Arts & Culture

Connecticut’s Most Interesting Churches

July 28, 2014 7:00 AM

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(credit: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

(credit: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

If you’re looking for a good church to join, Connecticut has plenty of worthy options. But even if you’re not especially religious, the state has several churches that are worth visiting for their historical, cultural or architectural significance. Of the hundreds of churches in the state, these really stand out.

First Church of Christ and the Ancient Burying Ground
60 Gold St.
Hartford, CT 06103
(860) 249-5631
www.centerchurchhartford.org

First Church of Christ has been holding services for Hartford congregations since 1636, longer than any church in the city. The current meeting house, included on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, is actually the fourth one built for this church. Dedicated in 1807, it’s distinguished by the stained glass windows on the first floor depicting famous biblical stories. Its most notable feature, though, is the adjacent burying ground which dates back to 1840 and includes the graves of several early governors. The church’s first pastor as well as the founder of Connecticut, Thomas Hooker, is also believed to be buried there.

Center Church On the Green
311 Temple St.
New Haven, CT 06511
(203) 787-0121
www.newhavencenterchurch.org

On the first floor of New Haven’s Center Church, you won’t find anything unusual – an altar, pews, some hymnals. But go down to the basement and you’ll see something not in most other churches – a crypt. The church was built in 1812 over the burial grounds of New Haven’s Green. Among those buried there are Benedict Arnold’s first wife, the grandmother and aunt of U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes and Theophilus Eaton, the founder and an early governor of New Haven Colony. The crypt is open to the public Thursdays and Saturdays between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. from April to October.

Cathedral of Saint Joseph
140 Farmington Ave.
Hartford, CT 06105
(860) 249-8431
www.cathedralofsaintjoseph.com

The Cathedral of Saint Joseph, which serves the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford, may be the most majestic and beautiful church in Connecticut. The building, meant to be a work of art in its own right, stands 281 feet high and is adorned with with 26 67×13-inch stained glass windows that were designed in Paris. Inside you’ll find a four-manual Austin organ with over 2,000 pipes, one of the largest in the state. And behind the altar is an 80×40-inch ceramic mural depicting Jesus from the Book of Revelation that is the largest of its kind in the world.

Related:  Top Choirs In Connecticut

First Presbyterian Church
1101 Bedford St.
Stamford, CT 06905
(203) 324-9522
www.fishchurch.org

This Stamford church, built in 1954, is nicknamed “the fish church,” not for its congregants but for its unusual structure. Wallace K. Harrison designed a large angular building (the “body”) adjoined to a second smaller one (the “tail fin”) that really does resemble a fish. Also impressive is the prominent carillon tower on the front lawn that holds 56 bells. And finally, don’t ignore the Memorial Walk leading to the front entrance made up of over 100 stones that each honor an historical figure important to the Judeo-Christian tradition such as Michelangelo, John Bunyan and Abraham Lincoln.

Abington Congregational Church
542 Hampton Road
Pomfret Center, CT 06259
(860) 974-1476
www.abingtonchurch.org

The meetinghouse of Pomfret’s Abington Congregational Church was built in 1751, making it the oldest church in Connecticut, and one that still holds services every Sunday. The church is home to two cemeteries, the “old” one on Route 97 where dozens of Revolutionary War veterans were buried, and the “new” one on Route 44. The latter was created in the 1820s and includes plots of a number of Civil War veterans. It is still used today. The church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, and a sign across the street also notes its importance.

Related: Top Specialty Bookstores In Connecticut

Joshua Palmes is a freelance writer covering all things Connecticut. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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