Jewish women in Oxford will be able to fulfil a key part of their faith for the first time in hundreds of years, following the construction of a ritual bath.

It is the first time the city has had a so-called mikvah bath, since medieval times.

The bathing pool is used by Jewish women to immerse themselves in once a month after menstruation.

The opening of the Slager Family Mikvah, at Oxford Chabad House, in Cowley Road, was so significant to the Jewish community, that the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yona Metzger, flew in from the Middle East for the opening ceremony, on Thursday. It was the rabbi's first visit to Oxford.

Mr Metzger said: "This is an historic and spiritual moment for the Jewish people here.

"The history of the Jews in Oxford was very bad 800 years ago when they were hated and persecuted just because they were Jews.

"Now the Jewish people have a right to be here, and can build a mikvah and use it, without disturbing their neighbours."

Work on the mikvah, which consists of two marble bathrooms, started in 2005, and was finished last month.

Rabbi Eli Brackman, who moved to Oxford in 2001, had been trying to get a mikvah in the city since his arrival.

He said: "The mikvah has particular focus on the family.

"It emphasises the importance of the family in Jewish tradition, more than prayer, worship or other practices."

Mr Brackman said: "It is extremely important for us, as a young and growing community.

"It is a sign that the community is looking forward."

Up to 30 women will use the bath each month.