Maybe you go to church every Sunday. Maybe you don’t. No matter what you believe or where you stand, churches have been an integral part of Virginia’s history from the get-go. And given our history, as a Commonwealth and a nation, religion has been an important social structure from the very beginning. That means churches are everywhere. These beautiful Virginia churches range from humble to historic, practical to palatial. But one things remains true for all of them, they provide an incredible environment for people to gather to find the peace that they are seeking.
1. St. Andrews Catholic Church, Roanoke
Built in 1902, this amazing Gothic structure is on the National Register of Historic Places. As striking as the exterior is, the interior is simply breathtaking.
2. St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Staunton
The aged stones of this building give it a sense of antiquity that is beautiful to see.
3. Craddockville Church
I love the clean white lines of this church. There's a simplicity and purity to the structure alone that makes it so inviting.
4. St. Luke's Church, Smithfield
The St. Luke's Church in Smithfield is the oldest Anglican Church in Virginia with construction completed around 1632. In addition to being a National Historic Landmark, President Dwight D. Eisenhower named it a National Shrine in 1957. It's austerity reminds me of an old world monastery.
5. Waddell Memorial Presbyterian Church, Rapidan
There's absolutely nothing I don't love about this church. It was constructed in 1874 and every detail is perfect, from the arched doorways to the pointed belfry. The church was named after James Waddell, a local preacher, who despite being blind, was a major advocate for religious freedom and tolerance during Colonial times. The church is in an ongoing state of restoration, but remains an active meeting place.
6. Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Chatham
It seems a given that this beautiful old structure would be on the National Register of Historic Places. This building was erected in 1917, replacing two earlier churches. The belfry and stained glass windows alone are enough to make me want to see more.
7. Grace Episcopal Church, Keswick
This church is not huge, but it holds itself like royalty. Even more surprising is its location out on a country road, miles from the main interstate. The front entrance has a castle-like air to it, making you feel as if you are on the doorstep of something very special, indeed.
8. St Paul's Episcopal Church, Richmond
Speaking for myself, this is one of my favorite churches anywhere. The wide white stone steps, the columns and the sheer majesty of this building seem to belong in Europe, rather than downtown Richmond. The outside is striking, for sure, but it's the interior that I really love. As you can imagine, the acoustics are incredible.
9. Bruton Parish Church, Williamsburg
It may not be the most imposing building on the list, but it is certainly one of the most interesting. This church began in 1674 and still holds an active congregation today. Services are held every Sunday, but the church is open to visitors daily. Plaques on the historic pews hold the names of the many famous people who have worshipped there over the years, including George Washington, James Madison, John Tyler, Benjamin Harrison, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson.
10. Otterbein United Methodist Church, Harrisonburg
This church, built in 1918, looks more like a Old World castle - making the "Contemporary Worship" sign seem like an oxymoron, yet clearly displaying the elegant timelessness of the building and its purpose.
11. Christ Church, Alexandria
The four-tiered spire on this amazing building makes it beautiful to see, however, it holds an even more interesting history. This is the church where George Washington worshipped and today, his regular pew is marked with a silver plaque bearing his signature. The building was completed in 1773 and remains an active Episcopalian parish with well over 2,000 members. Other notable visitors to Christ Church include Robert E. Lee, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Needless to say, it is a National Historic Landmark.
12. Old St.John Lutheran Church, Wytheville
This church may not fit the profile of "most beautiful churches", but to me it meets the criteria of most important messages. While so many churches are elaborate structures meant to outwardly display their greater purpose of religious worship, the Old St John Lutheran church shows that worship can happen in even the most humble setting. The church was started in 1799 and the first building constructed in 1800. The cabin shown, now called the Flohr House, was the home of the church's founder, George Daniel Flohr. While the congregation merged with another Lutheran congregation in 1924, the building continues to serve as an historic site. And it's impact has been far-reaching even if it's beginning was humble.
13. Court Street Baptist Church, Portsmouth
Another stunning structure full of architectural artistry, the Court Street Baptist Church was built at the turn of the 20th century and is located in Portsmouth's Historic District
14. Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Onancock
This church was built on the Eastern Shore in 1884 to resemble a rural English parish church. The church itself is beautiful with so many architectural details, a steeply sloping roof and stained glass windows. But the rectory house next door rivals the church for intricate detail.