Christ Episcopal Church - Architectural Field Trip Report

Published on by JP Honor

I chose to research the Christ Episcopal Church for my architectural field trip report. This magnificent Catholic Church is located in Westerly, Rhode Island, at the corners of Broad and Elm Street. Construction of the church began in 1891, and opened to the public in 1894. (Kiss) The architecture of Christ Church mimics the style of gothic architecture we find in history.

The outer walls were built using locally quarried Westerly Blue Granite. For the trim, the builders used Westerly Red Granite. (Kiss) The stained glass windows of the church are especially beautiful. The double wooden doors of the front entrance sit beneath a beautiful circular piece. The window, created by Herman Verbinnen, shows the seal of Christ Church with the inscription, “To the glory of God and in loving memory of William F. Morey, 1910-1974.” The stained glass windows of the church span the period from 1892 to 1978. According to Lido Mochetti, in his informative brochure of the history of the church’s stained glass, the style of the windows, “represent either the Victorian style of descriptive realism or the flat stylized designs derived from medieval stained glass.” The windows are placed in chronological sequence beginning with Old Testament figures on the east side of the nave, continuing with events in the life of Jesus, and ending with New Testament figures on the west side of the nave. The high altar window, which engulfs almost the entire south wall, shows designs of The Nativity, Crucifixion, and Resurrection, and Christ as universal ruler. (Mochetti) 

Pointed arches surround the doorways and windows throughout the structure. Visitors to the church enter through the northern doorway leading you into a small room designated as the porch.  From there visitors enter into the narthex. This stout room houses a Narthex screen (Mochetti), made up of ten stained glass windows, and installed in the southern wall, which connects the narthex to the nave. The floor of the nave is hardwood except for the center aisle, which is slate, and runs the length of the room up to the chancel. The pews are made of a dark mahogany, as is the wood paneling of the walls. The center arch, which connects the nave to the chancel, pulls the visitor’s attention upwards.  The high gabled ceiling is vaulted at both ends with groin vaults over either end of the crossing at the transepts. Wooden buttresses protrude out overhead from the walls of the nave over a procession of stained glass saints, which stare out from their windows.

The cool darkness of the interior is quiet and peaceful. As I sat in an empty pew, quietly taking notes, I listened to the voices of the congregation rise up in a hymn. Their voices echoed from every surface of the room, creating breathtaking music. It was as if I had walked onto the scene in a movie. Everything fit into the scene with holy reverence. The Christ church is a beautiful example of gothic inspired architecture.

  

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