Hallowed Ground: 7 Reasons Charleston Is Known as the Holy City

By:Page Ivey


If you are lucky enough to get to see Charleston from the water, you will understand why it is called the Holy City. Church steeples dot the skyline and offer a visual glimpse into the past, when Charleston was known for is religious diversity and tolerance. Here is a sampling of historic places of worship that should not be missed.

St. Philip’s Episcopal Church is probably the most recognizable church in Charleston. The building was completed in 1838. In its churchyard are the graves of Vice President John C. Calhoun, signer of the Declaration of Independence Edward Rutledge and Dubose Heyward, author of “Porgy” — on which the Gershwin opera “Porgy and Bess” was based.

Circular Congregation Church was organized in 1681 and in 1806 began meeting in a Robert Mills-designed circular building that gave the congregation its unique name. The building was destroyed by fire in 1861 and damaged by the 1886 earthquake. The present building opened in 1891.

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was made up of freedmen and slaves when it started in 1791. In the 1820s, Denmark Vessey plotted a slave rebellion in the church, and it was closed. The congregation was reorganized at the end of the Civil War, and the current building was built in 1891.

Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim is the second-oldest synagogue in the US and the birthplace of American Reform Judaism in 1824. The original structure was destroyed by fire in 1838. The current building was completed in 1840.

First Baptist Church lays claim to being the oldest Baptist church in the South. Founded in 1682, the congregation moved into its Robert Mills-designed building in 1822.

St. John’s Lutheran Church was founded by German immigrants in 1742 and is the mother church for all South Carolina Lutherans. The present building was completed in 1817.

The French Protestant (Huguenot) Church was completed in 1845, but its congregation goes back to 1687 when French Protestants fled persecution at home.

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