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On The Square
Carlisle, Pa 17013  (717) 243-4220

St. John’s History

Welcome to historic Saint John’s Episcopal Church, on the Square! Located on this northeast corner of the Square, the Church sits on land reserved by the Penn family for the use of the Church of England at the time of the founding of Carlisle. The first celebration of the Eucharist took place on Trinity Sunday 1752. At that time Carlisle was described by the missionary priest as “the very frontiers of Messiah’s kingdom … the remotest part of the West.” As the first church to meet in Carlisle, the parish continues as St. John’s Episcopal Church, named in honor of St. John, evangelist and apostle, known also in Scripture as the “Beloved Disciple.” Today St. John’s is the spiritual home of over 900 active members, making it one of the 200 largest congregations of the Episcopal Church in the United States.

Before the parish was organized, the Penns saw to the construction of a rustic log building on the northeast corner of the Square in the original charter for Carlisle, the county seat for the new county that extended from the Susquehanna River to the Ohio.  That building served as a temporary courthouse and church when the Carlisle was established in 1751.  The next year the Anglican congregation moved into the Carlisle church from nearby Hunnington.  In 1762 a modest stone colonial church replaced the log cabin.  Both of these early church buildings were located adjacent to East High Street, in the area now occupied by the Parish Hall.  Church services were suspended for a while in 1776, backlash from Revolutionaries aimed at the “English” church.  Work on the present church began in 1826 and concluded the following year, making use of stone from the dismantled colonial building.  An original tower on the east end of the church was removed during a large renovation in 1861 when the present tower and steeple were erected.  The choir area was also added at this time and the interior was remodeled.  A final expansion was undertaken in 1896 when the Sanctuary and High Altar were added, completed in 1898.  The architectural styles of the church combines a Federalist shape with Norman design, characterized by the rounded arches and windows.  The parish hall was added in 1986 and in the summer of 1995 a comprehensive renovation/restoration of the church interior was undertaken.  For a comprehensive virtual tour of the church and its historic features, click here.