"If you are walking in Charleston, you are walking on someone's grave."--Sue Bennett, Charleston tour guide

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Inside the Impressive Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul

In my College of Charleston course, "Beyond the Grave: What Old Cemeteries Tell and Teach the Living," I enjoy taking my students to this beautiful church not far from campus on Coming Street.

It is the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul, which was completed in 1815.  It is Episcopalian (formerly Anglican) and has two names because, in 1949, St. Paul's merged with St. Luke's Church on Charlotte Street.

More on the church's rich history can be read here.

The church has held up well over the years, though maintenance is an ongoing challenge.

When I take my students to St. Luke's we go in the evening, so they do not get to see the inside.

Recently, I went by to try to talk with the church's archivist, Linda McCants. She was not in, but before leaving I saw that the sanctuary was open, so I took a quick peak inside and shot these photographs.

It's lovely inside, very neat and orderly. Ornate, but modest as well, I would say. The design and religious symbols and decorations have a subtle elegance.

The pulpit is very unique- maybe a bit ostentatious, but in a good way.

At first I thought this to be an eagle, but bird "expert" that I am, I think it may be a cormorant. It's bill appears to have a curve at the tip, which is a characteristic of that wading bird.

I'll need to investigate further. I will see Linda McCants when we visit Monday night, so I'll ask her about this.

St. Luke's Church founder and first rector Rev. Christopher P. Gadsden is honored with this large scroll on the wall.  He died in 1871 at age 46, if I'm translating correctly the last line.

Mary Augusta Heyward is remembered in this beautiful, solemn (and symbol filled) wall sculpture.

She died in 1845 at age 39. The inscription says she is buried in an Episcopal cemetery in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

Her connection with this Charleston church is not clear, based on the words beneath the mourning woman with the fallen Bible at her feet. The draped urn symbolizes death and sadness.

I will try to ask Ms. McCants about Mary Heyward.

I like taking my class to the cathedral church's graveyard because it is close by, always open and because for its small size has such a rich variety of grave marker types, including several mausoleums, some of which, mysteriously, have no names on them.

The large mausoleum in a front corner of the graveyard is marked with this plaque, indicating it was built in 1844 by the family of William Johnston, who was born in the year of American independence, 1776, and died in 1840.

I'd like to find out more about William Johnston and his descendants who are interred in here with him.

At the bottom, the smaller plaque says that the records of those "entombed here are filed in the church and in South Carolina Historical Societies."

The graveyard, which is the final resting place of 606 people, according to the Find A Grave website, includes this small and interesting sarcophagus which is held up by four lion paws.

I would love for one of my "Beyond the Grave" students to find out more about the woman buried here!  They do a research project called "Old Charlestonian" so this would be an excellent choice for this project, I feel!

My students will conduct a scavenger hunt of sorts when they visit here. Their task is to identify and photograph at least 10 types of grave markers and monuments.

This is an example of a cradle grave, which can also be called a bedstead.

I learned some new things about the origins of cradle graves from this blog post (done in Blogger, which is what my students and I use in the class).

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