visit this magnificent temple to learning.