Christ Church, Philadelphia

Christ Church is an Episcopal church located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1695 by members of the Church of England, who built a small wooden church on the site by the next year. When the congregation outgrew this structure some twenty years later, they decided to erect a new church, the most sumptuous in the colonies. The main body of the church was constructed between 1727 and 1744, and the steeple was added in 1754, making it the tallest building in North America, at 60 meters. Christ Church is considered one of the nation's most beautiful surviving 18th-century structures, a monument to colonial craftsmanship and a handsome example of Georgian architecture. It features a symmetrical, classical façade with arched windows and a simple yet elegant interior with fluted columns and wooden pews. The baptismal font in which William Penn was baptized is still in use at Christ Church; it was sent to Philadelphia in 1697 from All Hallows by the Tower in London.


Christ Church's congregation included 15 signers of the Declaration of Independence. Revolutionary War leaders who attended Christ Church include George Washington, Robert Morris, Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross (after she had been read out of the Quaker meeting house to which she belonged for marrying John Ross, son of an assistant rector at Christ Church). Brass plaques mark the pews where these individuals once sat. At the convening of the First Continental Congress in September 1774, Rector Jacob Duché was summoned to Carpenters' Hall to lead the opening prayers. During the war, the Reverend William White (1748–1836), rector of Christ Church, served as Chaplain to both the Continental Congress and the United States Senate.

As the first Protestant Episcopal church in the country, Christ Church is the birthplace of the American Episcopal Church in the United States. In September 1785, clerical and lay deputies from several states met in Christ Church and organized as a general convention, of which White was chosen president. He prepared a draft constitution for the church as well as an address to the archbishops and bishops of the Church of England, asking for the episcopate at their hands. White was also largely responsible for the liturgy and offices of the first American Book of Common Prayer (published 1789), which were to be submitted to Church of England authorities. At the convention of the Diocese of Pennsylvania in 1786, he was elected its first bishop and sailed for England with Dr. Samuel Provoost of New York, seeking consecration. After passage of a special enabling act by Parliament, White and Provoost were consecrated in early 1787 by the archbishops of Canterbury and York. Bishop White returned to Philadelphia that Easter Sunday. In 1789, under White's direction, the first meeting of the House of Bishops was held at Christ Church, marking the first true General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. White was the first Episcopal Bishop of Pennsylvania and served the congregations of Christ Church and St. Peter's Church for decades. White is buried in the church's chancel.

Christ Church is a National Historic Landmark and a unique historic site that continues its original function as an Episcopal parish. More than 250,000 tourists visit the church each year.

Notable interments

Several notable people are buried in the church and adjacent churchyard, including:

  • Jacob Broom (1752–1810), signer of the United States Constitution from Delaware
  • Pierce Butler (1744–1822), signer of the United States Constitution
  • Elizabeth Graeme Ferguson (1739–1801), poet, early American writer
  • General John Forbes (1710–1759), British commander during the French and Indian War
  • Andrew Hamilton (1676–1741), lawyer known as "The Philadelphia Lawyer"
  • Charles Lee (1731–1782), Revolutionary War Continental Major General
  • Robert Morris (1734–1806), signer of the United States Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the United States Constitution
  • John Penn (1729–1795), governor and proprietor of provincial Pennsylvania
  • James Wilson (1742–1798), signer of the United States Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution
  • Rev. William White (1748–1836), rector of Saint Peter Church and Christ Church, first Episcopal Bishop of Pennsylvania

Many other notable people are buried at nearby associated Christ Church Burial Ground, including Benjamin Franklin and four other signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Building Activity

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