Saxon Tower of St Michael at the North Gate. Image courtesy of Robert Cutts

Visiting Oxford > What to See > Historical Places

Saxon Tower of St Michael at the North Gate

The Saxon Tower of St Michael at the North Gate was once by the North Gate in the walls of Oxford city. Today, you can visit this cultural landmark every day of the week! There are 97 steps you will need to climb to get to the top, though, so be ready. The climb, however, is rewarded with great panoramic views of the city of Oxford and its many colleges, churches, and cobbled streets. The entrance fee is £3.50 (£3 for concessions and £2 for children). 

The History of St Michael at the North Gate

The tower is Anglo-Saxon and was built in 1040, from rubble and coral rag. It still stands strong today as Oxford’s oldest building. The north aisle and transept date from the year 1833 and were rebuilt by local architect John Plowman. One of the events closely linked to St Michael at the North Gate is the imprisonment of the Oxford Martyrs (Protestants tried for heresy and burnt at the stake in 1555). Their cell door can still be seen on display in the church’s tower.

What to See in St Michael at the North Gate

These are some of the things you shouldn’t miss when visiting St Michael at the North Gate:

  • The Saxon tower itself, which dates back to 1040. 
  • The prison where Bishops Ridley and Latimer were held in 1555 and 1556. 
  • The pulpit – where in the 15th century John Wesley (the founder of Methodism) preached in 1726 his Michaelmas Sermon.
  • The 13th-century stained glass (East Window) and the 14th-century front.
  • The church treasury, which features a beautiful Elizabethan chalice that dates back to 1562 and a 1606 copy of the Geneva Bible. 
  • The 19th century clock mechanism, which you can watch in action. 

Where is St Michael at the North Gate?

St Michael at the North Gate is on Cornmarket Street, Oxford.

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