Discover Charleston

5 Favorite Churches of the Holy City

 

 

Charleston’s not called the Holy City for nothing. Just take a look at the city skyline (preferably at sunrise or sunset) for a spectacular view of the steeples representing many of the city’s historic churches. Check out these five favorites for a look at their jaw-dropping architecture, a stroll through their history-laden cemeteries or, if you’re lucky, a peek inside. CIRCULAR CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH Originally established in 1681, this landmark church was formed by some of the first settlers of Charleston and is the site of the city’s oldest graveyard. The original building was known by locals as the White Meeting House— giving Meeting Street its name. After fire and earthquake destroyed the earlier building, the present structure was completed in 1892 and is circular in form but Romanesque in style. The graveyard has stones dating back to 1695. 150 Meeting St., 843.577.6400. www.circularchurch.org

FRENCH PROTESTANT (HUGUENOT) CHURCH The only remaining independent Huguenot congregation in America, this church was the city’s first to be built in the Gothic Revival style. Built in 1845, the structure was designed by noted Charleston architect Edward Brickell White, who is often credited with popularizing the Gothic style in America. The church was restored after being damaged by shelling during the Civil War and nearly demolished in the 1886 earthquake. The church’s famous Tracker organ is one of the last of its kind in the country. 44 Queen St., 843.722.4385. www.frenchchurch.org

ST. MICHAEL’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH Completed in 1761, St. Michael’s is the oldest church structure in the city and has retained its original design over the centuries. It is here that President George Washington worshipped on his famous 1791 presidential tour, where he sat in the Governor’s Pew. During the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, the church’s steeple was painted black to make it less visible as a target for enemy gunners. Many historic war heroes and signers of the Constitution are buried in St. Michael’s cemetery. 71 Broad St., 843.724.7578. www.stmichaelschurch.net

St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church Established in 1680, St. Phillip’s boasts the oldest church congregation in Charleston, however the present building on Church Street wasn’t built until 1710. During the Civil War, St. Phillip’s bells were given to the Confederate army to be melted into cannon, leaving the church bell-less until 1976. The church’s cemetery is the resting place of several founding fathers. The site is a popular destination for Charleston ghost hunters, though the church displays a sign outside that reads, “The only ghost at St. Phillip’s is the Holy Ghost.” 142 Church St., 843.722.7734. www.stphillipschurchsc.org

The Unitarian Church in Charleston The Unitarian Church is the second oldest church on the peninsula and its Gothic Revival Style building is designated as a National Historic Landmark. The church building was under construction when the Revolutionary War broke out in 1776 and the American militia, sent to protect the city, used the church as barracks during that time. When the church was modernized in 1852, the Charleston architect was inspired by the Chapel of Henry VII at Westminster Abbey and included similar features. The church’s unique cemetery is designed as a garden cemetery and meant to represent the Garden of Eden. The organized chaos of the grounds includes lush overgrowth of native plants and flowers—the perfect place for strolling. 4 Archdale St., 843.723.4617. www.charlestonuu.org