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Tags : Church & Cathedral

Built : 1723

Architect : William Prince

Architectural Style : Georgian

Official Name : Christ Church

Address : 193 Salem St., Boston, MA 02113, USA

Admission Fee : None

Timings : 10:00 am to 4:00 pm (January- February), 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (March- May, November- December), 9:00 am to 6:00 pm (June- October)

Sunday Service Timings : 9:00 am to 11:00 am

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Old North Church, Boston Overview

The Old North Church in Boston, often referred to as Christ Church, is the oldest worship house in the city that continues to remain in function. One of the 16 sites linked by the Freedom Trail, this National Historic Landmark is frequently visited by large crowds that not only wish to partake in the worship but also wish to know more about its history.

Built in 1723 by William Prince, The Old North Church in Boston’s North end is a mission of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and is the oldest running church building in the city. The church was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961 and was inspired by the work done by Christopher Wren, an English architect who rebuilt London post the Great Fire. Representative of the Georgian style of architecture, the Old North Church is not only a site of great historical importance but also hosts regular Sunday services.

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About the Old North Church's Architecture

The Old North Church was built in the Georgian architectural style by William Prince who was inspired by Christopher Wren’s work in London after the Great Fire. The church’s structure is based on the St. Andrews-by-the-Wardrobe back in England and has several architectural elements of interest. Some of them are:
  • The 217-foot steeple was built in 1809, surpassing the pre-existing 175-foot spire (it fell due to the heavy winds in 1804 while the replacement built by Charles Bulfinch was also destroyed in 1954, due to a hurricane). The steeple is designed to look like the original spire and also has the weathervane on top. It was this very structure that was used as a signalling spot during the colonial period.
  • The church’s bell tower has a total of 8 change-ringing bell, all cast in 1744 in England, with one of them being inscribed to denote that the bells were the first to be cast for Britain’s colonies in America. The American patriot Paul Revere was known to have been the bell ringer here as a child.
  • The inside of the church contains high-box pews that are white in colour, the window that served as an escape for 2 patriots, a clock built in 1726 by parishioners, an organ, a crypt containing the remains of over a thousand parishioners and a bust of George Washington believed to bear a striking resemblance to the former President.
  • The cherubim on the organ’s frontside as well as the 2 brass chandeliers were donated by Captain William Maxwell, who is believed to have seized them in 1746 from a French vessel.

Paul Revere's Midnight Ride

The Old North Church is associated with the country’s colonial history and more specifically, with the American patriot, Paul Revere. This site is believed to be the first stop on his “Midnight Ride.” He had asked several Boston patriots to hang two lanterns to the structure’s steeple so as to inform Charlestown patriots of the colonists arriving by sea.

“One if by land, and two if by sea” is what the hung lanterns were supposed to have signified; it was the prearranged beacon that was used to warn the waiting colonial militia of the British forces’ movements towards Lexington and Concord. A significant event was in 1775 when Robert Newman, the church sexton, along with Captain John Pulling, climbed up to the top of the steeple, that stands tall at 8 storys, and held the lanterns aloft, with Thomas Bernard on watch outside. This act was meant to signal to the riders, that included Paul Revere as well as William Dawes, to go towards Lexington and Concord while alerting Minutemen too.

Interestingly, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem called the Paul Revere’s Ride that has managed to capture the Church’s essence.

Tours of the Old North Church

While there is no admission fee for those who wish to visit the church on their own, there are several guided tours of the same at different prices. These tours take people inside the church and provide them with in-depth information about its construction, its architecture and its history. Visitors can climb up the steeple where the lanterns were hung, can go up the bell tower where Paul Revere rung bells as a kid, can explore the 37 tombs in the crypt and can admire the many artefacts littered around the structure.

How to Reach Old North Church

The Old North Church is a very commonly visited historical site on the Freedom Trail and many just prefer to explore it while on the Trail itself. Other than that, it is possible to get here by the Subway; the MTBA Orange and Green lines drop passengers off less than a mile away, at Haymarket and North Station respectively, by the bus; Number 4 stops just a couple of blocks away, and by car; there is free as well as paid parking near the church but it has no designated parking.

History of the Old North Church

An edifice inspired by the works of Christopher Wren, this 18th century church was built by William Prince and is now the oldest church building in Boston that is still in function. It was Timothy Cutler who served as its founding rector.

During the country's colonisation, the Old North Church was an Anglican congregation under the King and used Anglican liturgy which involved prayers for him; a Bible as well as some silver religious items were given to the church by King George II of England. The parish was guided by a Tory minister.

The Church is not only seen as a place of worship but also as the site of many significant colonial events, some associated with Paul Revere, the American patriot. The steeple, a landmark, was where Paul Revere instructed 3 Boston patriots to hang 2 lamps so as to be able to send signals regarding the British Army's movements. The message was delivered to the Charlestown patriots who prepared themselves for action across the Charles River. It is said that the lanterns conveyed the message "One if by land, and two if by sea."

In 1975, former President Gerald Ford came to the church to deliver a speech that spoke of those who fought for the country's independence years ago and of what the country should strive to be in the years to come, and lanterns were lit. The following year, in 1976, Queen Elizabeth II spoke about the President's speech, the country's freedom and its ideals.

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