Hallowed Ground: St. Michael’s Church, Charleston’s Oldest Place of Worship

By:Page Ivey

Date:4/20/2015

If you are looking for an old church building in Charleston, it doesn’t get any older than St. Michael’s. The cornerstone for the existing building was laid in 1752 and the building opened in 1761.

Although other churches were built earlier, those buildings were destroyed or significantly damaged by fire, wars, hurricanes and one really big earthquake. St. Michael’s has survived all that and, with the exception of one addition, has remained largely unchanged for its 250-plus years.

St. Michael’s stands on the site of the first Anglican Church built in South Carolina for the families of the newly established Charles Town. It was named St. Philip’s and within 40 years it had outgrown the space and moved over to Church Street.

After another 30 years, it was determined that a second Anglican church was needed to accommodate Charleston’s growing population and St. Michael’s was authorized.

The church was built in the style of Sir Christopher Wren, which was typical of the Colonial period. It retains its original layout meant to bring worshippers close to a more centrally located pulpit, which is the focal point of the sanctuary and notable for its size. A scar remains at the foot of the pulpit from a shell that landed near the chancel during the Civil War.

The original pew boxes remain, including No. 43 – known as “The Governor’s Pew” – where George Washington and Robert E. Lee sat during services about 70 years apart.

Items have been added to the sanctuary over the years, including the Victorian altar presented in 1892 and the chancel decoration by Tiffany in 1905.

Two stained-glass windows depicting Easter morning and the Annunciation were presented to the church in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The stained-glass door in the south side of the church dates from 1915.

The original organ was made by John Snetzler in London and was installed in 1768.

Details:

St. Michael’s Church (link: http://www.stmichaelschurch.net), 71 Broad St., Charleston, SC 29401, 843.723.0603.

The church and cemetery are open to the public: 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Friday; 8:30 a.m.-noon on Saturday; and Sunday for services only at 8 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Call for more information.

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