Christ Church Cathedral (Lexington, Kentucky)

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Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral (Lexington, Kentucky) is located in Kentucky
Christ Church Cathedral (Lexington, Kentucky)
38°02′54.93″N 84°29′48.13″W / 38.0485917°N 84.4967028°W / 38.0485917; -84.4967028
Location 166 Market St.
Lexington, Kentucky
Country United States
Denomination Episcopal Church in the United States of America
Founded 1796
Style Gothic Revival
Completed 1848
Diocese Episcopal Diocese of Lexington
Bishop(s) Douglas Hahn, Bishop of Lexington
Dean Carol Wade

Christ Church Cathedral is the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington and is located at 166 Market Street, Lexington, Kentucky. Founded in 1796, Christ Church Cathedral is the oldest Episcopal church in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.[1] Renovations over the years have sought to preserve the original structure, and remains relatively unchanged. The church created what is now called the Old Episcopal Burying Ground, located nearby. It held many who died during the cholera epidemics of 1833 and 1848, but most of the remains have been moved due to flooding.

Working with the Martin Luther King Neighborhood Association and Seedleaf, the cathedral has established a community garden. It is operated primarily to grow vegetables for nearby residents, and encourages their participation in all steps: growing, harvesting, preparing and preserving. Hundreds of pounds of vegetables are given away annually to residents and community associations. In 2009 the garden was enlarged to include fruit trees and berry bushes.[2]

In recent outreach, Christ Church Cathedral has supported recognition of London Ferrill, the second preacher of First African Baptist Church. He led his church for 31 years, by 1850 building a congregation of 1,820 members, the largest of any in the state. He was one of the few clergy to stay in the city during the 1833 cholera epidemic, when 500 died of a total of 7,000 people in the city, including nearly one-third of the congregation of Christ Church.[1] At death in 1854, Ferrill was buried in the Old Episcopal Burying Ground, the only African American to be so honored.[3] In 2010 Christ Church supported installation of a monument to Ferrill at the burying ground, celebrating with a joint service with First African Baptist. They also supported approval of a state highway marker for the site. In addition, Christ Church named its community garden in honor of London Ferrill.[3]

Since 2012, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington has been Douglas Hahn.[4]

History of Christ Church 1796 - 1989[edit]

The present building, the fourth to occupy the site, was erected in 1848, and enlarged to its present state during the American Civil War. James Moore became the first rector of Christ Church in 1796. He began to hold services in a small frame building on the present site of Christ Church. He was also the first President of Transylvania University[2] In 1803, a proper church building was constructed of brick replacing the quickly outgrown house.[5] In 1814 a larger brick building, stuccoed to represent stone, replaced the smaller building.

Christ Church became a cathedral in 1897 and remained so until 1944, when William Moody moved the cathedra to St. George chapel at the cathedral domain, a large camp in rural southeastern Kentucky. In 1989, the former bishop, Don A. Wimberly, moved the cathedra back to Christ Church, reestablishing it as the cathedral of the diocese, where it remains so today.[2]

In 1976, Christ Church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It qualified for inclusion both because of its architecture and because of its significance in the area's history.[6]

List of deans[edit]

Seal of the cathedral
  • 1997-2010: Morris K. Thompson Jr.
  • 2011–present: Carol Wade



At some point c.1813, the first performance of Handel's Messiah was held at Christ Church with orchestra and soloist imported from Cincinnati, Ohio.[7]

In 1962 Robert Quade was hired and tasked with starting a Boy's Choir. In 2012, Christ Church held an Alumni weekend in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Boy's Choir; some 100 former choristers sang in a mass choir with the current choir of Men and Boys. Christ Church remains one of eight churches in the United States with a tradition of Boys choir, and it tours extensively. Current recordings are available on the website. The newest Album, entitled Sing We Merrily, is scheduled for release November 2013.[8]


1814 -unknown organ installed.[9] 1848 - "uncommonly large" organ by Henry Erbern, New York.

19th-century Barkhoff organ

The current organ is a Holtkamp; it was voiced by workers from the Aeolian-Skinner company. As the story goes, "Holtkamp walked into the church after the completion of the organ and stated: If there has to be one of my [Holtkamp] organs that sounds like that, at least it's in an English cathedral".

List of Organists, Choirmasters and Canon Musicians[9][edit]

  • 1815 fnu Wensell
  • 1822 Abby Hammond
  • 1832 fnu Candy – Choir Director
  • 1833 fnu White
  • 1865 J.W Parsons
  • 1866-1871 fnu Coleman – Choir Director
  • 1827-1883 Rudolf dseRoode
  • 1883-1890 fnu Georgia
  • 1890 E. Kidd
  • 1890-1891 fnu Teichfusen
  • 1891 E. H. Ward
  • 1892-1893 Claude Kidd
  • 1895-1904 Bertha Emery
  • 1900-1903 A. C. Goodsight - choir director
  • 1903-1906 C. F Croyton – Choir Director
  • 1906-1911 Freed Lyman Wheeler – Choir Director
  • 1904-1942 Edith Love
  • 1914-1915 Harlowe Dean - choir director
  • 1915-1916 Charles Louis Bennett – choir director
  • 1916 H. W. Towne – choir director
  • 1916-1918 Forrest Dabney Carr – choir director
  • 1920s Carl Lambert – choir director
  • 1930-1945 Thomas Harborne - Choir Director
  • 1941-1946 Anna Virginia Bryant
  • 1946-1949 Boies Whitcoimb
  • 1949-1961 Arnold Blackburn
  • 1961-1967 Robert Quade (founded current boys' choir, 1962)
  • 1967-1978 Robert Burton
  • 1978-1987 Robert Ludwig
  • 1988-1992 Jeffrey Smith
  • 1993-1996 Bruce E. Neswick
  • 1996-2005 John E. Cummins
  • 2005–present Erich Balling, Canon Musician


  • 2008–2010: Shi-ae Park
  • 2010–present: Lisa Hall


  1. ^ a b "Christ Church Episcopal", Lexington, National Park Service. Retrieved 21 August 2010
  2. ^ a b c "History", Christ Church Cathedral, Lexington, KY Website
  3. ^ a b Tom Eblen, "Churches join to honor former slave", Lexington Herald-Leader, 21 Feb 2010, accessed 28 Aug 2010
  4. ^ Diocese Website front page, accessed 23 OCT 2013:
  5. ^ The Story of CHRIST CHURCH 1796 - 1976, Frances Swinford
  6. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  7. ^ Mentioned in 'History of Christ Church 1796-1848', cathedral archives; however, parish vestry minutes do not mention this particular concert. Research into this performance is ongoing.
  8. ^ John Young, Gentlemen of the Choir personal statement.
  9. ^ a b Christ Church Cathedral Archives, New-Box 8-9 - Music, 2013

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°02′57″N 84°29′48″W / 38.0492°N 84.4966°W / 38.0492; -84.4966