Savannah was founded as a Church of England settlement, but many other beliefs soon followed. There are many historic churches. Here are a few significant colonial congregations.
Christ Church is the oldest Christian congregation in Georgia. Founded in 1733, the current building is located on its original site (28 Bull Street on Johnson Square). John Wesley, the third rector of the parish, served from 1736-1737. He taught at the first Sunday School program in America. In 1737 he published the first English hymnal in America. His famous conversion occurred after he returned to England where he continued to serve as an Anglican priest.
In 1733, just five months after James E. Oglethorpe established the colony of Georgia, forty-two Jews, the largest group of Hebrews to land in North America in colonial days, arrived in Savannah and established Temple Mickve Israel (20 East Gordon Street on Monterey Square). They brought with them a Torah that is the oldest in America and still used on commemorative occasions. The Temple houses a museum with more than 1,800 historical artifacts on display.
The colonial charter of Savannah prohibited Roman Catholics from settling in Savannah. The English trustees were afraid that Roman Catholics would be loyal to the Spanish in Florida. This prohibition ended after the Revolutionary War and a congregation was organized around 1796, the oldest Catholic congregation in Georgia.
The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (233 East Harris Street on Lafayette Square) was built between 1873 and was completed in 1896. It was destroyed by fire in 1898, but was rebuilt by 1899. Its twin spires and 2,081-pipe organ are one of Savannah’s most notable landmarks and considered one of the largest Roman Catholic churches in the south.
The First African Baptist Church (23 Montgomery Street on Franklin Square) is the oldest African American congregation in America. It was founded in 1773 by George Leile, a slave freed prior to the American Revolutionary War and the first African American licensed by the Baptists to preach in Georgia. Andrew Bryan, a former slave who purchased his freedom, led the congregation to official recognition in 1788.
The current facility on Franklin Square was built in the 1850s by both free African Americans and slaves. The church museum (open weekdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) contains archives and memorabilia that date back to the 18th century.
Learn more about these and other historic churches by taking a trolley tour or a guided walking tour.
For more information, contact:
Old Savannah Tours (800-517-9007)