Southern Comfort: Savannah's Historic Houses of Worship
BY Inc. staff
Our guide to Savannah's top attractions continues.
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist 222 East Harris Street 912-233-4709
Organized in the late 1700s, the cathedral is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in Georgia. The congregation erected its first house of worship on Liberty Square. The exiting Gothic Cathedral was built in 1876 and received an $11 million restoration in 2000.
Christ Episcopal Church 28 Bull Street 912-232-8230
This is the site of the first church, then Anglican, established in the Savannah colony in 1733. Christ Church is often considered 'The Mother Church of Georgia. The existing structure replaced two others and was erected in 1840. Pastor John Wesley founded what is thought to be the world's first Protestant Sunday school in 1735.
First African Baptist Church 23 Montgomery Street 912-233-6597
The First African Baptist Church is the oldest continuous black congregation in America with its origins dating back to 1773. Founded by George Liele, David George, and Andrew Bryan, who where three former slaves; the First African Baptist Church was constructed by slaves, for slaves, in 1788. Built mostly by lantern light in the hours after many of the slaves had put in full days in the fields, First African Baptist is the oldest standing brick building in Georgia. Many of the church's original pews still bare the tribal markings of the African slaves that filled them. The church was also a refuge for slaves seeking freedom on the Underground Railroad. Air holes carved in a distinctive diamond pattern to disguise its true cause are still visible on the church's floor.
Temple Mickve Israel 20 East Gordon Street 912-233-1547
Built circa 1776, Temple Mickve Israel is the only Gothic style synagogue in America. The congregation was founded in July 1733, five months after the colonization of Georgia. It is the third-oldest Jewish congregation in America and the first established in the South. The synagogue houses the oldest Torah in America, and an adjoining museum contains 1,790 historical books of the congregation's activities and letters to the congregation from presidents Washington, Jefferson and Madison.
St. John's Episcopal Church 1 West Macon Street 912-232-1251
St. John's Episcopal Church was built in 1852. It is famous for its whimsical chimes and stained glass windows. The Green-Meldrim House, built in 1853, is the original parish house that is frequently opened to the public on weekends.
On Bonaventure Road, alongside the Wilmington River, beautiful Bonaventure Cemetery -- with its spectacular moss-draped oaks, camellias, azaleas, and dogwoods -- was once a lavish plantation owned by Colonel Mulryne. In 1760, it was home of Mulryne's daughter, Mary and her husband Josiah Tattnall. Buried in Bonaventure are singer/songwriter Johnny Mercer, poet Conrad Akin, and little Gracie. The cemetery is open from dawn until dusk.
Colonial Park Cemetery Abercorn and Oglethorpe Avenue 912-651-6843
Once the burial ground for the Christ Church Parish, in 1789, Colonial Park was enlarged to become the city cemetery for Christian people of all denominations. The cemetery was annexed by the Union Troops during their occupation of Savannah during the Civil War. Soldiers looted and desecrated graves changing many of the dates on many of the headstones. The cemetery is open to the public.