St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, situated on the corner of Grace and Ninth Streets, has from its beginning been identified with the life of the city and the commonwealth. The corner stone was laid on October 10, 1843, and on November 11, 1845, the church was consecrated by Bishop Meade.
The building is of Corinthian style, its model commonly called the Lanthorn of Demosthenes. The interior is notable for the beauty of the ceiling, of the gallery, of the white marble altar with the mosaic of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper as the reredos. As one enters this house of God one knows what the psalmist meant when he said “the hill of Zion is a fair place.”
During the War Between the States, St. Paul’s became, under the ministry of Reverend Charles Minnigerode, in a very real sense the Church of the Confederacy, enriched by the presence of General Robert E. Lee and President Jefferson Davis. Tablets mark the pews in which these two notable Southerners were accustomed to sit; and there are two beautiful windows which pay tribute to their memory.
On Sunday, April 2, 1865, President Davis was occupying his pew about midway up the center aisle when the sexton handed him a note telling him that General Lee’s lines had been penetrated the night before by General Grant’s army. The President at once quietly left the church.
Memorial windows and tablets bear witness to many other names that link this church with the life of Virginia and make it indeed an abbey of hallowed memories.