Stolen Treasure in the Old North Church

Over its 300-year history, the Old North Church has acquired many claims to fame. It is the oldest standing church building in the city of Boston. Hanging from the second floor gallery is the oldest working American-made clock displayed in a public building. Robert Newman and Captain John Pulling Jr. carefully climbed the church’s steeple to hang signal lanterns on the famous night of April 18th, 1775. It is also where stolen treasure has proudly been displayed since 1746!

Angels of the Old North Church. Courtesy Old North Church

The four angels standing on columns just in front of the church’s organ on the second floor gallery were never intended to be inside the Old North Church. They were hand carved in what is now known as Belgium in the early 1600s. In 1746, the angels were on board a French ship bound for Quebec where they were supposed to be given as a present to a new Catholic convent. But the angels never made it!

Just off the coast of Nova Scotia, a British privateer, Captain Thomas Gruchy captured the French ship. At the time, France and England were at war. The King of England, King George II, had given ship captains permission to capture foreign vessels during wartime, thus turning the captains into privateers. Privateers were allowed to commandeer ships, impress sailors, and plunder cargo goods- much like pirates. Unlike a pirate however, privateers had permission from their government to do so.

Once the French ship was in his possession, Captain Gruchy took all of the goods back to his homeport of Boston where he then sold them for a pretty nice profit. However, when he found the four angels, he decided his best option would be to donate them to his church. Lucky for Old North, Captain Gruchy was a member of the congregation! The angels have graced the second floor gallery ever since, which means the Old North Church has been displaying stolen treasure for over 260 years