Words and images by Ashley Anderson
Churches have always been a place for faith, comradery, hope, acceptance and growth. But they can also be places of incredible beauty.
Whether it is due to their stained glass windows or historic architecture, churches can make photogenic subjects.
These churches outlined below can be perfect spots for both budding and professional photographers and they’re all within one gas tank’s drive in Northeast Florida.
10) St. Paul’s by the Sea
465 11th Ave. North, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
St. Paul’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church was the first religious congregation established on the coast east of Jacksonville, now known as “the Beaches.” The first church, built in 1887, was later moved to the Beaches Museum & History Park and is now known as the Beaches Chapel. A much larger building, to accommodate the growing congregation, was built to replace it and dedicated in 1967. Architect Blake Ellis designed this church using mid-century modern sensibilities with sweeping sides that nearly encircle the building. It was constructed of coquina, a shell-infused mixture common for buildings of old Florida. The Florida chapter of the American Institute of Architects included the church in its list of “Florida Architecture: 100 Years. 100 Places.”
9) Beaches Chapel
381 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville Beach, Florida
The Beaches Chapel is located in the Pablo Historical Park and operated by the Beaches Museum and History Park. Originally the church was at Beaches Chapel School in Neptune Beach but the 125-year-old chapel was moved to its permanent home it joined the rest of the Beaches Museum. This church shows age but in a very beautiful way. This photogenic chapel has stained glass windows, wooden ceilings and small chandeliers going down the middle, making for the perfect photo.
8) First Presbyterian Church
921 E Call St., Starke, Florida
This church is in the rural town of Starke and was founded in 1886, built within a year by its 30-member congregation. First Presbyterian has undergone renovations and changes but throughout the upgrades the integrity of the old historic church was carefully maintained. The church’s classic appearance, with white siding and many-faceted window, is partially what makes it so incredibly photogenic. It is adorned with a striking bell tower which only adds to the appeal.
7) Trinity Parish
215 St. George St., St. Augustine, Florida
Established in 1821, Trinity Parish is Florida’s oldest Protestant church. Located in St. Augustine, Trinity Parish is built out of coquina, a local shell stone. It has a cruciform structure and is non-gothic in appearance. It seats more than 500 parishioners. Trinity’s stained glass windows accentuate the old rustic structure. When the sunlight hits at the right time it becomes clear why this church is in the top 10.
6) Grace United Methodist Church
8 Carrera St., St. Augustine, Florida
Constructed by Henry Flagler and built in the late 1800s, Grace United Methodist Church is located in St. Augustine, Florida. This church was built with a rich Spanish history in mind. In the 1970s Grace was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The rich cultural background is evident in the extraordinary window work as well as in the molding on the exterior.
5) St. John’s Cathedral
256 E Church St., Jacksonville, Florida
The congregation was founded in 1834 as St. John’s Parish. The first St. John’s Church was built in 1842 and burned down in 1862 during the Civil War. In the late 1800s construction began on rebuilding the church and was completed and consecrated in 1906. It was built in the Gothic Revival architectural style and adorned with stained-glass windows in the cathedral, the cloister and the chapel. This cathedral is on the top 10 not only because of the myriad of colors present in the stained glass but also because of the lovely foliage around the church.
4) Immaculate Conception
121 E Duval St., Jacksonville, Florida
High ceilings and countless colors dancing throughout the pews are what sets this church apart. This Catholic parish was founded in 1854 and was the first church to be named after the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. This church however, became a victim to the Civil War. Union Soldiers sacked and looted Immaculate Conception and then torched the entire building. However, following the war the Catholic community built another and even more beautiful church that was dedicated in 1871. This second church had only been around for about 32 years when the massive Jacksonville Fire of 1901 rocked the city and consumed the building. In 1910 parishioners celebrated the third and final opening. Immaculate Conception is one of the oldest Catholic Churches in Northeast Florida. It’s in the top five because of the memorable and intricate interior of the church. Immaculate Conception is known for its high ceilings, intricate handiwork and stained glass windows.
3) Memorial Presbyterian Church, St. Augustine
32 Sevilla St., St. Augustine, Florida
Memorial Presbyterian was built in 1889 by Henry Flagler and dedicated to his daughter Jennie Louise Benedict, who died following complications during childbirth. This church was designed by the New York architectural firm of Carrere and Hastings in the Second Renaissance Revival style. The building method used combined concrete with crushed coquina stone. Memorial Presbyterian’s dome and intricate details put this church in the top three.
2) Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd
1100 Stockton St., Jacksonville, Florida
Good Shepherd began as a Sunday school mission of St. John’s Church during the 1870s and was admitted to the Diocese of Florida as a parish in 1879. Parishioner and local architect Mellon C. Greely and Cleveland’s W.W.C. Corbusier, an authority on Gothic architecture, were responsible for the design. The church has hand-carved stonework, wood carvings and handmade floor tiles. This church’s beauty can be found on the inside and the outside, a good photo can be taken anywhere.
1) Cathedral Basilica
38 Cathedral Place, St. Augustine, Florida
The most photogenic church in Northeast Florida is The Basilica. This historic cathedral is located in St. Augustine and is the seat of the Catholic Bishop of the Diocese. The church was established in 1565 and later rebuilt in the 18th century. The Cathedral Basilica is the oldest church in Florida. This Catholic church is a combination of Spanish mission and neoclassical styles. The Basilica is No. 1 because of its rich history, intricate design and, of course, photogenic qualities on the inside and the outside.