View of the Chancel, nave, and balcony of St. Paul's Chapel

St. Paul's Chapel

St. Paul’s Chapel, located at Broadway and Fulton Street, is part of the Parish of Trinity Church Wall Street. Built in 1766, it is home to an active worshipping community, mainly the congregation of Compline by Candlelight at 8pm Sundays, hosts a wide variety of neighborhood and arts events, and welcomes more than one million visitors every year. The chapel and churchyard are now open to visitors who wish to visit the historic memorials and monuments or enjoy a moment of quiet. St. Paul’s Chapel has long served as a house of prayer for all people: in addition to Compline by Candlelight, Tamid: The Downtown Synagogue has held services in St. Paul’s Chapel since 2012, and the chapel frequently hosts interfaith prayer events.

Photo of St. Paul's Chapel with One Trade Center in the background (left); Vintage illustration of St. Paul's Chapel (right)
Photo: Leo Sorel

When it first opened in 1766 as an outreach chapel of Trinity Church to better serve its expanding congregation, St. Paul’s was a “chapel-of-ease” for those who did not want to walk a few blocks south along unpaved streets to Trinity. A decade later, the Great Fire of 1776 destroyed the first Trinity Church, but St. Paul’s survived, thanks to a bucket brigade dousing the building with water.

Until the second Trinity Church was rebuilt in 1790, many, including George Washington, made St. Paul’s their church home. On April 30, 1789, after Washington took the oath of office to become the first President of the United States, he made his way from Federal Hall on Wall Street to St. Paul’s Chapel, where he attended services.

Over the next two centuries, the ministries of St. Paul’s expanded along with the city. Community outreach was a primary focus, with services to accommodate the needs of immigrants, working women, and the homeless.

After September 11, 2001, St. Paul’s became the site of an extraordinary, round-the-clock relief ministry to rescue and recovery workers for nine months. Though the World Trade Center buildings collapsed just across the street, there was no damage to St. Paul’s, earning it the nickname “the little chapel that stood.”

Today, St. Paul’s Chapel and Trinity Church (on Broadway at Wall Street) are the cornerstones of Trinity Church Wall Street, a vibrant Episcopal parish that serves the community with worship, arts, education, and social justice outreach. St. Paul’s Chapel is committed to leadership, social justice, and reconciliation as it carries its legacy into the future. 

About St. Paul

Born Saul of Tarsus in the first years of the first century, St. Paul’s unlikely evolution took him from fiery animosity toward the earliest followers of Jesus Christ to absolute dedication to the Gospel. After a life of ministry, Christian tradition tells us he was martyred in Rome in or near to the year 67.

In this sanctuary, we remember St. Paul as a consummate pastor – as someone who lived out Christ’s call to love one another as he loved us. This is a place where people of good will gather to praise God, nourish their spirits, and make connections before going out into the world to serve and seek reconciliation.

View Notable Churchyard Burials and Monuments at St. Paul's Chapel.

Architectural Highlights

  • Montgomery Monument: The east porch of St. Paul’s, facing Broadway, is dominated by an impressive memorial to General Richard Montgomery, a distinguished Revolutionary War officer who died in 1775 while fighting in Quebec. Montgomery is buried beneath the monument. The memorial, believed to be the first Revolutionary War monument commissioned by the Continental Congress, is the work of the French sculptor Jean Jaques Caffieri and is made of marble from the Pyrenees.
  • Glory Altarpiece: Because the monument honoring General Montgomery created a shadowy outline in the altar window as seen from the nave, a design for the interior of the window was made by Pierre Charles L’Enfant, the French architect who created the master plan for the city of Washington, DC. The design, executed by a woodcarver, represents God’s glory on Mount Sinai and the giving of the Ten Commandments to the Israelites, from Exodus 24.
  • Pulpit and Altar Rail: No direct evidence, but probably original. It’s often cited that the Prince of Wales feathers are atop the pulpit, but there are six feathers here, not three, making it unlikely.
  • Bells: One bell was made in 1797 by Thomas Mears of London and installed in 1834. The other bell was made in 1866 by Meneely.
  • Great Seal of the United States of America: The painting, commissioned by the vestry of Trinity Church in 1785, depicts the seal adopted by Congress in 1782, with a bird (some think it’s a turkey), holding in one talon an olive branch and in the other, a cluster of arrows. On a banner above the bird is written E Pluribus Unum, “Out of Many, One.” This is one of the earliest known depictions of the seal.

St. Paul’s Restoration (2016)

In addition to extensive landscaping, steeple repair, the installation of air conditioning, and the installation of production room to facilitate webcasting, St. Paul’s recent restoration efforts can be seen in two very visible ways:

Conservators took postage-stamp sized paint samples from all across St. Paul’s Chapel and analyzed them to determine the earliest paint colors. Samples seem to go no further back that the early 1800s. It was determined that 18th-century paints were water based, and removed from walls before a fresh layer was added. After looking at other Georgian churches, a palette of historically appropriate whites and creams were chosen, including:

  • Natural cream—walls, steam pipe covers (eggshell)
  • White dove—columns, trims, doors, chancel arches and columns (pearl); ceiling under balcony (flat); window surround (semi-gloss)
  • White—upper ceiling (flat)
  • Deep caviar—balcony face and trim (semi-gloss)

Statue of St. Paul
On October 4, 2016, after more than a year away, the original St. Paul statue that for more than 225 years lived in a niche on the Broadway side of the church, was returned to the church after restoration. The 7’10”, 500-pound tulip poplar sculpture, thought to be one of the earliest examples of North American sculpture, now lives inside the church to avoid further damage. A resin replica, weighing about 200 lb., now resides in the tympanum.

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