“Twelve Gates to the City”


Spiritual: "Oh, what a beautiful city/There's twelve gates to the city, halleluiah"; "Three gates in the east, three gates in the west/Three gates in the north, three gates in the south."


I know there are earlier recordings of this piece (it was a showpiece for Rev. Gary Davis), and probably earlier printed citations too, but I haven't found them yet. - PJS

The image of the heavenly city may possibly be derived from Chapter 21 of the Apocalypse, but the twelve gates of the city, three on each side, are unquestionably taken from Ezekiel 48:30-34. - RBW


  • Marian Anderson, "Oh! What a Beautiful City" (Victor 10-1040, 1943)
  • Blind Gary [Davis], "Twelve Gates to the City" (ARC 7-04-55, 1937; rec. 1935)
  • Blind Boy Fuller w. Sonny Terry, "Twelve Gates to the City" (Vocalion 05465, 1940)
  • Galilee Singers, "What a Beautiful City" (Decca 7765, 1940)
  • Norfolk Jubilee Quartet, "Oh What a Beautiful City" (Paramount 12929, 1930; rec. 1929)
  • Pete Seeger & Sonny Terry, "Twelve Gates to the City" (on SeegerTerry)
  • Pete Seeger, "Beautiful City" (on PeteSeeger18)); "Twelve Gates to the City" (on PeteSeeger42); "Oh, What a Beautiful City [Twelve Gates to the City]" (on PeteSeeger47)
  • Sonny Terry [pseud., Saunders Terrell], "Beautiful City" (on Terry01)


  1. PSeeger-AFB, p. 81, "Twelve Gates to the City" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Silber-FSWB, p. 349, "Twelve Gates to the City" (1 text)
  4. BI, PSAFB081


Alternate titles: “Oh, What a Beautiful City”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1929 (recording, Norfolk Jubilee Quartet)
Keywords: nonballad religious
Found in: US(SE)