About the Sheldonian Theatre
The Sheldonian Theatre, an exquisite Grade I listed building situated in Oxford’s city centre, is the official ceremonial hall of the University of Oxford. Some of the ceremonial activities that take place in the Theatre include matriculation, graduation ceremonies, Encaenia and Congregation.
This unique historic Oxford venue – designed by Sir Christopher Wren and and built between 1664 and 1669 – is open to the public to visit when not in use. It can also be hired for concerts, meetings, lectures, talks and other events.
The following is from the work of leading historian of British architecture, Sir Howard Colvin.
Elegant and strong in design, marvellously rich in craftsmanship, the Theatre has admirably served its purpose for over 350 years and today still provides a dignified and superb setting for ceremonial occasions.
Located in Oxford’s medieval city centre, the Sheldonian Theatre is the principal assembly room of the University and the regular meeting place of Congregation, the body which controls the University’s affairs. All public ceremonies of the University are performed here, notably the annual Encaenia.
The University acquired the site soon after the Restoration, and in 1664 to 1669, the present theatre was erected. Gilbert Sheldon, Archbishop of Canterbury and a former Warden of All Souls, met the entire cost of the build and so gave his name to the building.
The architect was a young Christopher Wren, then Professor of Astronomy at Oxford, with as yet little practical experience of building. Inspired by drawings of Roman theatres, he adopted their D-shaped plan. However, the open arena of Rome, unsuited to the English climate, had to be covered.
Visit the Sheldonian Theatre website for admission prices, opening hours and guided tours.