The Chevalier’s Story
In 1778, the twenty-eight-year-old French naval officer Chevalier de Saint-Sauveur sailed to Boston, along with a fleet of French ships as allies to the colonists during the American Revolution. The French Navy opened a bakery there to feed their soldiers and sailors, and due to food shortages in Boston at the time, a riot broke out among the French soldier-bakers and some local Bostonians. While attempting to ease tensions, the Chevalier was hit in the head and tragically died a week later.
To prevent a diplomatic crisis, Bostonians agreed to bury him in the “Stranger’s Tomb” in King’s Chapel’s crypt and to provide a rare Roman Catholic funeral at the tomb entrance. General George Washington further ordered a feast be hosted in honor of the Chevalier, as well as the creation of a memorial. The concrete granite memorial you see here, designed to be consistent with similar memorials from the 18th century, wasn’t erected until May 1917 - over 130 years after the Chevalier’s death.
The Stranger’s Tomb
Beneath the chapel is a crypt consisting of twenty tombs that were used and owned by some of the wealthiest congregants from the 1750s through the 1830s. The twenty-first tomb, called the “Stranger’s Tomb” located directly below the vestibule (the front entrance right in front of you) has its own unique story. During the colonial period, Boston churches often helped the city with charitable burials of almshouse residents, the unclaimed, travelers, sailors, etc. Thus, the large tomb was called the Stranger’s Tomb because the buried were strangers to the church or community. Church records indicate that roughly 30-50 bodies were interred in the Stranger’s Tomb, including the infamous French naval officer.
Learn more about the Stranger’s Tomb here! And continue this walking tour to learn more about the King’s Chapel crypt.