Monday, June 18, 2012

The Old Brick Church

This past weekend my husband and I toured
old St. Luke's Church in Smithfield, Virginia.
We have driven past it on our way to Smithfield over the years,
and I always wanted to know
what a church dating to the early 1630s looked like inside.
June 16th was Heritage Day,
so the church and grounds were open to the public,
and I got my chance to see it.

This church was built around 1632 (some argue 1680s)
  in Warrosquyoake Shire, renamed Isle of Wight County, Virginia in 1637.
"Warrosquyoake" is the name of the Algonquin tribe,
part of the Powhatan Indian Confederacy,
that occupied the area before European settlement (

The church and its centuries-old cemetery are situated on peaceful grounds,
shaded by many mature cedar, poplar, and black walnut trees.

A lot of the church's history is available here at 
the web site for Historic St. Luke's Restoration, Inc.:

There is also detailed information on
(search St. Luke's Church Smithfield).

According to the Restoration web site,
the "Old Brick Church" is the only surviving example
of original Gothic architecture in the United States.
I don't know a lot about Gothic architecture,
 but I do know it is characterized in part by interior rib-vaulted ceilings,
arched windows, and support buttresses
like the ones seen here on the exterior of the church:

 The main entrance to the church is a three-story tower.
I think I read that the third story was added much later.

At the very top is an unusual weathervane: 

A very curious  feature are the ovoid openings in the first floor walls of the tower.
We didn't get a chance to hear what they were for,
but judging from the cool air that flowed through them,
they make an effective breezeway.  

 The other end of the church is characterized by roof gables
and tiers of windows that form an elegant arch:

And what did we see inside after this wide door swung open?

Find out tomorrow when we explore the interior.

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