First Unitarian Church, Baltimore

There are many First Unitarian Churches in the United States, but the First Unitarian Church in Baltimore really deserves the name. It was here in 1819 that Unitarianism was first defined as a denomination.


History of First Unitarian Church

The First Unitarian Church of Baltimore was founded as the "First Independent Church of Baltimore" in 1817. The architect was Maximilien Godefroy, who also designed St. Mary's Seminary Chapel and Battle Monument in Baltimore.

On May 5, 1819, Dr. William Ellery Channing (1780-1842) delivered the "Baltimore Sermon" that defined the newly emerging Unitarian denomination in America. The occasion was the ordination of a minister, and Channing took the opportunity to explain the beliefs of the church. He began,

He went on to explain why the doctrine of the Trinity should be rejected, which is the main defining characteristic of Unitarians. The Unitarians joined with the Universalists in 1961, forming today's Unitarian Universalist denomination.

The church building has remained mostly unchanged since its construction. The architect Joseph E. Sperry added a barrel vault ceiling as part of a renovation in 1893, in order to correct the poor acoustics of the original dome. The church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

What to See at First Unitarian Church

The First Unitarian Church is Neoclassical in style, a large white cube topped with a dome. It is fronted with a portico or narthex with three round arches.

The facade is adorned with a terra cotta relief of the "Angel of Truth," originally sculpted by Antonio Capellano. On a scroll is a Greek inscription that translates "To the One God." The present relief is a replica, made by Baltimore sculptor Henry Berge (1908-1998) in the late 1950s to replace the decayed original.

Inside, the wide nave is topped with a barrel vault of 1893. The organ also dates from 1893. The chancel is decorated with a large mosaic of the Last Supper and stained glass windows, both from the studios of Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Quick Facts on First Unitarian Church

Site Information
Names:First Unitarian Church
Country:United States
Status: active
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:39.295392° N, 76.615793° W
Address:Charles and Franklin Streets
Baltimore, Maryland
Email:[email protected]
Hours:Weekdays 9-3
Lodging:View hotels near First Unitarian Church
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.


  1. First Unitarian Church of Baltimore - official website
  2. First Unitarian Church - Fodor's

More Information

© Matthew Kuhnert
Public domain.
© Holly Hayes

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