chapter  14
24 Pages

‘To build up the walls of Jerusalem’: Anglican Churches in Seventeenth-Century Virginia

ByCarl Lounsbury

The Church of England established its first roots in the new world in Virginia at the beginning of the seventeenth century. The early English settlers erected churches and set about establishing the foundations of a Christian society in a land utterly devoid of familiar cultural landmarks. Although the colony was founded for many reasons, its leaders recognized that ‘planting and establishing the true religion’ of Protestant England in America challenged the dominion of Catholic Spain. Here, they would ‘build up the walls of Jerusalem’.1 In undertaking ‘this blessed work’ of church building, they sought to replicate the form, plan and fittings of contemporary English practices, which had struggled to reconcile competing Protestant theologies and attitudes about the setting and ceremonies of religious services with buildings erected for pre-Reformed worship. The colonists adapted those architectural features that suited the needs and cultural aspirations of dispersed and sparsely inhabited frontier settlements, which had changed by the end of the century to become an increasingly wealthy and populous rural society of tobacco planters.