The Four Corners of Law: St. Michael's Church Part II


St. Michael's Church is normally open for visitors during the day Monday through Saturday. If the main doors or the door on the right side are open, you have an invitation to go inside to visit and/or pray.

Behind the altar is an 1893 Tiffany window of St. Michael slaying the dragon. When you go there, notice the magnificent wrought iron altar rail, imported from London in 1772. Years ago when I was a member of St. Michael's, the altar rail was black; I remember when the church, after study and analysis, decided to paint it an historical color. We have no documentation that the altar rail was painted the Prussian blue with gold highlights it bears today, but the blue is a period color, and the altar would have been painted in 1772.

The interior wood for the pews and columns are native red cedar. The pews are high with individual blue leather kneelers. Pew 43 is known as the "President's Pew" because President George Washington used it in 1791 during his Southern Tour. The chairs in Pew 43 were given in honor of President Washington by Charleston's Mayor Vanderhorst. General Robert E. Lee also used the President's Pew when he was in Charleston during the Civil War. Even today if the church is full, this pew is regularly used. Several years ago on Easter Sunday, I attended the 8:00 am service at St. Michael's. The church was packed, and Pew 43 was filled with a young couple and their four small children.

The pulpit is original to the church and projects into the congregation with a sounding board on top for acoustics. Before it was electrified, the 1803 chandelier originally was raised and lowered by a pulley so the candles could be lit.

Looking at the organ and choir loft above, you'll notice the original Snetzler organ case from 1768. (Thankfully, the pipes are not original and have been replaced as needed.) At the rear of the church is the baptismal font, imported from London in the 1770s, probably around the same time as the altar rail.

President Washington is said to have climbed the small interior staircase to the steeple for a spectacular view of Charleston. Many years ago I also climbed it with some fellow St. Michaelites. While the climb was rather claustrophobic, the view was well worth it!

While we don't see the bells of St. Michael's, we certainly hear them throughout the day. The bells were cast at the same London foundry as the Liberty Bell and imported in 1764. They have crossed the Atlantic Ocean seven times! The British stole them from us in 1782 when they returned to England after losing the Revolutionary War; however, the bells were returned to us. During the Civil War, the bells were sent to Columbia for safekeeping and burned when Sherman burned Columbia. However, enough metal was salvageable, and the bells were recast at the same London foundry where they were originally created. Finally, the bells were sent to London for a "tune up" in 1993.

This is the last of our exploration of the Four Corners of Law. We move on to a different part of the city next week.