Saint Michael's Episcopal Church

 

By: Staff Editor, Charleston Harbor Tours
October 10, 2007

St. Michael’s church has a unique beauty that is only paralleled by its historical significance. The church was established in 1751 as the 2nd Anglican parish in all of Charleston.  The building’s unique construction, designed after 18th century English pattern books, was completed in totality in 1761. With a 186 foot high steeple and a giant classical portico, this two story stuccoed brick masterpiece awes people from all over the world.

St. Michael’s was originally created because of an overcrowding in St.

Philip’s Episcopal Church in Charleston. The church’s congregation decided to split the city into two halves, and those from the lower half of the city formed St. Michael’s.

St. Michael’s church became an important center for colonial resistance during the Revolutionary War against the British. The high steeple was an easy target for British ship gunners, and there were regular attacks on the church that had become an integral cultural meeting place for the community.

The congregation decided to paint the steeple black in hopes of making it less visible – but of course it was even more visible against the blue of the Charleston sky!

During the war against the British, the lead roof was melted down to make bullets, and the magnificent bells were taken away to England as a prize of war. Fortunately, the bells were purchased by a local British merchant and eventually returned to St. Michaels, only to be cracked in a fire in Columbia where they were sent during the American Civil War.

St. Michael’s has not only survived wars, but hurricanes, earthquakes, and even a cyclone, without ever sustaining serious damage. Minor restorations and reconstructions have been done over the course of its history, but one can still see pew 43 inside where George Washington and Robert E.  Lee once sat.

This famous church is now a National Historic Landmark; it is a symbol of the traditional colonial American church, and another reminder of the importance of religion to the people in Charleston.

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