Monday, December 26, 2016

Behind the scenes at Old North Church Boston

No visit to Boston would be complete without a visit to the Old North Church. This is, of course, the most famous church in Boston. It was from this tower that the famous "One if by Land, Two if by Sea" signal was sent to Paul Revere and the other Sons of Liberty who were spreading the word about the British troop movement in Boston. If you visit the Old North Church you will sit in one of the pews and hear the history of the church, this is not the tour we are talking about, we are going to go where the regular visitor will never go.

Offered on the hour Behind the Scenes is a 30-minute chance to see what happens behind the scenes at this historic church. During the summer months, the tour is offered on the half hour as well. There are no tours in January and February, check their website for the times and days when tours are offered. You purchase your tickets at the gift shop next door to the church. The cost is $6 for adult; $5 for seniors and $4 for children up to 12 years old. You met your guide in the St Francis Garden which is right behind the store.

One thing you need to know before you even considering taking this tour is that it requires a lot of stair climbing, it is not handicap accessible and it takes a good bit of stamina to climb the steep and narrow stairs to the bell ringing room.

The first stop on the tour requires climbing one steep set of stairs. It is the gallery around the upper level of the church. It houses the organ as well as seating on both sides. These are basically the cheap seats. The wealthy members of the church would have paid to sit in the lower level. Servants, African Americans both freed and slaves and poor persons would have been seated in the gallery. Actually, you have a very nice view of the church from the gallery.

We would have gone to the bell ringing room next but the bell ringers were rehearing so instead we went to the crypt.

The first thing visited in the crypt is a Columbarium. They have dedicated a whole section of the crypt to the burial of ashes. We then headed into the bowels of the church, and bowels it is, if you are claustrophobic or germaphobic don't go on this tour. This is not some romanticized crypt; this has a low ceiling, and is without doubt, a basement. There are cemented over crypts in the walls all the way around on the walls. Many of them are not marked. The reason they are cemented is to keep the bodies from being removed and replaced with new bodies.

Old North Church was not a Congregational Church, it was an Anglican Church. It was the parish church of General Gage and it was from the tower here that he watched the battle of Bunker Hill play out. The tower was the highest spot in Boston at the time of the revolution which is also why it was used to signal the riders.

The last stop on the tour was the bell-ringers room. These are not song bells these are sound bells. There are eight bells of different sizes and sounds. It is up two very narrow, winding and steep staircases. Up is bad, down is even worse.

I highly recommend the Behind the Scenes Tour for anyone who is interested enough in the Old North Church to want to do something beyond just sitting and listen to the 15-minute talk that happens in the regular body of the church. If you are physically up to it, it is very memorable.

For more photos of Boston cheeck out this photo blog 


  1. I would love to do this! Actually, Boston is one of the top places I'd really love to go see.

    1. We found this to be a particulary interesting tour to take, I am sure you would enjoy it.