Church of the Holy Cross – Stateburg, South Carolina
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The Church of the Holy Cross in Stateburg was born of a chapel of ease and rests on land given to the church by Revolutionary War hero General Thomas Sumter, a resident of the area also known as the High Hills of Santee.
In 1788 worshipers from the chapel of ease applied for and received their own charter, and the first Episcopal church on this site, the Church of Claremont, was constructed on General Sumter’s donated land. Before this area became Sumter County, it was known as the Claremont District.
The Church of Claremont was a simple, wooden-frame building. By 1849, the congregation was ready to rebuild a bigger and more beautiful church.
The chairman of the church’s building committee, a man by the name of Dr. Anderson, recommended a common European building material, pise’ de terre, or “rammed earth,” for the new building that would be christened the Church of the Holy Cross.
Dr. Anderson had built his residence of this material and insisted that it was extremely durable as well as affordable. The committee agreed, and construction began in 1850. The European-Gothic church was completed the following year and possesses such architectural details as the oak leaf frieze, as seen below.
Other points of interest in the Church of the Holy Cross are the original Henry Erben organ, installed in 1851 and one of the few remaining in the country, and the stained glass windows over the chancel, modeled after the ones in the Pope’s summer residence.
Joel Roberts Poinsett is one of several notable South Carolinians buried in the church’s graveyard. Before he died in 1851, he was a well-regarded statesman and botanist. The Christmas poinsettia is named for him because he introduced the flower to this country from Mexico. Every year on his birthday and on the date of his death, poinsettias are placed on his tomb at the Church of the Holy Cross.
In 2012 the Church of the Holy Cross disaffiliated with The Episcopal Church. The church is now aligned with the Anglican denomination and is affiliated with the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina.
The Church of the Holy Cross is listed in the National Register, which notes the following:
Built in 1850, Holy Cross is of Gothic Revival design and is constructed of yellow pise de terre (rammed earth). Walls constructed of pise de terre (minimum depth of 13 inches) are almost impervious to earthquakes. Edward C. Jones of Charleston, designer of Holy Cross, was one of the best known South Carolina architects of the antebellum era. The cruciform Holy Cross is considered one of Jones’s most unusual designs. It resembles an Old World Parish Church. The high-pitched roof is of red tile. The interior features Bohemian stained glass windows designed by Violett de Duc and a rare Henry Irwin organ.
Holy Cross is significant in that it, along with various other structures in Stateburg, comprises the largest complex of pise de terre buildings in the United States. Buried in the graveyard of Holy Cross is Joel R. Poinsett, a U.S. Congressman, Minister to Mexico, Secretary of War, and first president of the forerunner of the Smithsonian Institution, who is best remembered for bringing the poinsettia flower to this country from Mexico.
Church of the Holy Cross Info
Address: 335 North Kings Highway, Stateburg, SC 29154
Church of the Holy Cross Map
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