Known as “The Nation’s Church” Christ Church Philadelphia was the religious center of early America. Today you can sit in the pews where George Washington, John Adams, Ben Franklin, and Betsy Ross sat. The Second Continental Congress worshipped here as a body in 1775-76.
Christ Church was originally founded in 1695 as a much smaller Church of England parish. As the congregation grew, they decided to build a much larger church, the one that still stands today. Completed in 1744, it is considered to be one of the most beautiful surviving 18th-century structures in the United States.
The steeple, added in 1754, made Christ Church the tallest building in the United States until 1810 when Boston’s Park Street Church took the title. The steeple needs a new coat of paint and a good straightening. Titled 22 inches off-center, the church is raising funds to reinforce it to prevent more lean.
Benjamin Franklin organized three lotteries to originally finance the payment of the church’s steeple and bells.
Inside the church
Inside, the white walls and wood pews gleam in today’s broken sunlight.
Christ Church’s congregation included 15 signers of the Declaration of Independence. American Revolutionary War leaders who attended Christ Church include George Washington, Robert Morris, Benjamin Franklin, Francis Hopkinson, and Betsy Ross. Brass plaques mark the pews where these historic figures once sat.
The pièce de résistance is the Washington pew, number 58. This is where the first President and his wife Martha worshipped. There may be a line to sit in this one. I waited for my turn and had a seat.
There are a number of internments inside the building, including signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Common folk, too.
Visit Christ Church Philadelphia
Today Christ Church continues its original function as an Episcopal parish. More than 250,000 tourists visit the church each year. A donation is suggested and they have a gift shop.
Learn more about the church’s services and even search their historic archives on their website.