On a high-summer morning in Oxford city centre, entering the calm, cool interior of the church of St Michael at the North Gate offers relief from both the crowds and the heat. A moment later, through the tiny souvenir shop, comes Diarmaid MacCulloch, professor of the history of the church at the University of Oxford and author of many books — most recently a biography of the nation’s favourite Tudor, Thomas Cromwell.
MacCulloch is a star in the history world, knighted in 2012 for services to scholarship. His is a familiar face from TV series including A History of Christianity (and its accompanying book) and Sex and the Church. But today he’s not talking about Cromwell, he’s introducing me to his favourite hobby: a “church crawl”.
For the uninitiated, this is like a pub crawl, but we are refreshing ourselves by visiting places of Anglican worship. It has been MacCulloch’s passion since his “very happy” childhood in rural Suffolk. His father was a village parson and would drive young Diarmaid around to look at churches. Now 67, MacCulloch reckons he has visited “6,000 or 7,000 so far — and several more than once”.
Oxford has an extraordinary number of churches. It is also home to St Cross, a postgraduate institution where MacCulloch has been a fellow for 25 years, and which is within an easy walk of them all. Today he has picked three for us, beginning with St Michael’s because it is the official city church of Oxford, and lies “at the North Gate”, one of the lost entrances to the early walled city.
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Exploring churches with Diarmaid MacCulloch: ‘I love a locked door’ https://t.co/ZxyIaN4c82
— Financial Times (@FT) July 26, 2019