Christ Church (Episcopal)

Written By Jonathan Martin


Christ Episcopal Church was founded on August 1, 1821, when members met and formed the “Congregation of Christ’s Church,” to create more houses of worship in Piedmont North Carolina. Bishop of North Carolina, Joseph Blount Cheshire, said that the church would be the, “daughter parish of the Diocese.”  Richard Upjohn designed the church to be a symbolic dual landmark to the State Capitol.  It was consecrated in early 1854.


In 1846, Bishop Levi Silliman Ives of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina requested Upjohn to build a new house of worship that would replace the small church adjacent to the State Capitol in Raleigh. Upjohn based his design on a Gothic parish in the English countryside. On June 7, 1848, cleric Richard Mason signed a contract for construction of a granite church. The grey stone bell tower was completed in February of 1861.


Starting in the 1870s minor aesthetic changes were made to the church, including replacement of the original windows with stained glass and several adaptations to the lighting and altar. In 1914, Richard Upjohn’s grandson, Hobart Upjohn, created a Parish House and a chapel. The tower consisted of a single bell until 1985, when five bells were established. The granite stone in the tower was refurbished in 1995.


Christ Church is responsible for the rebirth in the Gothic style for Episcopal churches in North Carolina up to the mid-1900s. As a result, Christ Church was the first of a series of three Gothic Revival churches built in North Carolina.  Others included St. Mary’s School and Grace Church. To make room for the Parish House, the State Bank Building, used as the church rectory, was moved in 1968.  In 1981, a new parking lot was added, and the Montgomery House was transferred one block away.


Christ Episcopal Church is one of the largest parishes in the Diocese of North Carolina.  As of March 2012, current membership was 2,800.