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Church of the Holy Trinity

  • Travel Genus: Sight
  • Sight Category: Building

In early 1856, leaders of the movement to establish a new Episcopal church on Rittenhouse Square consulted with four architects before contracting with Scottish-born John Notman "to erect and complete a plain but substantial sandstone Church, with a heavy tower 150 feet in height." His design in "the Norman style," featuring semicircular arches for window and door openings, reflected the Romanesque Revival in American architecture. Notman copied the tower's design from the Abbaye-aux-hommes in Normandy. A projected steeple that would have reached 225 feet was never built.

The Romanesque style was popular with "low church" congregations for whom preaching was central in worship services; they also favored simple interior designs often without choir stalls or altars. As completed in 1859 CHT's interior was in effect an auditorium 118 feet long by 68 feet wide, with a flat white ceiling above the nave. Six columns circled a shallow semicircular chancel; its semi-domed ceiling was lighted by a stained glass window. With substantial galleries, the church accommodated seating of up to 1500.

Over the 150 years since its completion each succeeding generation left its mark on the building. A growing acceptance of decoration even in low-church congregations was reflected in substantial renovations in the early 1880s. The flat ceiling over the nave was replaced by barrel vaulting, decorated with delicate Victorian stenciling, and the chancel was deepened. The enlarged half-dome was richly decorated with gold leaf.

Beginning in 1884 and continuing over several decades, parishioners presented to CHT nineteen stained glass windows as memorials. These include four produced by the famous studio of Louis Comfort Tiffany; others were made by Willet Studios of Philadelphia, Clayton and Bell and Henry Holiday, both of London, England; Franz Mayer and Co. of Munich, Germany; and Luc Olivier Merson of France. In each case, Vestry approval of the design was required. Several other windows in geometric designs were produced by W J McPherson Co, of Boston. Other windows in the towers and the front of the church were created by Willet Studios and Messrs J and C H Gibson of Philadelphia. - Church of the Holy Trinity



Y/M/D Person Association Description Composition Food Event
Y/M/D Person Association Description Composition Food Event
1859/03/27 John Notman Architect Built in 1857, the first service is held at the Church of the Holy Trinity, an Episcopal church on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia.
1862/00/00 Rev Phillips Brooks Rector Phillips Brooks serves as rector of Church of the Holy Trinity from 1862 to 1869
1867/00/00 George Watson Hewitt Architect The corner tower of the Church of the Holy Trinity, built in 1867, was designed by George W Hewitt of the firm of Fraser, Furness and Hewitt.
1868/00/00 Rev Phillips Brooks Author Phillips Brooks writes the Christmas hymn, "O Little Town of Bethlehem".
1882/00/00 Joseph Temple, a Quaker dry goods merchant, presents HTC with a carillon in memory of his wife Martha A Kirkley Temple. The oldest manually operated carillon in North America, its bells were cast at the Severin Van Aerschodt foundry in Louvain, Belgium.
1883/10/00 Holy Trinity carillon is first rung at the opening of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, held at Church of the Holy Trinity in October 1883.
1895/00/00 Gorham Manufacturing Company Craftsman A large ornately carved pulpit was installed in the chancel as a memorial to its second Rector, the Rev Phillips Brooks and a large brass and bronze lectern made by the Gorham Company of New York is placed in the chancel in memory of Joel B Morehouse.
1914/00/00 Moravian Pottery and Tile Works Artisan During renovations, a new glass skylight by Tiffany Studios is installed in the chancel dome and the aisles and chancel area are covered with terra cotta tiles made by the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works.
1914/00/00 Tiffany Studios Artisan During renovations, a new glass skylight by Tiffany Studios is installed in the chancel dome and the aisles and chancel area are covered with terra cotta tiles made by the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works.

Data »

Particulars for Church of the Holy Trinity:
Area of Significance Architecture
Criteria Architecture-Engineering
Sight Category Building
Decorative Arts Ceramic Tile
Season Christmas
Level of Significance National
Other Description Norman Romanesque
Owner Private
Historic Use Religious Property
Architectural Style Romanesque Revival

US National Registry of Historic Places Data »

Accurate at time of registration:

Registry Name:
Registry Address:
Registry Number: 73001660
Resource Type:
Owner: Private
Architect: Notman,John; Hewitt,Georgey
Architectural Style: Romanesque, Other
Attribute: Norman Romanesque
Level of Significance: National
Area of Significance: Architecture
Applicable Criteria: Architecture-Engineering
Criteria Consideration: Religious property
Period of Significance: 1850-1874
Significant Year: 1857, 1859, 1868
Historic Function: Religion
Historic Sub-Function: Religious structure
Current Function: Religion
Current Sub-Function: Religious structure

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