A Walking Tour of Newport’s Historic Houses of Worship


On this short, escorted stroll along historic Spring and Pelham Streets…

In colonial Rhode Island, separation of church and state fostered religious liberty. This freedom promoted a rich diversity of religious thought and worship.
The quotes highlight ways in which the four houses of worship on our tour reflect Newport’s contributions to our nation’s liberty, philosophy, art, and architecture.

Touro Synagogue - Dedicated in 1763

Touro Synagogue – Dedicated in 1763

Hear the remarkable story of Touro Synagogue, a building of exquisite beauty and design, and America’s oldest Jewish house of worship. Designed by noted colonial architect Peter Harrison, Touro was designated a National Historic Site in 1946.

In 340 well-chosen words, President George Washington’s letter “To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport,” reassured those who had fled tyranny that life in their new nation would be different, that religious “toleration” would give way to religious liberty, and that the United States “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”

Newport Congregational Church - 1857

Newport Congregational Church – 1857

Marvel at the exquisite geometric murals and opalescent stained-glass windows designed by preeminent 19th century artist John La Farge. Newport Congregational Church, once known as United Congregational Church, was designated a National Historical Landmark in 2012.

Our island’s natural beauty also inspired artist John La Farge, whose work adorns both the Newport Congregational Church and Channing Memorial Church. Of La Farge’s work, art historian Barbara Weinberg writes “La Farge’s murals were absolutely unprecedented in the history of American Art and remain among the most significant manifestations of the American mural movement.”

Trinity Episcopal Church - 1726

Trinity Episcopal Church – 1726

Behold the classic colonial architecture of Rhode Island’s oldest Episcopal (Anglican) parish. Sit in the same box pews occupied by General George Washington, the Vanderbilts, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Senator Claiborne Pell, and Queen Elizabeth II.

Dean George Berkeley, who later became the Bishop of Cloyne, preached many times at Trinity between 1729 and 1731. It was Berkeley who posed the famous question: “If a tree falls in the forest, but there is no one to hear, is there sound?” Local legend has it that he formulated his query while meditating in his favorite retreat – a niche in Hanging Rock, overlooking Second Beach.

Channing Memorial Church - 1880

Channing Memorial Church – 1880

Experience a place where the congregation’s beliefs cover a wide range of modern religious thought. Enjoy stunning architectural features and learn why Channing was built as a memorial for William Ellery Channing, an early Unitarian minister and abolitionist.

The philosophy and theology expressed in William Ellery Channing’s sermons and writings did much to inspire the development of American Unitarianism. In his words, “Each of us is meant to have a character all our own, to be what no other can exactly be, and do what no other can exactly do.”

For Information Phone: 401-290-7535    |    Tours: July 9 – September 3, 2018