Holy Trinity

Gloria Dei

St. Mary Anne's
Episcopal

Trinity Episcopal

St. George's
Episcopal

St. Gabriel's
Episcopal

Christ Church

St. James Episcopal,
Kingsessing

Holy Trinity (Old Swedes') Church
606 Church Street, Wilmington, DE 19801
302-652-5629 or 302-652-8605

From
The Eight Old Swedes' Churches of New Sweden
by Rev. Dr. Kim-Eric Williams
New Sweden Center, Wilmington, DE 1999
(Republished with the author's permission)

Holy Trinity is the oldest Christian congregation in the Delaware Valley, tracing its origins to 1640 when the first services led by a priest of the Church of Sweden were held at Ft. Christina. A church built in Swanwyck about 1662 was replaced by a combination church/fort at Crane Hook in 1667. When the Church of Sweden renewed its mission on the Delaware in 1697, Eric Björk led the Christina congregation to build the present stone church at the site of the old burial ground of Fort Christina. The Church was dedicated on Holy Trinity Sunday, July 4, 1699. Its ample proportions of 60 feet in length, and 30 in breadth, and 20 in height were exactly duplicated in Philadelphia at Gloria Dei by many members of the same construction crew. In 1710 the first rectory was completed.

HolTrijpg
Holy Trinity (Old Swedes') Church
(photo: Max Dooley)

An original black walnut pulpit stands in its original location, although priests that followed Björk found its height uncomfortable and shortened it. The dove below the sounding board is a modern gift from Sweden and symbolizes the Holy Spirit's inspiration to the preacher. The original church chest from 1713 can be seen in the north lateral aisle. The modern altar is designed to match the pulpit and is dedicated to the ten priests of the Church of Sweden who served the congregation. A special treasure is a silver Communion chalice, paten and host box given by Stora Kopparsbergs AB at Fahlun, Dalarna, Sweden. It was sent by Eric Björk when he returned to Sweden in 1718 as rector of this large parish known for its famed ancient mining company. The silver/copper altar candlesticks from Sweden are modern and are designed to match the style of the chalice. The congregation owns an altar antipendia embroidered by King Gustav V in 1950, and copies a hymnal and Bible used during the 17th Century given in 1938 at the 300th anniversary of the founding of New Sweden colony. Oil portraits of Eric Björk (1697-1713), Peter Tranberg (17411748) & Israel Acrelius (1749-1756) are found on the balcony railing. The South Portico and northern buttresses were added to the building in 1740 and the balcony in 1774. The present bell was purchased in England in 1772 and was placed in the bell tower when it was erected in 1802. The pews in the balcony date from 1774, those in the nave are reproductions from 1899. When the last Swedish priest, Lars Girelius, left in 1791, the congregation called Joseph Clarkson, the Anglican assistant to Nils Collin in Philadelphia. In 1795, the charter was amended to allow the calling of one "ordained according to the ordination of the Lutheran or Episcopal Church." By 1818, lay delegates and a quota of convention expense were sent to the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware.With the growth of Wilmington to the north, a new Trinity Chapel was built at the northeast comer of Fifth and King Streets in 1830 and the old church was only used once a year. In 1842, the old church was repaired and reopened for regular worship and by 1847, the present organization was in place with one parish in two locations. In 1882, Trinity moved to a new one story church on Adams Street near Delaware Ave. and in 1891, blessed and occupied the present beautiful large stone Gothic church. In 1893, the Old Swedes Parish House was erected and was completely renovated in 1944 to house the Christina Community Center.

The Hendrickson House of the grounds of Holy Trinity (Old Swedes') Church, Wilmington, Delaware [photo: Ronald A. Hendrickson]

Old Swedes' itself underwent a thorough restoration in 1899 funded by the Colonial Dames of America. At this time, the stained glass replaced the plain glass that had been originally installed giving the nave a medieval appearance. The altar window is probably German and shows Christ teaching with symbols of the..Holy Trinity. The pipe organ was built by the Austin Company of Hartford, CT and was'dedicated in 1965. An'exact model of the Kalmar Nyckel resides in the church, given by the the city of Kalmar, Sweden in 1963. While this represents the ship that brought the first colonists in 1638, it is also a symbol of the church - a baptismal people called to work together, weather the seas of life, and finally come to common port-of-call.The Holy Trinity (Old Swedes) Church Foundation was established in 1947 to care for the church and grounds. In 1988 at the 350th anniversary of the New Sweden colony, a new ceiling, central air conditioning and a new roof were installed; King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia visited.

South Portico, Holy Trinity
(Old Swedes') Church
(photo: Ronald A. Hendrickson)

The stone Hendrickson House, was re-erected in 1959 on the grounds of Holy Trinity. It was originally built in 1690 on Crum Creek in Ridley Township, PA.At the head of the center aisle in the church is the grave of Pastor Peter Tranberg and the grave of the infant son of Pastor Lars Girelius is located in the north lateral aisle. It is presumed that Pastor Anders Borell (1760-1768) is also buried within the church. At the south portico is the grave of Charles C. Springer (1658-1738), famed head warden, lay reader and composer of the famous "1693 Census of the Swedes on the Delaware" that led to the renewal of the mission of the Church of Sweden on the Delaware.In the church yard are the graves of Maj. Peter Jacquette, a Revolutioary War hero; the first bishop of the Episcopal Diacese of Delaware, the Rt. Rev. Alfred Lee; Major General James A. Wilson; Mary Vining; Elizabeth Montgomery; and famed Delaware members of the Vandever, Bayard, Price, Elliot, Foreman, Justis, and Stidham families.

 

 


 For more information, visit Holy Trinity (Old Swedes') Church web site:

Holy Trinity (Old Swedes') Church
606 Church St., Wilmington, DE 19801 (302) 652 5629
www.oldswedes.org