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Unitarian Church of Charleston, S.C. (Tony Diz)

Gothic ornaments crown a S.C. Unitarian church

Historic landmark draws visitors, TV cameras.
By Jane Greer
Spring 2010 2.15.10

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One of the most distinctive architectural features of the Unitarian Church of Charleston, South Carolina, is the ribbed vaulting of its ceiling. Embellished by decorative patterns called “fan tracery,” the ceiling also features a row of five pendants, which are ornamental protrusions hanging from the ceiling. The fan tracery and the pendants, typical of the English Perpendicular Gothic style, were added to the Charleston church during a comprehensive two-year renovation starting in 1852.

Now designated as a national historic landmark, the church was originally built in 1772 to handle the overflow from another church, the Society of Dissenters. In 1817 the overflow congregation separated from its parent church and became the Second Independent Church of Charleston. In 1839 it was rechartered as the Unitarian Church in Charleston.

Some of the congregation’s 270 members are trained as docents to conduct tours of the building on Fridays and Saturdays, September through May. The church was used for the filming of two episodes of Lifetime Television’s Army Wives show in 2009, which depicted a UU child dedication ceremony (see UU World, Winter 2009).

Photograph by Tony Diz. See sidebar for links to related resources.

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