Academic journal article Material Culture

Anglican Church Architecture and Religious Identity in Early Colonial South Carolina

Academic journal article Material Culture

Anglican Church Architecture and Religious Identity in Early Colonial South Carolina

Article excerpt


At the time of the initial founding of the Carolina colony in 1670, the Church of England, or the Anglican Church as it became known, was "the only true and orthodox" religion in the colony (Dalcho 1820, 4) . However, due to the colony's stance on religious tolerance, the proprietary government did not initially establish the Church in the colony as done in Virginia . Establishment was an important distinction, as it led to a colony's government formally recognizing the Anglican Church and supporting it politically and monetarily (Woolverton 1984) . Establishment also indicated that there was no separation between state and church, with the church being a part of the colonial government

The South Carolina Anglican Church's status changed in 1706 when the General Assembly passed the Church Act, establishing the Church of England . Immediately, the Assembly granted public funds for the construction of churches in the newly formed parishes . Over the next few decades, a number of churches were constructed and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG), the missionary branch of the Church of England, sent missionaries to the colony to serve as ministers . Of those churches, only three survive: St . Andrew's (1706), St . James' (Goose Creek) (ca . 1719), and Strawberry Chapel (ca . 1739), located in St . John's Parish . The remaining early eighteenth-century Anglican structures have fallen to ruins with little historical, architectural, or archaeological evidence to document them or their history St Paul's Parish Church, located west of Charleston, is one such church .

This paper examines the architecture of these early eighteenth century-Anglican churches, focusing on St . Paul's Parish Church, constructed in 1707. St . Paul's was located approximately 18 miles west of Charles Town (later Charleston), along the Stono River (Figure 1) . As a form of material culture, architecture reflects the thoughts, beliefs, and goals of its designer(s) As presented here, St Paul's architecture reflected Anglican ideology, as well as the religious beliefs of parish residents and the goals of the colony's Anglican and political leaders .

Historical Context

Beginning in the early sixteenth century, Reformation ideas spread throughout Europe and England, eventually leading to the separation of the Church of England from the Catholic Church . Over the next 200 years, church doctrine changed many times, usually with the ascension of a new monarch, as some wished for a return to Catholicism while others upheld the Church of England's separation . Changes in church doctrine led to significant changes in religious practice and material culture of English churches, especially their design and interior furnishings . As Catholicism gave way to Protestantism, the elaborate painted murals, stained glass windows, statues of saints, and chancel screens that separated priests from their parishioners were removed (Rosman 2003) . Instead, interior decorations were far less elaborate with priests and parishioners sharing a common space within the church, reflecting Protestant ideology (Morris 1983) .

As England began to colonize the New World, Reformation ideology accompanied colonists, affecting the architecture and material culture of colonial churches (Upton 1986) . Due to strong Puritan influences, colonial Anglican churches looked very different from their English counterparts . The Puritan emphasis on hearing the sermon made the long and narrow longitudinal plan of England's medieval churches impractical, while poor economic conditions did not allow for major renovations to existing churches or new churches . However, New World Anglicans constructed their churches with the Puritan emphasis on the spoken word in mind, resulting in sparsely furnished churches with an auditory floor plan

Auditory plans were generally rectangular with a wide single aisle or multiple aisles, resulting in the church's width closer to its length, allowing parishioners to not only see, but also hear the sermon While variants of this plan occurred, the most common design, as seen in colonial Virginia, was a one-story rectangular building with entrances located on the south and west sides of the church, and a window along the east wall of the chancel (Upton 1986) . …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.