Interested in great architecture and history. Our Church invites you to take a self-guided tour of this beautiful and historic Church by using our brochure about the famous stained glass windows. Stop by during office hours: Monday through Thursday 9:30-3:30.
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.
Many additions came in the form of memorials. In 1882, Joseph Temple, a Quaker dry goods merchant, presented the church with a carillon in memory of his wife Martha Anna Kirkley Temple. The oldest manually operated carillon in North America, its bells were cast at the Severin Van Aerschodt foundry in Louvain, Belgium. Its bells were first rung at the opening of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, held at CHT in October 1883.
In 1895 a large ornately carved pulpit was installed in the chancel as a memorial to its second Rector, the Rev. Phillips Brooks, who had died in 1893. Along with images of the Four Evangelists, an inscription around the base reads, “To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of Phillips Brooks He Being Dead Speaketh Still.” In the same year a large brass and bronze lectern made by the Gorham Company of New York was placed in the chancel in memory of Joel B. Morehouse. It represents an angel of heroic size, whose uplifted hands support the frame on which the Bible rests.
Meanwhile, stained glass windows were becoming widely popular in church building of all kinds. 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 & Bell and Henry Holiday, both of London, England; Franz Mayer & 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. & C. H. Gibson of Philadelphia.
During further renovations in 1914 a new glass skylight by Tiffany Studios was installed in the chancel dome. The aisles and chancel area were covered with terra cotta tiles made by the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works founded by Henry Chapman Mercer, a leading proponent of the Arts and Crafts movement. Tiles near the altar bear images of the Four Evangelists.