- "It was lit by thousands and thousands of candles that were floating in midair over four long tables, where the rest of the students were sitting. These tables were laid with glittering golden plates and goblets. At the top of the hall was another long table where the teachers were sitting [...] The hundreds of faces staring at them looked like pale lanterns in the flickering candlelight [...] Harry looked upward and saw a velvety black ceiling dotted with stars [...] It was hard to believe there was a ceiling there at all, and that the Great Hall didn't simply open on to the heaven."
- —Description of the Great Hall[src]
The Great Hall in Hogwarts Castle is the main gathering area in the school located off the Entrance Hall. Students eat their meals, receive daily owl post, and have certain special events here. The Great Hall is a large hall that can easily hold all of the school's students, staff, and guests. It has tall walls that reach up to the ceiling, which is covered with candles and enchanted to look like the sky above. At the front of the hall, is the staff table, also known as the High Table, which is designed to house the entire Hogwarts staff.
The highlight of the table is the throne-like chair in the centre of the table where the current Headmaster or Headmistress sits. The Great Hall, as well as serving as the area for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the students and staff, was also the place in which many important events took place, such as the traditional Sorting Ceremony each year and the defeat of Lord Voldemort, which signified the close of the Battle of Hogwarts and the climatic end of the Second Wizarding War. To the left of the table is a door which leads to a chamber with portraits.
The Great Hall is a large hall with four long tables where students of each House sit at during mealtimes, as well as the staff table at the front, where the entire Hogwarts staff sits. There is a throne-like chair in the centre of the table where the current Headmaster or Headmistress sits. The ceiling of the Great Hall is covered with candles and it is enchanted to look like the sky above.
To the left of the table is a door which leads to a chamber with portraits. During the Hallowe'en feast, the hall festooned with sweets-filled pumpkins, bats, orange streamers, water snakes and all sorts of Hallowe'en-related decorations, and during the Christmas holidays the hall has twelve large Christmas trees. There is also a large window behind the staff table at the front of the hall where light shines through, and a podium carved with an owl right in front of the Headmaster's chair where the Headmaster makes his announcements for the school year.
Gatherings in the Great Hall
The Start-of-Term Feast is a traditional part of the school year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, held in the Great Hall. It is on the first night following the arrival of the students from the Hogwarts Express, the Start-of-Term Feast is notable for including the sorting of all new students into their houses.
A Duelling Club was started by Professor Lockhart when the Chamber of Secrets was opened, during the 1992–1993 school year. He was given permission by Headmaster Albus Dumbledore to teach students how to duel, in an attempt to help them learn to protect themselves. Lockhart was joined by Professor Snape, who worked as his assistant. In 1996, it was used again as the Gryffindor Duelling Club location.
The Halloween Feast at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry occurs on the 31st October every year. Usually the Halloween Feast is festooned with sweets-filled pumpkins, bats, orange streamers, water snakes and all sorts of Halloween-related decorations. There is usually some entertainment at the end, this may be by the Hogwarts Ghosts who pop out of the walls and do formation gliding. It's a highly anticipated feast which most Hogwarts students look forward to every year.
The Yule Ball is a tradition of the Triwizard Tournament, though not regularly held at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It is a formal dance held on Christmas night of a tournament year, and is opened by the tournament champions and their partners. At Hogwarts, where the Yule Ball was held in 1994, only students of fourth year or above were permitted to attend, though younger students could also go if an older student invited them to accompany them. The ball began at 8:00 p.m. and ended at midnight. The hall served several purposes that night; as a socialsing area, a stage for the performing band, and a dance floor for all attendants of the ball.
The Christmas Feast is held on Christmas Day. It is attended by the teachers and any students that have chosen to remain at Hogwarts over the Christmas Holidays. The feast is prepared by the house-elves in the kitchens, and consisted of a hundred fat, roast turkeys, mountains of roasted and boiled potatoes, platters of fat chipolatas, tureens of buttered peas, silver boats of thick, rich gravy and cranberry sauce. For dessert flaming Christmas puddings were served, with silver sickles hidden within the pudding. There are also surprise firecrackers, which, when popped, give forth a gift.
Apparition is an optional twelve-week class offered at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for, as its name suggests, learning how to Apparate. The class begins shortly after the Christmas Holidays and is offered to students who are seventeen, or who will turn seventeen during the school year, and costs twelve Galleons. It was taught by Ministry of Magic employee Wilkie Twycross in 1997 when the sixth year students that signed up for lessons had to begin in the Great Hall due to weather conditions, before moving the class to the grounds. The Anti-Apparition Charm placed on the entire school has temporarily removed in the Great Hall for students to practice.
Ordinary Wizarding Level Examinations
An O.W.L. (Ordinary Wizarding Level) is a subject-specific test taken during Hogwarts students' Fifth year, administrated by the Wizarding Examinations Authority. The score made by a student on a particular O.W.L. determines whether or not he or she will be allowed to continue taking that subject in subsequent school years.
During these examinations a giant clock face and a huge swinging pendulum are placed at the far end of the hall in order for students and examiners to keep an eye on the time.
Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests
N.E.W.T.s (Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests) are subject-specific exams that seventh year wizards and witches at Hogwarts take to help place them in a position at the Ministry of Magic. As not all wizards pass or even take the N.E.W.T.s, they can find other jobs using their O.W.L. results.
The End-of-Term Feast (or Leaving Feast) is a traditional part of the school year at Hogwarts, held in the Great Hall. It occurs on the last night of the term; the Feast is notable for including the awarding of the House Cup to the house with the highest points.
