St. Michael's Church, Charleston

St. Michael's Church, Charleston (must see)

While Saint Philip's church can rightfully claim the title of Charleston's oldest congregation, Saint Michael's takes pride in being the city's oldest religious structure, completed in 1761. Its architect's identity remains a mystery, though there's no doubt that this exquisite building is one of Charleston's greatest architectural treasures, reflecting the influence of London's Saint Martin-in-the-Fields temple, designed in the 1720s.

Notably, Saint Michael's features a two-story portico with Tuscan columns, a pioneering architectural feature in colonial America. Adorning the north wall is a sizable stained glass window donated in 1898, showcasing a rendition of "Easter Morning". Composed of approximately 1,800 to 2,000 individual pieces, this masterpiece was crafted by artist and designer Louis Lederlie for Tiffany Studios. Additionally, the church tower houses a clock that chimes the hours and quarters, along with eight remarkable change-ringing bells, one of only four such sets in the Charleston area. These bells were initially cast in 1764 and later recast in 1866, both times in London.

The building has, for the most part, remained remarkably intact over the centuries, aside from the addition of a sacristy in 1883; nevertheless, it has endured significant repairs due to a series of natural and man-made disasters. In the earthquake of 1886, the steeple tower sank by 8 inches, resulting in several cracks throughout the church. Further damage was inflicted by a tornado in 1935 and Hurricane Hugo in 1989. During both the American Revolution and the Civil War, the spire was painted black to reduce its visibility as a target for enemy gunners.

A historical highlight includes President George Washington's visit to Charleston in 1791 when he attended a service at Saint Michael's, occupying the Governor's Pew, which is commemorated with a small plaque. The churchyard serves as the final resting place for several distinguished members of the congregation, including General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, a Revolutionary War hero and signer of the Constitution, as well as John Rutledge, a signer of the Constitution and member of the U.S. Supreme Court.

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St. Michael's Church on Map

Sight Name: St. Michael's Church
Sight Location: Charleston, USA (See walking tours in Charleston)
Sight Type: Religious
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in Charleston, South Carolina

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Create Your Own Walk in Charleston

Creating your own self-guided walk in Charleston is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
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