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The Sheldonian Theatre

Architecture and Learning in Seventeenth-Century Oxford

Anthony Geraghty


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A jewel of the University of Oxford, the Sheldonian Theatre stands out among the groundbreaking designs by the great British architect Sir Christopher Wren. Published to coincide with the 350th anniversary of the building’s construction, this meticulously researched book takes a fresh look at the historical influences that shaped the Sheldonian’s development, including the Restoration of the English monarchy and the university’s commitment to episcopal religion.


The book explains just how novel Wren’s design was in its day, in part because the academic theater was a building type without precedent in England, and in part because the Sheldonian’s classical style stood apart in its university context. The author also points to a shift in the guiding motivation behind the architecture at Oxford: from a tradition that largely perpetuated medieval forms to one that conceived classical architecture in relation to late Renaissance learning. Newly commissioned photographs showcase the theater’s recently restored interior.

Praise For The Sheldonian Theatre: Architecture and Learning in Seventeenth-Century Oxford

“His book is a learned and fascinating account of the Sheldonian in its academic, intellectual and religious contexts.”—Peter Howell, The Art Newspaper

— Peter Howell

Shortlisted for the Alice Davis Hitchcock 2014 Award sponsored by the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain.

— Alice Davis Hitchcock Award

Paul Mellon Centre, 9780300195040, 172pp.

Publication Date: October 8, 2013

About the Author

Anthony Geraghty is senior lecturer in the history of art at the University of York.