The Richmond region has grown more diverse in recent decades, boasting a spectrum of religious faiths to accompany the changing makeup of our population. It's only fitting, given the fact that Richmond is where the Virginia Statue of Religious Freedom, authored by Thomas Jefferson, became state law. In addition to the worshipers in the Judeo-Christian denominations, we find thriving communities of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and more. Here's a small collection of places where people congregate and share their hopes for a higher purpose.
Cathedral of the Sacred Heart
When VCU is in session, passing through the lively, crowded campus can be hectic. For some vital tranquility, pause at the outskirts of Monroe Park to admire the Virginia granite and Indiana limestone supported by the cathedral's six fluted Corinthian columns. You might find yourself transported to another time and place — Renaissance-era Florence, perhaps.
Many Richmonders would be surprised to discover that Louis C. Tiffany had a hand in designing the synagogue that houses the country's sixth-oldest Jewish congregation, founded in 1789 and located in the Fan. Originally known better for his stained glass than his jewelry, Tiffany created a stained-glass portrayal of Mount Sinai within this elegant neoclassical structure, built in 1904.
Chester Presbyterian Chapel
Churches and treasure hunts? The two seem unrelated, but in 1878, six families founded the Chester Presbyterian Chapel while searching for a chest containing $80,000, rumored to have been buried by a Union general. There's no chance the original 17 members would recognize Chester's oldest church today; additions were constructed in 1956, 1967, 1995 and 2000. And yes, as far as we know, the treasure is still out there.
Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church
Since 1867, the city's first African-American congregation has kept busy blazing trails. Its slave-born founder, the Rev. John Jasper, once united Richmonders of all races with his enigmatic sermons. Situated in the Historic Jackson Ward District, this Gothic-style church is one of few of its time, and its design can be accredited to an African-American architect, George W. Boyd.
Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral
The annual Richmond Greek Festival is hardly your only chance for a local taste of the Byzantine style. After you've finished your gyro, go and study this traditional cathedral in the Near West End whose architecture, complete with a dramatic mosaic of the Virgin Mary and Jesus above the altar wall, mimics Byzantine Orthodox churches in Greece, made current with architectural influences from Roman basilicas.
St. Peter's Parish Church
No autographs, please! For three centuries, this Episcopal church in New Kent County has welcomed a veritable "Who's Who" of American history. Famous congregants include George and Martha Washington, who (according to some accounts) were married here in 1759; Gen. Robert E. Lee, who helped restore the 17th century-style church in the aftermath of the Civil War; and First Lady Letitia Tyler, the wife of the 10th U.S. president, who was possibly baptized here.