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[graphic text] Christ Episcopal Church and Cemetery

Christ Episcopal Church today
Photograph courtesy of F. Kittredge Barton, Jr.
  [photo] Historic image of the church, taken prior to 1896, showing original entry
Photograph from National Register collection

One of the oldest Episcopal churches west of the Mississippi River, Christ Episcopal Church is located on Bayou Lafourche in Assumption Parish. Built in 1853, Christ Episcopal served as a worship space for English-speaking Protestants in a predominately French-speaking Roman Catholic community, as well as a community center for all English-speaking area residents. An excellent example of Gothic Revival architecture, the church was designed by Frank Wills. Wills, architect for the New York Ecclesiological Society, is also credited with the design of Trinity Church in Natchitiches. The mission of the Ecclesiological Society was to encourage church design in the style of English parish churches of medieval times. Christ Church was consecrated on May 10, 1854, by the Right Reverend Leonidas Polk, first Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana, later a general in the Confederate army.

Using approximated $10,000 in locally raised funds, Christ Church was constructed by George Arment, a local carpenter since buried in the church cemetery. Dr. E. E. Kittredge donated the land for the church and cemetery. The building is constructed of Louisiana cypress and brick, made on Woodlawn Plantation by Colonel W. W. Pugh, who also supplied the labor for the construction. Slate for the roof and stained glass used in the windows were among the only materials imported from the East. The floor plan is asymmetrical consisting of a nave, sanctuary, transept, sacristy and entrance portico. The austere and graceful detailing of the interior consists of white plaster walls and dark brown stained wood work. A stained oak altar is located in the Apse. Thin stained glass windows, featuring bible scenes, line the interior walls. A wood organ, most likely added during a restoration, and a wood baptismal font complete the interior. The exterior is topped by a large spire, terminated by a graceful cross. The overall appearance of the church is long and slender, with a vertical emphasis. A cemetery is situated 12 feet from the back of church where early members of church are buried. These eternal resting places are marked either by a well-made and well-kept tomb or crumbling unmarked graves.

During the Civil War, Christ Church was used as a barracks by Union troops from Ohio and Indiana. Later they stabled their horses there and used the stained glass windows for marksmanship practice. Having been destroyed almost completely during the war, the church was abandoned until 1869, when the greatly impoverished congregation, out of its own slender means, was able to restore it for public worship. Upon visiting in 1869, Bishop Wilmer declared that "they were persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." The edifice had scarcely been restored before it was severely damaged in a thunderstorm and later by lightening. Again it had to be abandoned. The task of rebuilding began anew, with the major effort being undertaken between 1887 and 1906 under the leadership of the Edward Pugh Munson family. It was during this period that the beautiful Tiffany stained glass window was sent to New York for restoration and was reinstalled above the altar. With a renaissance of spirit at work in Christ Church, it continues to hold weekly services for its small, but growing, membership. Friend of Christ Church, Inc., has assumed the responsibility of maintaining the church and cemetery. While the majority of the members are descendants of the founding families, membership is open to all having an interest in preserving the historical richness of South Louisiana.

Christ Episcopal Church and Cemetery is located on State Hwy. 1, at the north edge of Napoleonville. It is open for services or by appointment by callingRobert C. Martin, VI, 520-204-7980, who will be happy to arrange a tour.

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