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Museum of Oxford Digital Exhibitions

From disgrace to commemoration

This sculpture by the French artist Léon-Joseph Chavaillard (1858-1919) commemorates one of Trinity College’s most important alumni – a man who was declared a saint by Pope Francis in 2019. Newman had been brought up in the Church of England. Indeed, in his youth, he was an Evangelical, among the most Protestant of Protestants. His time at Trinity ended in disaster as he broke down under the pressure of his examinations. But he managed to be elected to a Fellowship at Oriel College and came to review his religious ideals. By the 1830s, he was a leading figure in the reactionary Oxford Movement, and, in 1845, he converted to Roman Catholicism. This meant leaving Oxford, which was still closed to Catholics. By 1877, however, it was possible for him to be elected to one of Trinity College’s first ever Honorary Fellowships. This bust thus commemorates an important man and a significant moment of change.