Other usesOver the years it has had many other uses including:
- Sometime in the early 20th century, when Professor Dippet was Headmaster, the hall was used to host a play version of The Fountain of Fair Fortune. Since it ended in disastrous results, the staff decided never to put on a play ever again.
- In 1993 the students were forced to sleep there over night in sleeping bags after Sirius Black broke in.
- On 2 May, 1998 the final battle between Lord Voldemort and Harry Potter took place here as the conclusion to the Battle of Hogwarts and the Second Wizarding War, and became Voldemort's death-place. It also served as a holding area for the dead and injured from the battle.
- The Divination Workshop is held in the Great Hall at 12:45. This suggests that lunch in the hall is to be finished by that time.
Battle of Hogwarts
In the second part film adaption of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, half of the Great Hall was blown up due to the battle. Because of this, instead of three towers at the top of the Great Hall, there were only two left.
In the films
The Great Hall as seen in the films is for the most part consistent with its description in the books. However, the layout of the tables as seen in the films contrasts with that of the books, which suggests that the tables run parallel to the main doors. In both the books and the movies, the layout of the tables changes. At first it is supposedly Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, and Hufflepuff (described left-to-right from the perspective of the teachers and first years during Harry's Sorting), with Hufflepuff's on the right, closest to the side doors to the Entrance Hall. Later during the Triwizard Tournament, Harry walked between the tables of Gryffindor and Hufflepuff, Fleur Delacour walked between the tables of Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, while Slytherin table is closest to the doors. Throughout the films the layout changes every year but never followed either book order. And in the books, it's implied that there are multiple doors in the Great Hall which lead into various side chambers, though in the films there is only one behind the staff table which leads into the Trophy Room.
The Great Hall set is arguably the most recognisable set from the Harry Potter films and has a rare distinction in the film industry of being in use for nearly a decade. In those years the set has undergone relatively few changes:
- In the third film, Dumbledore's Owl Lecturn has been added, and there are more floating candles of various shapes and sizes.
- The fourth film sees the most noticeable change to the set in that a second, higher section has been added to the raised wooden platform on which the staff table sits, allowing for the addition of an additional table (presumably for the faculty of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang and the judges for the Triwizard Tournament to sit). Though the second table disappears following the fourth film the second section of the platform remains (although it was removed when the set was put on display for The Making of Harry Potter.
Behind the Scenes
- The design for the Great Hall set in the films was based on the dining hall at Christ Church, Oxford.
- The Great Hall as depicted on Pottermore also appears to have been inspired by the Christ Church dining hall, and looks nearly identical to the real thing.
While Hogwarts itself is based upon real castles is the UK, there was, obviously, a great deal of creative license taken. The ceiling in the great hall, for example, is shown as having what is known as a hammer beam construction. This is a design developed in the UK hundreds of years ago and used primarily in cathedrals, palaces, and royal homes.
While beautiful and open, a hammer beam ceiling does not distribute weight the same as a standard rafter. As the great hall lacks exterior reinforcement such as flying buttresses, in reality, the wieght if the ceiling, particularly under wind or snow load, would push the walls outward and collapse in on itself.
Therefore we must imagine the enchantment is not merely aesthetic but structural as well.
- The enchanted ceiling is only seen once during the daytime in the films (the majority of the time it simply being absent), however in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, during the 5th Year OWL exams the sky can be clearly be seen to be blue with a few clouds as Fred and George's fireworks go off.
- Bellatrix Lestrange also wrecked the Great Hall in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, but this must have been a detour as Draco Malfoy, Severus Snape, Fenrir Grayback, Amycus Carrow, Alecto Carrow and Thorfinn Rowle walked from the Astronomy Tower to Hagrid's Hut, the Great Hall is not between these two locations, and from the way they were exiting means they must have either come from the back of the Great Hall or the Trophy Room. This most likely is an error in the film or that the production decided to include another secret passage.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Harry and Voldemort duel at the Entrance Courtyard instead of the Great Hall, although the duel between Bellatrix Lestrange and Molly Weasley still takes place here.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Headmaster Severus Snape held a spontaneous assembly, to which all Hogwarts students attended, to inform the students that Harry Potter had recently been sighted in Hogsmeade, and that helping him enter the castle would result in severe punishment. To this, Harry himself stepped forward from the crowd, accusing Professor Snape of murdering Albus Dumbledore. This ultimately resulted in the duel between Professors Snape and McGonagall, and then in the sacking of Professor Snape.
- PopCo, a toy company, has made a Great Hall playset available in stores in 2007. The figures that go with this set are all 3.75 inch tall. The figures are Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Neville Longbottom, Cho Chang, Luna Lovegood, Ginny Weasley, Draco Malfoy, Fred Weasley, George Weasley, Albus Dumbledore, Rubeus Hagrid, Severus Snape, Dolores Umbridge, Argus Filch, Minerva McGonagall, Mad-Eye Moody, Voldemort, Bellatrix Lestrange, Fenrir Greyback, Young Tom Riddle, Dementors, Death Eaters, Sirius Black, Grawp, Magorian, Bane, Thestral, Kreacher, Death Eater dummy, Fang, Mrs Norris, Hedwig, Sorting Hat, Patronus, Nagini and many, many more accessories."
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (First appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (film)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (film)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (film)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (video game)
- Harry Potter: A Pop-Up Book
- LEGO Harry Potter (Mentioned only)
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
- Harry Potter for Kinect
- LEGO Harry Potter
- The Tales of Beedle the Bard (real) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter Trading Card Game
- Harry Potter: The Character Vault
- Harry Potter: The Creature Vault (mentioned only)
Notes and references