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St Michael at the North Gate

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

St Michael at the North Gate
St Michael at the North Gate, Oxford
Cornmarket StMichael.jpg
The Saxon tower of St Michael at the North Gate
LocationCornmarket Street, Oxford
CountryUnited Kingdom
DenominationChurch of England
DedicationSt Michael
Associated peopleWilliam Morris and Jane Burden married here in 1859.
Years built1000–1050
Vicar(s)Anthony Buckley

St Michael at the North Gate is a church in Cornmarket Street, at the junction with Ship Street, in central Oxford, England. The name derives from the church's location on the site of the north gate of Oxford when it was surrounded by a city wall.

Since 1971, it has served as the ceremonial City Church of Oxford, and has joined the parishes of the two earlier City Churches with its own.

Interior of the church
Interior of the church
The cell door from the Bocardo Prison where Thomas Cranmer was held before his execution in 1556, now preserved in the Saxon bell tower of St Michael's Church.
The cell door from the Bocardo Prison where Thomas Cranmer was held before his execution in 1556, now preserved in the Saxon bell tower of St Michael's Church.


Originally built around 1000–1050, with the tower from 1040 still in existence, the church is Oxford's oldest building.[1][2] It was constructed of Coral Rag.[3] The church tower is Anglo-Saxon.[4] The architect John Plowman rebuilt the north aisle and transept in 1833.[4]

The Oxford Martyrs were imprisoned in the Bocardo Prison by the church before they were burnt at the stake in what is now Broad Street nearby, then immediately outside the city walls, in 1555 and 1556. Their cell door can be seen on display in the church's tower.

St Michael at the North Gate is the current City Church of Oxford,[5] which is the church where the Mayor and Corporation of Oxford are expected to worship.[6] The title was originally held by St Martin's Church at Carfax, and then by All Saints' Church in the High Street after St Martin's Church was demolished (except for its tower) in 1896. City Church status passed to St Michael's when All Saints' Church was declared redundant in 1971 and was subsequently converted into the library of Lincoln College.[7] The parishes of St Martin's and All Saints are now amalgamated with St Michael's.

A ceremony, called "beating the bounds", is held each year on Ascension Day to mark out the boundary of the parish. Led by the vicar, parishioners process around the old boundary stones of the parish; the vicar places a cross in chalk on each, and then church wardens hit the stones with wands made of willow, shouting "Mark, mark, mark!" as they do so.[8]

According to Margaret Murray (writing 1934), there was a sheela na gig figure at St Michael at the North Gate which had a tradition of being shown to brides on their wedding day.[9]


William Morris and Jane Burden (who lived off Holywell Street nearby) were married here on 25 April 1859.[10] The marriage certificate is on view in the Saxon tower. John Wesley's pulpit is also on view here.

See also


  1. ^ Our History Archived 2 December 2011 at the Wayback Machine,St Michael at the North Gate Church website. Retrieved (and link updated) 12 November 2011.
  2. ^ St Michael at the North Gate, Oxford, Sacred Destinations.
  3. ^ "Strategic Stone Study: A Building Stone Atlas of Oxfordshire". English Heritage. March 2011. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
  4. ^ a b Sherwood, Jennifer; Pevsner, Nikolaus (1974). The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. p. 295. ISBN 0-14-071045-0.
  5. ^ St Michael at the Northgate: City Church of Oxford 1971–present, Oxford History.
  6. ^ The City Church, Oxford, Mayors of Oxford.
  7. ^ All Saints' Church. Oxford History.
  8. ^ Clayton, Indya (31 May 2019). "Beating of the bounds still going strong in Oxford city centre". Oxford Mail. Archived from the original on 8 June 2019. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  9. ^ Murray, Margaret (1934). "Female Fertility Figures". Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. LXIV.
  10. ^ Morris, Jan (1988). "In Art". Oxford. Oxford University Press. p. 219. ISBN 978-0192820655.

External links

This page was last edited on 19 December 2022, at 11:19
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