Half way up a tower in the middle of the University town of Oxford hangs a door.
Not unusual, you might say. All towers need doors. Or the pigeons get in and create havoc.
But this door doesn’t go anywhere. It hangs on the ancient wall, half way up the bell-tower of the church of St Michael at the North gate.
It is famous because three men once walked through it to their deaths.
The ancient door once hung on a cell in the Bocardo Prison, a gatehouse prison which could be entered from the tower of St Michael back in 1555. And they were victims of Mary Tudor, burnt at the stake because they would not convert to the Catholic faith.
Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley: the three Oxford Martyrs, who, some say, gave rise to the nursery rhyme “Three Blind Mice.”
It is well labelled, with a brass plate. We paused, in the stairwell, to look at this memento mori: a memory of a savage time in England’s history.
A memento of a not particularly nice mori.
32 thoughts on “Memento Mori: a door to remember”
And the view from the top of the tower is quite something!!!
It is. All those dreaming spires, Laurence! And pigeons, naturally.
reminders that the veheer of civilisation can be so very thin….
Indeed. We are never far away from this, Sidey, and it does to remember it, I suppose.
to remember, to prevent going back there. That’s what we have to do.
We are so close to becoming like that again.
Have you read Lord Of The Flies, Jamie? Human savagery is very close to the surface, I think.
Yeah! Ditto that.
Have been to Oxford – ages ago – but hadn’t heard of this door. Great post Kate.
Thanks, Madhu. This country is full of memorabilia like this. We are very cluttered.
ooh that gave me a chill (esp, the sinister looking door). I do like the idea of a door that is not doing what a door should be doing – I would like to put a door in a random spot around the property – just sitting there waiting to be opened, as if there is something magical on the other side 🙂
Lovely thought, Gabrielle, if you can find the right door…
A grizzly story this is, Kate. It seems we all have them to tell in the name of religions.
Yes, Penny: there are many more stories where this came from, aren’t there? Sobering, really.
It looks like a door of death, even if one had not read your words first. Gives me chills.
Sad that three men once looked at it before they had to undergo such an ordeal, Carrie.
I wish we could be sure this sort of thing couldn’t happen again. That we’ve become too civilized. Sadly, I know that isn’t true.
No indeed, Andra. I think we do well to remember what we are capable of, as a cautionary tale.
Ouch! Not a pleasant way to go. I think I heard once (long ago) that “three blind mice” was fashioned after condemned prisoners.
I must find out more about it, Nancy. Maddie has kidnapped my dictionary of nursery rhymes.Off to root it out.
Does nothing ever get tossed in England? -not meant to be a snarky comment. Here it seems, the seemly insignificant gets tossed only later to be found to have had an incredible past.
No, we rarely throw anything out, Hudson. We hoard. This land is one great big cabinet of curiosities.
A chilling tale, Kate. The sins that have been committed in the name of religion – truly horrifying. Our uncivilized past is not that far behind us, unfortunately.
No, Judy. I fear you are right.
It’s good to remember the past and hold onto our horror, and avoid going that route again. Much as it would be easier to forget. Thanks for reminding us that enough people have already died for religion.
You’re right. The most dangerous times come when we forget what we are capable of.
If there is such a thing as a haunted door, that has got to be it. Looking at it in pictures is enough to give me the willies, Kate!
Standing there was quite an experience, Lame.
It gives me chills to see the door, Kate. I am familiar with the three martyrs, at least by name, not much more, but I have never heard they may be the reason behind Three Bind Mice. That’s a fascinating addition to the story!
So many of our nursery rhymes have gruesome beginnings, Debra, don’t they?
There seem to be any number of bloody bits in Brit history – but then, what histories don’t have lots of those? They are still being busily built to this day.
I have no sympathy for martyrs. Silly, the lot of them. All they had to dowas go through the motions. Under duress, it doesn’t count under any reasonable laws of man or god.
There’s something sinister about that door. Even if I hadn’t read your post, it would still seem sinister. I didn’t know that “Three Blind Mice” was possibly about the Oxford martyrs. Interesting if it’s true.