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Monday, June 2, 2014

Historical landmarks: Christ Church, Alexandria, Va.

Christ Church is an active parish and has been since the 18th century, continuing to be a strong and thriving one with weekly worship services. Located in Old Town Alexandria, the church welcomes all to visit.  

The structure itself stands today much like it did in earlier generations with some updates over time. Construction of the church began back in 1767 and was completed in 1773. The front entryway to the Church is elaborate in design and beautiful. There is also a large bell tower, which was constructed in two phases; the second addition was added around 1820.

Christ Church
Christ Church from a distance
Entry door to Christ Church
Entry door to Christ Church


As you enter the Church, the inside is breathtaking. The front of the Christ Church is one of the first things your eyes are drawn to, as this is where the wine-glass Pulpit is located, along with the Palladian chancel window and the hand-lettered Tablets. The pulpit was installed in the late 19th century, it is not an original, but a replica in design, with placement and liturgical practices to be consistent with the way it would have looked during that era. 
Interior of Christ Church
Interior of Christ Church
The hand-lettered Tablets contain the Apostle's Creed, Ten Commandments, Lord's Prayer and the Golden Rule. Amazingly, these are original to the Church and have never been retouched; records indicate these were originally white, but now have turned golden in color as they have aged.


Interior of Christ Church
Closer view of pulpit and Tablets


The pews also exist much like they did in the 18th century. Back in earlier centuries people purchased or rented pews. One of Christ Church's most famous parishioners was George Washington, who worshiped when he was in Alexandria (his home in Mount Vernon is a few miles south). A small plaque has been placed on the rail where George Washington sat. Robert E. Lee was also a parishioner. His family pew is also marked. 

Interior of Christ Church - pews






If you take the docent-led tour at Christ Church, you'll learn it is customary for every President of the United States to visit Christ Church at some point during a presidential term. 

The churchyard contains burial grounds which was where Alexandria residents were interred until 1809 when local laws changed. You can still see many of the tombstones, but unfortunately some of the older ones were moved around; they are originals, but may not be in the exact right placement. This is due to the fact grave markers were removed and stacked along the Parish House by Union soldiers during the Civil War, notes Christ Church's website.

One section of the cemetery at Christ Church

The Church's history during the Civil War was tumultuous. When the U.S. Army occupied Alexandria in 1861, it seized many local churches to use for stables or hospitals, but due to Christ Church's strong bond with history and as the place George Washington worshiped, it was preserved, and U.S. Chaplains gave services at the church. During this time frame the regular parishioners worshiped at other churches. 

Interestingly, little change was made to the interior of Christ Church during the war years. After the war was over, the church was given back to the parishioners. Over the centuries many people have come to Christ Church to meet their spiritual needs and, according to Church statistics, today the number of parishioners exceeds 2,000 members. Three Sunday services are offered with Holy Communion at 8 a.m., 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Christ Church is open to visitors daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sundays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Guided tours are offered by the church's docents, and visitors are provided with background information, descriptions of its architecture, interesting facts and historical stories of the church.  

Christ Church is located on 118 North Washington St., Alexandria, Va. 22314. 

2 comments:

  1. Fascinating post, Leigh. I love those tablets! Too bad about the grave stones. I would very much enjoy visiting here, but until such, your post has been a great education and secondary way to experience it. I love that front door too.

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    1. Me too! So nice to see the tablets have been preserved so well over time. I hope you are able to visit Alexandria someday if you get to the DC area William - there are so many of those smaller museums I think you'd love! Thanks for your kind comment :)

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