See Why They Call Charleston "The Holy City"When you look out over the Charleston skyline, you see a horizon dotted with steeples and palmetto trees. With over 400 places of worship of different denominations throughout the city and a long history of religious tolerance, it's easy to see why Charleston truly is "The Holy City."
Cathedral of St. John The BaptistBuilt between 1890 and 1907, the building is constructed of Connecticut Brownstone with star shaped indentations on the surface. The land was purchased in 1820 by Bishop England who was the 1st bishop of the diocese.
Circular Congregation ChurchOpen to visitors when tour guides are available. Organized in 1681, this church became The Independent Church of Charles Towne. Meeting Street adopted its name from the Meeting House built to house the independent congregation. In 1806, a unique circular building, designed by Robert Mills, became known as the Circular Church. In 1861, a fire destroyed the building. In 1891, the fourth and present building on the site integrated the brick from the burned building of the 1886 earthquake into the new building. The Circular Church established the first Sunday School in South Carolina.
First (Scots) Presbyterian ChurchThis church was organized in 1731 by Caledonian immigrants who would not become members of the Anglican faith. The present church, built in 1814, displays the seal of the Church of Scotland in the window over the main entrance. The bells, which the congregation voted to give to the Confederacy in 1863, were replaced in 1999.
First Baptist ChurchLocated in the historic district near the Battery; Sunday services, 8:45am worship, 9:45am Bible school, 11am worship and 6:30pm vesper service. First Baptist Church is the oldest Baptist Church in the South, founded in 1682. The present sanctuary building, designed by Robert Mills, was completed in 1822.
Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE)Reform Jewish Congregation of Charleston Open for tours when volunteer guides available M-F 10am-Noon and 1:30-3:30pm except on F. Su:1-4pm. Judaic gift shop and museum open 10am-4pm. Normal services Friday at 8pm (7pm on 1st F of month) and Saturday at 10:00am. This is the fourth oldest synagogue in the United States and the oldest in continuous use. It was the birthplace of American Reform Judaism in 1824. A handsome, synagogue built in 1794, was destroyed by fire in 1838. The present structure, constructed in 1830, is considered one of the country’s finest examples of Greek Revival architecture.
Mother Emanuel A.M.E. ChurchIn 1791, the Free African Society, composed of both slaves and free Negroes, was formed in Charleston and later became known as the Bethel Circuit. In 1865, the church was reorganized and the present edifice was erected in 1891.
Mt. Zion A.M.E. ChurchService at 10am on Sun. This is the first brick church building owned by Blacks in Charleston. The building was purchased in 1882 by members of Emanuel A.M.E. Church to alleviate its overcrowded conditions. The 54th & 55th Massachusetts regiments worshiped here while stationed in Charleston.
St. Andrew’s Episcopal ChurchSunday service times are 9:00am and 10:45am. Contemporary Wednesday service at 6:30pm. Founded in 1835 as The Chapel of Ease for Christ Episcopal Church, St. Andrew’s is located in Mt. Pleasant’s historic Old Village. After the War Between the States, St. Andrew’s reopened in February, 1866 and was the only place of public worship then open, creating a place of worship for parishioners of many denominations.
St. John's Lutheran ChurchSt. John’s is the mother church of Lutherans in South Carolina and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 1992. Founded by German immigrants, the first recorded service was held May 26, 1734. The congregation was established in 1742 by Henry Melchior Muhlenburg. The first building on the site was begun in 1759 and replaced by the present building in 1817. Handicapped accessible on Sunday, weekdays by request.
St. Mary's Roman Catholic ChurchThe oldest Roman Catholic Church in South Carolina and the Mother Church of the Dioceses of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia, it was established in 1789. The present building, replacing an earlier one which was destroyed by fire in 1838, was completed in 1839.
St. Matthew's Lutheran ChurchMon.-Fri. 8:30am-4:30pm. The second Lutheran congregation organized in Charleston in 1840, primarily for German-speaking settlers. The present Gothic building, with its 297-ft. steeple, was erected in 1872 and was rebuilt following a devastating fire in 1965. Spectacular stained glass windows tell Biblical stories.
St. Michael's Episcopal ChurchCompleted in 1761, this is the oldest church edifice in the city and one of the few city churches in America to retain its original design. It was here that George Washington worshiped during his tour of the South in 1791. The clock and ring of eight bells in St. Michael’s steeple were imported in 1764. Except for short absences (during the Revolution they were returned to England as a prize of war, and during the Civil War they were burned and had to be sent to England for recasting), these bells have shared the lives of Charlestonians for more than 200 years.
St. Philip’s Episcopal ChurchEst. 1670, St. Philip’s is the Mother Church of the Province, and originally stood on the site where St. Michael’s stands today. The second structure at the present site was completed in 1724 but destroyed by fire in 1835. The present building was constructed 1835-1838. During the Civil War its bells were converted into cannon. On July 4, 1976, new bells were placed in the steeple, and again St. Philip’s was known as the lighthouse. In St. Philip’s churchyard are the graves of John C. Calhoun, Secretary of War and Vice President of the United States; Edward Rutledge, signer of the Declaration of Independence; Charles Pinckney, signer of the Constitution; and Dubose Heyward, author of “Porgy.”
The Cathedral of St. Luke and St. PaulOpened in 1815, it was known in its early years as the “Third Episcopal Church of Charleston” and the “Planters Church” as its founding families were primarily from outlying plantations. The Cathedral’s design is typical of the period, and the interior has been restored to appear much as it did in 1815. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is one of the two oldest church buildings currently serving as an Episcopal / Anglican Cathedral in the United States. The Cathedral is the site of major cultural events, including concerts during the Spoleto and Piccolo Spoleto festivals.
The French Protestant (Huguenot) ChurchServices are held each Sunday at 10:30am. Built in 1844-45, the fourth church at this site was designed by Edward B. White. As early as 1687, French Huguenots, fleeing France to avoid religious persecution, were worshipping in a church on this site. An annual French Liturgy service is still held each spring.
The Old Bethel Methodist ChurchFormerly Bethel Methodist Church, this church was dedicated in 1798 to accommodate the expanding congregation of the Blue Meeting House on Cumberland Street. When the congregation of Bethel Methodist Church began construction of its present church in 1852, the earlier church was moved slightly to the west and used for class meetings of Black members. In 1880, it was moved across the street and given to the Black congregation.
The Old St. Andrews Parish ChurchThe oldest surviving church in the Carolinas, founded and built in 1706; a number of historic tombs are located in the church yard. The Annual Tea Room and Gift Shop each spring serves a Lowcountry menu.
The Second Presbyterian ChurchThis building is the oldest edifice of this faith in the historic section of Charleston, built in 1809 by James and John Gordon and dedicated on April 3, 1811. The sanctuary was so immense that it was a strain on the ministers’ voices to be heard. In 1833, the floor was raised three feet, the ceiling lowered 16 feet, and part of the sanctuary cut off to make an enlarged vestibule. The entrances on the north and south sides were closed. The old box pews were replaced in 1849. The Presbyterian Church of the United States designated this church Historical Site Number One.
The Unitarian ChurchThe Unitarian Church was chartered originally as the Second Independent or Congregational Church and was an adjunct of the Circular Church on Meeting Street. In 1817, the Unitarian and Trinitarian Congregationalists divided, the Unitarians settling on Archdale Street. The building was begun in 1722, but work was interrupted by the Revolution, and it was not completed until 1787. In 1852, the congregation remodeled the building after plans by Francis D. Lee inspired by the Chapel of Henry VII in Westminster Abbey. The unusual fan tracery in the ceiling in the interior is unique in the United States.