Trinity Church (Boston)

For other uses, see Trinity Church (disambiguation).
Trinity Church

Trinity Church in the City of Boston.
Location Boston, Massachusetts
Coordinates 42°21′0″N 71°4′32″W / 42.35000°N 71.07556°W / 42.35000; -71.07556Coordinates: 42°21′0″N 71°4′32″W / 42.35000°N 71.07556°W / 42.35000; -71.07556
Built 187277
Architect Henry Hobson Richardson
Architectural style Richardsonian Romanesque
Part of Back Bay Historic District (#73001948)
NRHP Reference # 70000733[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP July 1, 1970
Designated NHL December 30, 1970
Designated CP August 14, 1973

Trinity Church in the City of Boston, located in the Back Bay of Boston, Massachusetts, is a parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. The congregation, currently standing at approximately 3,000 households, was founded in 1733. Five services are offered each Sunday, and weekday services are offered three times a week from September through June. Within the spectrum of worship styles in the Anglican tradition, Trinity Church has historically been considered a Broad Church parish.

In addition to worship, the parish is actively involved in service to the community, pastoral care, programs for children and teenagers, and Christian education for all ages. The church is home to several high-level choirs, including the Trinity Choir, Trinity Schola, Trinity Choristers, and Trinity Chamber Choir. The building is currently under study for becoming a Boston Landmark.[2]


After its former site on Summer Street burned in the Great Boston Fire of 1872, the current church complex was erected under the direction of Rector Phillips Brooks (1835–1893), one of the best-known and most charismatic preachers of his time.

The church and parish house were designed by Henry Hobson Richardson and construction took place from 1872 to 1877, when the complex was consecrated. Situated on Copley Square in Back Bay, Trinity Church is the building that established Richardson's reputation. It is the birthplace and archetype of the Richardsonian Romanesque style, characterized by a clay roof, polychromy, rough stone, heavy arches, and a massive tower. This style was soon adopted for a number of public buildings across the United States. The stone used was Dedham Granite.[3]



The sanctuary at Trinity Church.

Each December, the choirs of Trinity offer three iterations of a service of Candlelight Carols. These are a "Boston tradition", and very popular events, drawing nearly 5,000 attendees from as far away as Maine. A traditional scene in Copley Square in December is that of a long line of people waiting to enter the church for the free event. The service is based on the Nine Lessons and Carols model developed at King's College, Cambridge.

In addition to their primary function of supporting worship, the choirs of Trinity Church are fixtures in the rich musical landscape of Boston. The Trinity Choir has toured extensively, and can be heard on several critically acclaimed recordings. The Trinity Choristers are a group of children who learn music and sing in the tradition of the Royal School of Church Music. The current Director of Music and Organist is Richard Webster. The Trinity Choir and Trinity Choristers tour England every three years, serving as choirs-in-residence at major houses of worship such as Ely Cathedral, Chichester Cathedral, and Westminster Abbey (summer 2016).


The nave and chancel organs feature 121 stops, 113 ranks, and 6898 pipes.


Trinity Church offers five services on Sundays, including a now rarely heard modified version of Rite I Morning Prayer including a sermon and extra anthem, as well as a service of sung Compline in the late evening. Weekday services include Wednesday Evensong and Thursday Holy Eucharist with Prayers for Healing.

Trinity has played host to many special services over the years, due mainly to its central location in Boston, large seating capacity, and reputation as a parish willing to open its doors and be "Boston's church." These services have included interfaith (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) services immediately following the 9/11 attacks, a similar service following the July 2005 London bombings, and many prominent funerals, consecrations of bishops, and the like.

Service to the community at home and abroad

The parish supports many forms of community outreach and social justice ministry. These include partnerships with Rosie's Place, the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, Pine Street Inn, Habitat for Humanity, Community Servings, the Walk for Hunger, the Rodman Ride for Kids, and others. The Trinity Boston Foundation is a nonprofit organization with a mission to support the social and emotional well-being and development of young people. Formed in 2007, it grew out of several of Trinity Church's outreach ministries, and now functions as a separately incorporated subsidiary organization that directly serves approximately 500 young people in the Boston community. The Trinity Boston Foundation's programs honor and respect people of all faith traditions, including those with no faith tradition.[4]


In the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, the Rector is the priest elected to head a self-supporting parish. Because of the importance of Trinity Church in the life of the city of Boston, the Rectors had great influence in the political and social sphere, especially in the early years of the church through the mid-1900s.

Phillips Brooks, who was Rector from 1869-1891 has been memorialized in the official calendar of the Episcopal Church. His feast day in the calendar according to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer is January 23. His statue is located on the left exterior of the church.

The following is a list of the Rectors of Trinity Church from its founding to the present day:

Art and architecture

Exterior staircase

The building's plan is a modified Greek Cross with four arms extending outwards from the central tower, which stands 64 m (211 ft) tall. The church is situated in Copley Square, in the shadow of the John Hancock Tower. Having been built in Boston's Back Bay, which was originally a mud flat, Trinity rests on some 4500 wooden piles, each driven through 30 feet of gravel fill, silt, and clay, and constantly wetted by the water table of the Back Bay as they will rot if exposed to air.

"David's Charge to Solomon" (1882), a stained-glass window by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris, in Trinity Church.

Its interior murals, which cover over 21,500 square feet (about 2,000 m²) were completed entirely by American artists. Richardson and Brooks decided that a richly colored interior was essential and turned to John La Farge (1835–1910) for help. La Farge had never performed a commission on this scale, but realized its importance and asked only for his costs to be covered. The results established La Farge's reputation.

The church's windows were originally clear glass at consecration in 1877, with one exception, but soon major windows were added. Four windows were designed by Edward Burne-Jones and executed by William Morris. Another four windows were exceptional commissions by John La Farge, and revolutionized window glass with their layering of opalescent glass.

Albumen print of Trinity Church detail, ca. 1877-1898

Trinity Church is the only church in the United States and the only building in Boston that has been honored as one of the "Ten Most Significant Buildings in the United States" by the American Institute of Architects (AIA). In 1885, architects voted Trinity Church as the most important building in the U.S.; Trinity Church is the only building from the original 1885 list still included in the AIA's current top ten list. The building was designated a National Historic Landmark on December 30, 1970.

The church also houses sculptures by Daniel Chester French and Augustus Saint-Gaudens

Interior scenes from The Boondock Saints were filmed within Trinity Church.[5]

The church was featured in the 2015 video game "Fallout 4"

See also


  1. National Park Service (2006-03-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  3. Parr, James L. (2009). Dedham: Historic and Heroic Tales From Shiretown. The History Press. ISBN 978-1-59629-750-0.
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