It’s a nice coincidence that in the same week as an update on Jackson’s First Christian Church we should look at the interior of Port Gibson’s St. Joseph Catholic Church. Built almost exactly 100 years apart, these two buildings might be supposed to have nothing in common. In fact, they share one characteristic, besides their Gothic Revival style, that only reveals itself when you walk inside. That characteristic, which almost knocks you in the face when you open the door, is cobalt blue stained-glass windows so vivid that the air inside the churches turns into a purple haze.
I should re-phrase that to say that “at one time they shared a characteristic,” because the sad truth is that due to the inexplicable breakage of the lower three-fourths of the windows in First Christian Church a few years ago, First Christian has lost its distinctive glow, with only the upper remnants trying to display what was once a glorious sight. I’m so thankful that I was able to see First Christian when it still had its windows, and I’m sad that I’ll never be able to pass on that experience to Jackson visitors. But if you want to get a taste of what the space felt like, head down to Port Gibson when St. Joseph’s is open and go inside. The purple haze is so thick in the small sanctuary that it seems to have real weight, whereas the glow in the much larger First Christian had more of an airy quality, while still seeming surreal and not of this world.
St. Joseph’s was built in 1849, back when Gothic Revival had actual doctrinal meaning. In addition to the blue windows, St. Joseph’s interior has some impressive carved woodwork that is worth the trip. Plan to be amazed and stand quietly for a while.
As with First Presbyterian Church, profiled a couple of weeks ago, thanks to the congregation of St. Joseph’s for maintaining this beautiful and historic building and for sharing it with visitors!