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Chapel History and Treasures

The History of Keble Chapel and information about the famous painting The Light of the World by Holman Hunt.

Keble Chapel: Brief History

Keble Chapel Opening SketchThe foundation stone for the Chapel was laid on St Mark's Day (25 April) 1873 and was officially opened on the same day in 1876.

It was funded by William Gibbs from Tyntesfield in Somerset. He was by then an octogenarian who had acquired his wealth through a family business exporting guano from the Pacific islands. Gibbs was a devout Anglican philanthropist who approved the choice of Butterfield as architect and often supported him in disputes with the College.

Keble Chapel treasures: The Light of the World

The Light of the World

This painting, which hangs in the Side-Chapel, is the original by Holman Hunt painted in 1853 and first hung in the Royal Academy in 1854.

The artist began the picture when he was a little over 21 years old, but it was not until he was 29 that he finished it. One of the reasons for this length of time was his desire to perfect the dawn, and this he did not succeed in doing until he took the picture with him to the Middle East and found the perfect dawn outside Bethlehem. When he was nearly 70 years old, he painted a replica which hangs in St Paul's Cathedral, London. The replica is very much larger than the original, but the colouring and details are not so perfect.

The picture was given to the College by Mrs Thomas Combe, who was a great admirer of the Pre-Raphaelites and bought as many of their pictures as she could. She later gave most of them to the Ashmolean Museum, and this one she presented to Keble through her husband who was head of the University Press at that time.

There are two lights shown in the picture. The lantern is the light of conscience and the light around the head is the light of salvation with the door representing the human soul, which cannot be opened from the outside. There is no handle on the door, and the rusty nails and hinges overgrown with ivy denote that the door has never been opened and that the figure of Christ is asking for permission to enter. The bright light over the figure is the morning star, the dawn of the new day, and the autumn weeds and fallen fruit represent the autumn of life. The writing under the picture, which is rather hard to read, is taken from Revelation 3 'Behold I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with me.'

The other picture in the Side-Chapel is The Dead Christ Mourned by his Mother by William Key which was presented in memory of its previous owner, Dr William Hatchett-Jackson, father of one of the Tutors.

The Icon of the Holy Trinity

The icon of the Holy Trinity in the Side-Chapel was given to the College by its author, Ian Knowles, in gratitude for his time as an undergraduate at Keble and as a sign of his continuing support. Ian is the Principal of the Bethlehem Icon School, part of the Bethlehem Icon Centre that he founded in 2012, about which more information can be found at

The side-Chapel is not wheelchair accessible.

Our Services in Term
(all services finish in time for dinner in Hall)

Sung Eucharist at 5.30pm with Keble College Chapel Choir

Morning Prayer at 8.15am

Eucharist at 12.15pm (Wednesday) and 6.30pm (Tuesday and Thursday)

Evensong with Keble College Chapel Choir at 6pm (Wednesday)

Evening Prayer at 6.30pm (Monday and Friday)

Sung Compline at 9.00pm (Thursdays only)