Monumental Church

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Richmond, VA
United States
Monumental Church

Landscape Information

Monumental Episcopal Church

Marking the site of a catastrophic theater fire that took place in Richmond’s Court End neighborhood in 1811, claiming the lives of 72 people, this Greek Revival structure was conceived as both a church and a memorial. Designed by Robert Mills and completed in 1814, this duality is expressed by two distinct sections: a three-sided stone memorial portico housing a marble monument to those who perished, and the domed octagonal church behind it. Located three blocks southeast of Capitol Square, Monumental Church served an elite neighborhood, and remained a continuously active Episcopal church until its de-consecration in 1965. By that time, the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) campus had supplanted much of the surrounding neighborhood, and the church was donated to the MCV Foundation. Historic Richmond has owned the property since 1983, and has undertaken restoration of the church and rehabilitation of its grounds.

Situated on a steeply sloped lot, the churchyard is enclosed on three sides by tall brick retaining walls, built immediately after the fire. Original stone retaining walls, wrought iron fencing, and matching gates front the property, providing separation from Broad Street. Multiple rehabilitations of the churchyard were initiated by the James River Garden Club and landscape architect Kenneth Higgins in the 1960s and 1970s, and later by Historic Richmond in 2011 and 2014. The result is a lawn ornamented with brick paths, a granite and brick memorial terrace with a chronological timeline engraved in granite strips, and a restrained planting palette of dogwood, holly, southern magnolia, crape myrtle, and boxwood. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1969, Monumental Church was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1971.