What Lies Under King’s Chapel?

Where do those stairs lead? It’s the question many visitors ask when they notice the disappearing stairs descending from the door in Pew 14.

As a fully functioning church, King’s Chapel needed a place to lay the congregation to rest. It is a common misconception that King’s Chapel Burying Ground, located directly behind the church, is the church yard. In fact, what is now known as King’s Chapel Burying Ground predates the church by over 50 years, is not part of the church, and is the property of the City of Boston.

When the Anglican colonists wanted an Anglican church (the established Church of England) in Puritan Boston, the Puritan community refused to sell the Anglicans a single square of land. Thus, in 1687, Governor Edward Andros, the first royal governor of New England, and a non-Puritan outsider, annexed one end of the nameless burying ground in the name of King James II, and the church was built on the old hallowed – and hollowed – ground. After removing the “occupants” located in the south west end of the old burying ground and shifting them next door to the area now known as King’s Chapel Burying Ground, the builders decided to make the freshly hollowed out ground the church crypt, making it the oldest crypt in Boston. Underneath King’s Chapel, not much has changed, even with the major reconstruction of the church in 1749. Today, visitors can embark on a “Bells and Bones Tour” to see the 325 year old crypt, whose residents, some of whom are figures of history, rest behind bricked up vaults.

1. King's Chapel Crypt - Barrell Vault Marker. Photo courtesy of King’s Chapel Freedom Trail Program

2. King's Chapel Crypt - Lloyd Vault Marker. Photo courtesy of King’s Chapel Freedom Trail Program

3. King's Chapel Crypt - Vault 3. Photo courtesy of King’s Chapel Freedom Trail Program

4. King's Chapel Crypt - Caskets. Photo courtesy of King’s Chapel Freedom Trail Program
5. King's Chapel Crypt - Inside Tomb 1. Photo courtesy of King’s Chapel Freedom Trail Program

6. King's Chapel Crypt - Inside Tomb 1 (2).Photo courtesy of King’s Chapel Freedom Trail Program