Friday, March 5, 2010

Time Travelers: St. Michael's Church, Charleston

In my Time Travelers Series, I share some of my favorite historical sites from my travels with my fellow history adventurer, my husband Erin. 

Destination: St. Michael's Church, Charleston, South Carolina

If you've ever had the pleasure of visiting Charleston, you know that virtually no matter where you are in the city you can hear church bells ringing the hours. I was instantly captivated by Charleston and spent hours just walking the streets of the historic district admiring the architecture. St. Michael's Episcopal Church is particularly worth noting both for its beauty and its history.

On the eve of the American Revolution, Charleston was the wealthiest city in the American colonies, home to nine of the ten richest men in America. South Carolina was also the most tolerant of the colonies and Charleston was home to numerous churches of many denominations, even a Jewish synagogue.

St. Michael's is the oldest church building in Charleston. Commissioned by the Assembly and patronized by some of the city's wealthiest citizens, St. Michael's is a gem that has survived both the American Revolution and the Civil War. When it was completed in 1761 it stood at the heart of Charleston, the bustling intersection of Meeting and Broad Streets. It's design was based on those of Sir Christopher Wren, taking cues from the Book of Common Prayer, with an altar close to the congregation and a gallery on three sides to bring the people closer to the center of worship, where all were invited to hear and participate in the sermon.

The church has seen its share of adventures, too. In 1757 the First Royal Highland Battalion used the unfinished church as temporary barracks while preparing to defend South Carolina from the Cherokee waging war on the frontier. During the Siege of Charleston in 1780 the steeple was painted black in an effort to camofluage and protect it from British naval guns. The church bells were taken to England as a prize of war but were later returned. They were removed again during the Civil War and sent to Columbia where they were damaged in a fire and subsequently had to be sent to England for recasting. The church survived the 1886 earthquake which caused considerable damage to Charleston, but the portico did not and the one we see today is a replica of the original.

To learn more about the architecture and history
of St. Michael's Church, click here.

1 comment:

  1. I love this idea for a post!

    My husband and I went to Charleston for Valentine's Day several years ago and loved it. We mostly just wandered around the downtown area, and I don't remember going inside very many places. I do remember seeing this church though. Your pictures are beautiful. Thanks for sharing.


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