“One if by land, and two, if by sea.” ~ number of lanterns to be set on the steeple of Old North Church to indicate how the British were coming.
This is the famous church, the one American school children learn about when they are quite young. As the story goes, when known how the British were coming (either by land or by sea), Robert Newman placed the appropriate number of lanterns in the church’s steeple. This signal would prompt Paul Revere’s famous ride and alert the rest of Boston to their approaching adversary.
And the steeple was a good place to do this – at 191 feet tall, it is still the tallest steeple in Boston, which means in 1775 it was the tallest spot in Boston. Its bells were the first bells brought to America and Paul Revere served as a bell ringer. The interior still has much of the original details such as high box pews and the brass chandeliers. Admission is free to view the church, which is open daily except for Mondays.
Nearby is a statue of Paul Revere on his horse, giving a nice photo opportunity of Revere riding with the church in the background.
Paul Revere's Ride
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."
Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.
Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.
Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,--
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.
Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,--
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.
Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.
A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.
It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.
It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.
It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.
You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,---
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
>From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.
So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,---
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.
Old North Church is famous not because of its architecture or its age, but because of the use of its bell-tower. On April 18, 1775, Revere instructed two men to hang two lanterns in the bell-tower as a warning for the rebels farther afield in Charlestown (across the Charles River from North End). The famous saying “one if by land, two if by sea” refers to this incident, as the two lanterns indicated that the British regulars were planning to cross the Charles by boat in a surprise attack. It immediate preceded the Battle on Lexington Green, one of the opening incidences of the Revolutionary War. Old North Church (the building) dates from 1723 and was inspired by Christopher Wren’s works in London. The church’s steeple was damaged in a fire and rebuilt in 1804, only to be damaged again by a Hurricane in 1954. The interior is a very much inspired by English Anglican churches, or so I’m told – I was there on Good Friday and visiting hours weren’t quite regular (you can’t really take snap shots during Mass).
The Old North Church is the history of Paul Revere riding to alert people of the British if they were coming by land or sea, then then they were to light lanterns either one or two. That was 4-18-1775. The real story is he really was on the other side of the Charles River and there was not sea they were looking for the British to enter. It was built in 1723, and the walls are thick; two feet. The steeple is 191 feet high. it was blown away twice, in 1804 and 1954, but the same eight bells still ring from when molded in 1744.
The people had paid for boothes in order to keep warm and even brought in small warmer pots with hot rocks in the winter to put in the boothes.
Whatever reason you may have for travelling to Boston you can't deny all the historical significance of this city. One of the best spots to find many historical sites is the city's oldest neighborhood, The North End.
The Old North Church is fascinating not just for it's significance in the founding of our nation but it's pristine and well presevered white walls and boxed in pews with thier name tags are well worth checking out.
The Old North Church was built in 1723, and is the oldest standing church building in Boston. In 1775, on the eve of Revolution, the majority of the congregation were loyal to the British King and many held official positions in the royal government, including the Royal Governor of Massachusetts, making Robert Newman's loyalty to the Patriot cause even more extraordinary. The King gave the Old North its silver that was used at services and a bible.
Animal lovers should take a few moments to meditate in St. Francis of Assisisi garden. it's a tiny little courtyard behind the Old North Church.
While you are visiting the Old North Church, you should make some time to walk through the Paul Revere Mall (park) just behind. I love the feel of this place. It's not sheltered, but it's peaceful in its own way.
We were in a guided group when we visited Christ Church and would recommend all visitors to join a group, otherwise you will miss out on most of the history of this church and the role it played in the journey for Independence.
The Church itself is well worth a visit but when you learn the role it played in creating history you will appreciate it more. It was from here that Paul Revere made his famous ride in April 1775 to warn residents of the approach of the British Force. The two lanterns were hung from the church indicating the British had chosen the sea route for there approach on Lexington.
The Church was built in 1773 and is in outstanding condition, the highlights being the towering white spire and the magnificent organ. Church services are regularly conducted and times are available from the web page detailed below.
Like most places in Boston, you will enjoy the Church if you like history. Basic tours are available, as well as "Behind the Scenes" tours which offer a more in-depth view of the church and its history.
You can also get tickets to "Paul Revere Tonight!" From the Church website:
"Paul Revere Tonight! stars David Conner as Paul Revere and recounts Revere's life in pre-revolutionary and revolutionary Boston. He describes Revere's youth in the North End, his first affiliation with Old North as a teenage bell ringer, and sets the record straight concerning his midnight ride."
Tons of additional information is available on the church website (see below).
Historically, the Old North Church, played a role of no equal in America's past. It was here on April 18, 1775, that the sexton hung two lanterns signally that the British had chosen the sea route in their march on Lexington and Concord. And off went Paul Revere on his famous ride.
The church itself is the oldest in Boston. It was built in 1723 and it's most famous feature is the 175 foot steeple from which the lanterns were actually hung. It is an atmospheric old church with boxed pews that parishioners had to purchase. It is also still active and there are services here every Sunday at 9am and 11am.
The Old North Church is open for visitors from 9am to 6pm from Monday to Friday. On the weekends it closes at 5pm.
Most famous for the night in of April 18, 1775, when two lights were hung from the bell tower to signify the British advance by boat over the Charles River (aka "by sea"), leading to Paul Revere's midnight ride.
The church itself was constructed from 1723 to 1745, when the steeple was completed. The most unique features of the church are the tall "box pews" enclosing each seating area to keep the parishioners warm. The original window where the lanterns were hung in 1775 was covered by brick for 170 years, but was recently rediscovered and is still visible. The church also houses a bust of George Washington, a unique artifact for any church.
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