Boston has a great knack for creating curious visual juxtapositions, and one of the most remarkable is in Copley Square, where Henry Hobson Richardson’s 19th-century Romanesque Revival Trinity Church reflects in the sleek, blue-tinted glass of the decidedly 20th-century 200 Clarendon Tower nearby. The breathtakingly beautiful church was named a National Historic Landmark in 1970 and has earned the distinction of being listed among the American Institute of Architects’ ten greatest buildings in the country.
206 Clarendon St • “T” station: Copley Sq (green line) & Back Bay (orange line) • 617 536 0944 (church) • www.trinitychurchboston.org
Church: open for self-guided and audio tours: 10am–4:30pm Tue–Sat, after services–4:30pm Sun
Shop: open 10am–4:30pm Tue–Sat, as well as after services–4:30pm Sun • Guided and self-guided tours $10
Edward Burne-Jones’ windows – on the Boylston Street side – were inspired by the burgeoning English Arts and Crafts Movement. Its influence is readily apparent in his David’s Charge to Solomon, with its bold patterning and rich colors.
As part of Richardson’s daring plan, the first of 4,500 wooden support pilings for the church was driven into the soggy Back Bay landfill in 1873. Reverend Phillips Brooks laid the cornerstone two years later.
The church’s central tower borrows its square design from the Cathedral of Salamanca, in Spain. On the interior, wall paintings by La Farge depicting biblical figures in vibrant hues are in sharp contrast to the normally austere church interiors of the artist’s day.
The Romanesque church of St Trophime in Arles, France, was the inspiration when Richardson redesigned Trinity’s front portico, along with its two new side towers. The additions were put in place by his firm of architects in the 1890s, after his death in 1886.
Trinity’s colorful kneelers have been stitched by parishioners in memory of people and events past. They serve as an informal folk history of the congregation.
Preachers from throughout the ages, including St. Paul, Martin Luther, and Phillips Brooks of Trinity, are depicted in high relief on the pulpit designed by Charles Coolidge.
Keeping watch over the baptismal font is Rector Brooks. Renowned for his bold sermons, he was rector at Trinity from 1869–91.
As well as religious books and items, the store also sells works inspired by the decorative details inside the church.
A newcomer to stained glasswork at the time, John La Farge approached his commissions, such as the breathtaking Christ in Majesty, with the same sense of daring and vitality that architect Richardson employed in his Trinity design.
The beautiful organ pipes frame the church’s west wall. Exquisitely designed, ornately painted, and – of course – extremely sonorous, the pipes seem to hug the church’s ceiling arches.
One of Boston’s most cherished traditions is the singing of Handel’s Messiah, with its rousing and unmistakable “Hallelujah Chorus,” at Trinity during the Christmas season. Hundreds pack the sanctuary to experience the choir’s ethereal, masterful treatment of the piece. Call 617 536 0944 for performance information.