Memento Mori: a door to remember

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.

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32 thoughts on “Memento Mori: a door to remember

  1. 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 🙂

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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