As we come together as a nation to celebrate Independence Day, there is no better time to highlight Christ Church in Philadelphia. The church, which was dubbed ‘The Nation’s Church,’ was a place of worship for many of our Founding Fathers and patriots, including 15 signers of the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Betsy Ross are some of the famous church members. Bronze plaques mark the pews where they sat during services.
In 1695, Christ Church was built as a small wooden structure on the very site where the church sits today. Between 1727 and 1744 the church was rebuilt, and in 1754, the steeple was added, which made the church the tallest building at the time in North America. It held this title for 56 years. The church remains one of the country’s most important and beautiful 18th century structures and representation of Georgian architecture.
One of the most notable features is William Penn’s baptismal font, which is still in use today. Hanging from the ceiling is a chandelier that is still in use since its installation in 1740. The original eight bells, which proclaimed independence from England in 1776, are still rung once a week.
The church serves as a unique combination of a historical site and an active Episcopal Church, still holding services every Sunday. It is also the final resting place for many notable Americans including Charles Lee (a general in the Revolutionary War) and Robert Morris (a signer of the Declaration of Independence). Benjamin Franklin and several other signers of the Declaration are buried at a nearby cemetery that bears Christ Church’s name.
Thanks to a $500,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the church is making repairs to the church and steeple. In the last 50 years, engineers installed two steel structural supports inside Christ Church’s tower, and now there is a need for six more. The project’s estimated cost is $3 million, and the church has raised $2.5 million, including the new grant.
This historical church attracts more than 250,000 visitors each year and proudly represents Philadelphia’s religious roots. Tours are given throughout the day, informing visitors about the church’s 300-plus-year history and the critical role it played during the American Revolution. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. All donations support the preservation of Christ Church.
Christ Church is located at 20 N. American St. in Philadelphia. For more information, visit www.christchurchphila.org.