St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, target during Union bombardment of Charleston

St. Michael’s Episcopal Church
71 Broad Street
Charleston, SC

Contrary to popular belief, the steeple of St. Michael’s, though a highly visual target during the Union bombardment of Charleston during the Civil War, was never actually struck by a Union artillery. Other parts of the church were however.

The steeple is 186 feet in height; the weather vane is 7 ½ feet long. The entire steeple sank eight inches as a result of the earthquake in 1886. The font was imported from England in 1771.

St. Michael’s Episcopal Church

Another view

Another view

Old view

Image, Source: digital file from original neg. of right half

Another view

View from top of St. Michael’s spire, looking north

St. Michael’s Church is the oldest church edifice in the City of Charleston, standing on the site of the first Anglican Church built south of Virginia. In the 1680’s a small wooden church, the first in the new town of Charles Town, was built on this spot for the families of the Church of England, and named St. Philip’s. By 1727, the town had grown too large for the small church and a more spacious one was built of brick on Church Street, later destroyed by fire in 1835.

By 1751, St. Philip’s had again proved too small for the increasing population, and another church as authorized by the General Assembly of the Province, to be built on the old site and to be known as St. Michael’s. The cornerstone was laid in 1752 and in 1761 the church was opened for services. Except for the addition of the sacristy in 1883 on the southeast corner, the structure of the building has been little changed.

Although the architect’s name is unknown, the type of architecture follows the tradition of Sir Christopher Wren, generally used during our Colonial period and up to the Gothic revival in 1841. The design carries out worship according to the Book of Common Prayer, where the service is to be heard and all the worshippers are to participate. The altar is close to the congregation in a shallow recess, the apse, with the choir and organ in the rear. A gallery on three sides brings more people closer to the center of worship. St. Michael’s is one of the few city churches in America that has retained this original design.

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