anglican, church, oldest, georges, parish, peters
From the outside, with its whitewashed facade and louvered windows, this Anglican house of worship in the center of St. George’s is a postcard British-colonial church. Its founding dates back to the earliest months of English settlement on the island (the town of St. George’s was established by the Virginia Company in 1612), though the oldest surviving portions of the structure are from 1620. It also claims the distinction of being the oldest continuously active Protestant church in the Western Hemisphere. Inside the ancient cedar doors is an homage to Bermuda’s maritime roots: The ceiling, also carved of cedar, echoes the ribs of a ship’s hull. A portion of the cemetery designated for the burial of slaves prior to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1833 is part of the island’s African Diaspora Heritage Trail.
Step into Colonial History
On the east end of Bermuda, the small town of St. George’s was the original settlement on the island, founded when British sailors bound for Jamestown shipwrecked and landed here in 1609. Three years later, the town was founded in 1612 as New London, and today it’s the oldest continuously occupied British settlement in the New World. All of St. George’s is a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its collection of historic homes and landmarks, including St. Peter’s, Their Majesties Chappell, the oldest Anglican church outside of England. It’s well worth a day trip to the east side to simply wander the winding alleys and explore the historic homes like the Bridge House and the Old State House, both dating from the 1600s.
Religion and Relics at St. Peter's Church
If there’s one thing in Bermuda that’s worthy of a “must-see” status, it’s St. Peter’s. Intricate woodwork, exposed cedar beams, and a hand-carved altar – circa 1615 – are preserved inside the limestone walls and stately front doors of this historic St. George address. The site of the first Bermuda Parliament in 1620, St. Peter’s is the oldest Anglican church in use in the Western Hemisphere. In fact, services are held every Sunday at 11:15 a.m. Take a few minutes to read the commemorative plaques on the walls and examine the 500-year-old baptismal font and triple-tier pulpit. A collection of relics, communion silver, and shipwreck salvages are on display. The two graveyards and two separate entrances tell the segregated story of Bermuda’s slave past. St. Peter’s is open daily for visitors. There are guides during the week, but guests are free to wander and discover on their own. Admission is free, and donations are accepted.