Alexandria's Christ Church, Alexandria

4.5
#2 of 15 in Historic Sites in Alexandria
Christ Church is an Episcopal church located at 118 North Washington Street in Alexandria, Virginia. Constructed as the main church in the Church of England's Fairfax Parish, the building was designed by Col. James Wren, a descendant of Sir Christopher Wren. To finance construction of the church, the Fairfax Vestry raised 31,186 pounds of Oronoco tobacco from parishioners. Construction began in 1765, under the direction of James Parsons. After four years, the church was still unfinished. The vestry relieved Mr. Parsons of his duties as overseer of the construction. John Carlyle accepted the position and handed the keys of the completed building over to the vestry in February 1773.


Initially the pews were box pews and a two-tier pulpit was situated on the north side of the sanctuary. There was no font because until after the Civil War, weddings, baptisms, and the churching of women took place at home. In the mid-nineteenth century, stoves were put in the back of the church and the box pews were converted to the slips that are in use today. During a renovation later that century, the original pulpit was replaced by the current wine-glass pulpit. The only remaining hand-carved hymnal rack is in the Lee pew. The plaques on either side of the chancel were hand-lettered by Wren and have never been retouched. They display the Decalogue, the Lord's Prayer, the Apostles' Creed, and the Golden Rule. Wren used ink and then varnished his work just as an artist varnishes a finished painting. Over time the carbon in the ink and the alcohol in the varnish formed an acetate that created the wonderful burnished patina of the plaques. If you look closely, you can see Wren's brushstrokes and one drip.


George Washington, Henry Lee, Robert E. Lee, Charles Simms, Philip Marsteller, and Henry Fowler are a few of the church's notable parishioners (members). Until the twenty-first century, it was tradition for sitting presidents to attend a service. Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Eleanor Roosevelt visited the church on January 1, 1942 to commemorate World Day of Prayer for Peace. The church was known as Fairfax Church until given the name Christ Church in 1816. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1970.
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Alexandria's Christ Church Reviews
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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 4.5
403 reviews
Google
4.4
TripAdvisor
  • Most welcoming for all! Come to visit, volunteer for their many wonderful ministries, or grow spiritually.  more »
  • This beautifully restored, intimate church is one of the most important historic venues in the US. See the Washington family pew. One of my favorite features is the fascinating Palladian window...  more »
Google
  • Beautiful opportunity to walk among history. The Church and grounds are lovely. Whether strolling through the courtyards and admiring the gates on the outside, or the lovely interior, a beautiful day was had as we enjoyed this perfect setting. I mean, George Washington worshipped here. Does it get more American? Go. Its in a great neighborhood. Everything surrounding is beautiful: historic or modern.
  • Beautiful historic church... completed durimg the Revolutionary War... George Washington owned a bench area along the north wall and frequently attended services. The docent provides a very informative discussion of the founding, building and history of the church. It is a simple but classical Georgian design and is authentically maintained as an active church today. For the docent presentation you are able to sit in the George Washington benches... also where other sitting Presidents have sat (most recent was George and Laura Bush). Of interest, just after the outbreak of World War 2, President Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor, hosted PM Winston Churchill in the very same seats! Too cool!

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