Historic Churches of St. Croix
St. Croix Heritage Trail supported by the St. Croix Landmarks Society by William Taylor
St. Croix's many historic churches reflect the rich social diversity and religious tolerance that has characterized the island since Danish times. Lutherans, Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Dutch Reformed, Moravians, and Jews all established places of worship during the 18th Century.
The Moravians came as missionaries in the 1730's, to convert the enslaved Africans, and their success encouraged other faiths to follow suit. Enslaved and free African-Caribbean craftsmen built most of the churches. Architecturally, the churches display an interesting blend of international styles and local detailing that speaks of our distinctive Creole heritage.
1. St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church. Built in 1848, to meet the rising expectations of Emancipation, the church expanded shortly after construction to accommodate a growing congregation. Constucted of local cut stone, the west entry facade has elements of both Gothic Revival (lancet doors and windows) and Neo-Classical (paired entry columns.) The curved gable ends appear to be Spanish Baroque influenced. The interior has been altered considerably. The church, its bell tower and adjacent convent with loggias are replete with local details.
2. Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. This simple church was built in 1792, to replace an earlier wood structure built in 1766. Originally a hip roofed, classically detailed structure, the changes over the years have been consistent with the original design. The tower base predates the cupola and may have been a part of the 1792 structure. The raking gables and finials were early 19th Century modifications. The pulpit was centered over the altar and approached from the rear. Now, it has been moved to the northeast corner. Despite changes to the interior, the scale and ambiance of the original church remain.
3. St. Paul's Anglican Church. This hybrid church combines an 1812 West Indian hipped roof structure, featuring classical and local details, with a Neo-Gothic, three tiered tower built in 1848. The main entrances were via north and south porches with several Neo-Classical details of pilasters, cornice and parapets. The entrance function was shared by the west tower after the 1840's. The tower of local limestone and Danish brick was built to exacting standards of Anglican orthodoxy. It was completely restored after a recent devastating fire. Noteworthy are the local mahogany carved alters and the English pulpit and prayer tablets.
4. The Steeple Building. Originally built as the Lutheran church of Lord God of Sabaoth, 1750-53. The Baroque tower with its four-tiered octagonal cupola, reminiscent of Copenhagen's belfries, was added forty years later. In 1838, after the congregation moved to the donated Dutch Reformed Church on King Street, the building was used by the government as a military base and storehouse and later as a school, community hall and hospital. It is now administered by the National Park Service as a museum.
5. Lord God of Sabaoth Lutheran Church. The main body of the present church was built around 1740, as a Dutch Reformed Church. It is St. Croix's oldest extant church. After 1831, the building was taken over by the Lutheran congregation as a replacement for their original church, now the Steeple Building. The most distinctive feature is the Neo-Classical tower, built in 1834, and designed by Albert Lovmand, the official architect for the Danish colonies at the time.
6. Holy Cross Catholic Church. Originally built in 1755, Holy Cross was extensively altered in the 1850's. Architecturally striking, it combines the molded facades of San Juan's 17th Century churches, complete with engaged entry columns and elaborate cornice moldings, along with Neo-Gothic elements favored in the 19th Century. Though still impressive, the interior has been considerably altered since the 1970's, with the removal of the stenciled lime plaster and window and door changes.
7. St. John's Anglican Church. St. John's was built in 1849-1858, replacing an earlier 1772 structure. A fire, in 1866, destroyed much of the original interior. This design and rebuilding reflects the fully realized fidelity to the Gothic Revival style prescribed for Anglican churches throughout the world. Its masonry details, three-tiered tower and elaborate hammerbeam roof framing are noteworthy.
8. Friedensthal "Valley of Peace" Moravian Church and Manse. This mission church was founded by Moravian brethren in the 1750's to minister to enslaved Africans, conveying useful skills as well as salvation. The parish house - or manse - was built in the 1830's as both a school and dwelling. The present church of unaltered, simple elegance, built 1852-1854, features a masonry and wood pedimented entry porch.
9. Friedensfeld "Field of Peace" Midlands Moravian Church. Dedicated in 1852, this lovely wood church replaced the original structure built 1810-1819. The church retains its original exterior and interior appearances. Three flanking roof gables, structurally tied together, enclose the nave and side aisles. An open-work barrel vault functions as a ceiling, as well as a curved structural element for the black-painted center trusses, barely visible beyond. The handsome original lancet windows serve both the main floor and the balconies.
10. Kingshill Lutheran Church. This church was built in 1912, near the end of the Danish era, to serve the residents and soldiers of the nearby Kingshill station. This structure, simple yet sophisticated, has especially handsome details and proportions. Flanking Ionic columns, east and west, frame the entry and apse. A pediment and round-based belfry and cupola mark the entry. Though the windows and interior details were changed in the 1970's, the church still retains much of its original flavor and appearance.
11. St. Ann's Catholic Church. Originally built as a family chapel in 1815, by Christopher McEvoy Jr., a prominent planter, St. Ann's was deeded to the Catholic Church in 1897, and formally dedicated to St. Ann in 1900. Cruciform in plan, the splayed door and window openings are tied together on the exterior by a fillet molding that engages window keystones. Above is a prominent cornice molding upon which sits pediments outlined with finials matching several found in Frederiksted.
12. Holy Cross Anglican Church. Holy Cross represents the effort of the Anglican community to extend its ministry to agricultural workers in the heavily populated central plain, the site of many sugar estates and two central factories. This 1908 structure was built of reinforced concrete, perhaps the island's first. Pier buttresses and lancet windows give the church a Gothic Revival influence, as do the exposed timbered roof trusses within.
13. St. Luke's African Methodist Episcopal Church. Founded in 1920, and erected in 1933 by members of the St. Croix Labor Union at Estate Grove Place, this church combines some pointed African Geometries with the familiar lancet-topped window and door shapes outlined in brick of Gothic Revival. Modern applied pier buttresses, north and south, function as they do in other gothic revival examples such as Holy Cross Episcopal.
Inscribed tombstones in St. Croix's cemeteries provide a fascinating record of the island's diverse cultural ands social history. The Christiansted town cemetery, established in 1749, is adjacent to St. John's Anglican Church. It includes a Danish section with many prominent names. A Jewish cemetery, dating from the early 19thCentury, is nearby.
The Frederiksted town cemetery is across the street from Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. The cemetery at St. Patrick's Church in Frederiksted contains a monument to fourteen sailors from the W. W. W. Monongahela, who perished in the tidal wave of 1867. Other churches, such as St. Paul's Anglican in Frederiksted and rural Friedensfeld Moravian, also have their own cemeteries.