Trinity Church

Learn more about the history of Trinity Church, and how it became a staple in Boston architecture.

The Trinity Church is a staple in Boston architecture, being voted the finest building in the US in 1885, and still among the top ten. The church was built after the prior church burned down in the great fire of 1872 under Rector Phillips Brooks. It was designed by a group of architects headed by Henry Hobson Richardson. Richardson also designed libraries and commuter stations throughout Massachusetts, as well as the New York state asylum and multiple Harvard buildings (his alma mater). The church was constructed from 1872-1877, and has been praised as one of the finest churches ever designed.

The church's design become known as Richardsonian Romanesque style. The style combined Romanesque European designs with a modern interpretation, including grand towers, murals, and large stained glass windows. John La Farge, an American artist, was hired (but worked for free) to paint the murals and stained glass windows. La Farge and his accompanying artists understood the importance of this church. The church resembled the melting pot America had come to be. Many hands helped build and create the church which embodied modern American design with traditional European style. Due to the beauty and greatness of the Trinity church, Copley Square was crafted around it. This allowed the church to acquire its own patch of grass for residents to gather in the center of the square.

When the church was originally constructed, the stained glass windows were clear plain glass. In 1876 La Farge began to construct and design the windows. The windows created for the church were a turning point in stained glass window design. La Farge used opalescent glass layered on the window in colors of red, gold, blue, and greens. La Farge decided not to choose typical religious scenes depicted in the stained windows of church's such as the crucifixion of Jesus and last judgment, as he wanted to show religiously optimistic events. As time passed, the stained windows, murals, and interior of the tower had to be restored due to damage from the environment.

Part of the current aesthetic the church has is owed to the lot it was built on. In The Makers of Trinity Church in the City of Boston, they touch on this subject. “Three years later, the city purchased the triangle in front of Trinity, naming the intersection, ahead of its actual form, Copley Square. It took almost a full century after Trinity Church was completed before the rectangular park replaced the first block of Huntington Avenue and at last caught up with its name. Like an extension of Trinity, Copley Square gives the church the grandeur of a cathedral close, beyond the wildest dreams of Trinity’s building committee. All of this owes something to Trinity’s pioneering purchase of its triangular lot.” (45, O’Gorman) During the late 1900’s, the parish decided it needed more space and dug out over 10,000 square feet beneath the church to be used as a common area for activities. Current day, the church sits in the shadow of the Hancock and has become one of the most recognizable Boston landmarks. The area around the church is home to many events such as food festivals, art shows, and trade shows.

Images

Trinity Church 2013

Trinity Church 2013

The face and front lawn of Trinity Church. | Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AUSA-Boston-Copley_Square1.jpg | Creator: Ingfbruno View File Details Page

Trinity Church 2007

Trinity Church 2007

Trinity Church across the Square. | Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ABostonCopleySquareTrinityChurch26June07.jpg | Creator: Infrogmation View File Details Page

Overhead Trinity Church

Overhead Trinity Church

An overhead shot of Copley Square. | Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3A2007-0925-Boston-JohnHancockTower.jpg | Creator: Bobak Ha'Eri View File Details Page

1888 Trinity Church

1888 Trinity Church

An older photo of cyclists outside of Trinity Church. | Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ACopleySq_ca1888_Boston_LOC210027v.jpg | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

Street Address:

206 Clarendon St, Boston, MA 02116 [map]

Cite this Page:

Brian Hibyan, Rachel Davis, “Trinity Church,” Boston History, accessed December 18, 2017, http://explorebostonhistory.org/items/show/28.

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