Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania is one of the churches my ancestors attended. They were married and buried from this Church in the 1700’s, 1800’s and into the 1900’s.
For this reason, this church holds a special affinity for me. We’ve attended services here, toured it, photographed it, walked around it and gawked at it. It is a truly amazing structure and retains a dignified and historic presence in the heart of the city.
Although the cornerstone for the Church was laid in 1761, the building was not consecrated until 1766. The tower and steeple were not finished until 1794 although begun in 1785. According to Evans and Ellis “History of Lancaster County Pennsylvania,”
The steeple is one hundred and ninety-five feet high. The gilt ball is large enough to hold ninety-five gallons. The four wooden figures represent the four evangelists, beginning with St. Matthew, on the northeast corner; St. Mark, at the northeast; St. Luke, at the southwest; and St. John at the northwest corner.”
The picture below was taken at twilight, and shows the evangelists, the gilt ball and the entire steeple. It is beautiful and can be seen from a distance.
As the city grew, the church grew, and as the church grew, need for space became necessary. The cemetery had outgrown it’s space, and the Church had purchased the land on South Queen Street which is now Woodward Hill Cemetery. New burials took place there. In 1879, when the Chapel was built, a number of graves were re-interred in Woodward Hill Cemetery. Several hundred grave sites were left in place as they were not in the way of construction.
In 1949 a Parish House was to be built to replace the Chapel and the final grave sites were removed. The remains were removed to a Funeral Home for keeping until such a time as the wall was built. The best of the head stones were selected to be placed into the wall along with the final remains of all that had been buried there. The rest of the headstones were sent to Landis Valley Museum.
The wall is now the focal point of a memorial garden with benches and lovely plants. We have brought visitors to the city to this spot and on more than one occasion, gone for a walk and spent a little time reflecting on the lives of those who have gone before us.
Although none of my ancestors are in this garden, it is still a quiet and reflective place. Examples of some of the old German headstones are shown below. The Church has taken great care and pride in their history and preserving the remains of those that have gone before.
Whether your ancestors are buried here or not, if you are ever in this city, do not miss the opportunity to see this church and spend a few minutes reflecting in this holy spot. You will be richer in spirit for it and will not regret the few minutes spent.
Don’t you wish every expansion and/or development that involved the removal of cemeteries or graveyards would have had an organization such as Trinity Lutheran behind it? They are to be commended for the thought and care they took to preserve their cemetery and remains of those that have gone on before.
- Ellis, Franklin, and Samuel Evans. History of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Volumes I & II. Philadelphia: Everts and Peck, 1883.
- City of Lancaster, Pennsylvania (http://www.cityoflancasterpa.com/heritage/lib/heritage/pdfs/trinity.pdf: accessed 27 October 2008) pamphlet “Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity.”
- Trinity Lutheran Church (http://www.trinitylancaster.org: accessed 27 October 2008) article “The Church Building.”