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We all know the story of the first Pilgrims who made their way to North America’s shores in search of freedom of religion, and these early settlers began building churches in the area we now know as New England very quickly. As New England is a region that takes its historical preservation and appreciation quite seriously, it should come as no surprise that there are several gorgeous, well-preserved, historical cathedrals and churches in New England worth visiting!
You don’t have to be a religious person yourself to appreciate the incredible architectural details that have gone into these impressive buildings, and as churches have historically been used as community meeting places, many of these cathedrals and churches in New England have interesting historical lore associated with them.
Cathedrals and churches in New England have their own stories to tell and many offer public tours in addition to active church services. Start here with these 15 cathedrals and churches in New England worth visiting.
Trinity Church, Boston MA
Located in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston, Trinity Church is considered one of the most beautiful churches in the United States. Dedicated in the 1870s, this New England church is considered a prime example of the Richardsonian Romanesque style of architecture. Intricately designed stained glass windows, vibrant mosaics, wall murals, and even the needle-worked kneelers come together to paint a glorious image of vaulted artistry.
This National Historic Landmark church is an active church that offers weekly services, but you can also visit to take a self-guided, docent-led, or audio tour on Sundays from 11-4pm to learn more about the architectural significance of this grandiose place of worship in Boston.
St. Matthew’s Chapel, Sugar Hill NH
One of the most picturesque cathedrals and churches of New England, St. Matthew’s Chapel in Sugar Hill is an Episcopal church that was built in the 1890s. Built simply and beautifully, this New Hampshire church features stained glass windows and a tall, classic white spire, and every year during fall foliage season, it becomes a popular spot for photographers to get a shot with the blazing fall colors as they frame this lovely white church.
This is an active church and services can be attended on Sundays in the summer. Its buttercup yellow door is another feature of this Sugar Hill NH church’s charm.
Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Waterbury CT
The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception is a gorgeous New England cathedral that was built in 1928 and received designation as a minor basilica by the Vatican in 2008. With impressive Italian Renaissance architecture, this is one of the most awe-inspiring cathedrals in New England from the moment it comes into view.
The interior features marble shrines and statues and intricately painted details throughout. With two stories of stained glass windows, this beautiful Catholic basilica feels bright and open inside, with a beautiful domed ceiling. Mass and confessions are offered weekly if you would like to attend a service in this beautiful New England cathedral.
St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Newport RI
The full name of this historic Rhode Island church is St. Mary, Our Lady of the Isle Roman Catholic Church, and it was first formed in the 1820s to provide services to the many Catholics working at Ft Adams. St Mary’s was the first Roman Catholic Parish in RI, but the Gothic Revival style building that is currently standing was officially consecrated in 1849.
With a dramatic high-pitched roof and sturdy, dimensional rough-cut brownstone walls, stained glass, wooden-battened door, and high gothic arches, this New England church is a prime example of the popular Gothic Revival style. A very interesting claim to fame this RI church has? It was the church where JFK married Jackie! It is on the National Register of Historic Places and still holding regular mass services to this day.
King’s Chapel, Boston MA
A part of Boston’s storied Freedom Trail, King’s Chapel was first established in 1686 as New England’s First Church of England, but the current chapel that is seen today was built in 1754. This historic Boston church is on the National Register of Historic Places and was designed in the Georgian architectural style, with symmetrical features and striking touches like the classical columns that border the pews and Palladian style windows that allow natural light to stream in, in addition to the light provided by the grand chandelier overhead.
Also onsite is King’s Chapel Crypt, one of the last remaining crypts of New England; you can sign up for guided tours of both the King’s Chapel Crypt and Sanctuary through the King’s Chapel History Program. View their tour offerings here: King’s Chapel Guided Tours
St. Anne’s Church, Berlin NH
A far cry from the original wooden structure that housed St. Anne’s Church, the current Romanesque-style building was began in 1899 with community teamwork that includes even the local Catholic school children carrying and stacking bricks for the construction efforts during recess! An Italian sculptor was employed to decorate the interior, and the deep golds of the walls and ceiling give this New England church a warm and welcoming feel despite its very high vaulted ceilings.
Stained glass, paintings, and sculptures are points of interest in the interior, but this New Hampshire church’s exterior is a somewhat unique sight with an asymmetrical view from the front with a tall spire to the left of the Roman arched entrances and a tower with a 14-foot statue of Saint Anne on the opposite side. St. Anne’s is on the National Register of Historic Places and can be visited during regular church services.
Wilton Baptist Church, Wilton CT
While the Wilton Baptist Church building is no longer functioning as a church, this historic church building in CT deserves recognition for its simplistic beauty. Built originally as an Episcopalian church in the 1860s. With an English Tudor fieldstone and brick church design, this historic building is as picturesque a New England church as can be imagined, with a heavy wooden arched red door in the front and a round window above.
This building was sold in summer of 2021 and the new owner has stated that they intend to perform the maintenance required to restore this beautiful old church of New England to its former glory, so while it is not currently open for tours of the interior, it can be seen and appreciated from the outside until the doors are open to the public once again.
St. Patrick Parish, Jaffrey NH
St. Patrick Parish is a historic stone Church in New England that was dedicated in 1917 and built from locally acquired field stones; its architectural style can be described as rural Gothic, helping to blend the awe-inspiring architectural accomplishments of the builders with the raw and natural beauty of New Hampshire.
Interestingly, it is said that the New Hampshire fieldstone used to build this beautiful New England church was gathered and brought to the site at Sunday Mass in buggies by the parishioners themselves! You can visit this picturesque and pastoral church yourself during regular weekly services.
The Old Round Church, Richmond VT
Built in the early 1800s, the Old Round Church was an early meeting place for Vermonters in the area as well as a place of worship for the Protestant members of the community. This sixteen sided wooden building was constructed by a self-taught architect, making its lasting presence all the more impressive!
Two stories of windows are found on all sides of this beautiful building, and one legend as to how the Old Round Church came to be was that in a completely round church, the devil couldn’t hide in the corner! You can visit this beautiful historic landmark summer through fall, and events are often planned through the Richmond Historical Society, so perhaps you will be able to catch a concert or art exhibit in the space during your visit to this quaint church building in New England!
St. Mary’s Church, New Haven CT
St. Mary’s Church in New Haven CT is a Catholic church built in the Gothic Revival style in the 1870s. Historically significant as the first Catholic church of New Haven and the founding church of the Knights of Columbus, the interior and the exterior of this church match in both intricate detail and beauty.
The vaulted ceiling of the interior is painted blue in homage to the blue lace of the Virgin Mary’s gown, and painted saints and archangels grace the upper walls. Stained glass windows filter in the natural light from outside and hanging pendants above the pew provide an extra warm light from within. Church services are open to the public, with daily mass and confessions provided throughout the week.
Spurwink Church, Cape Elizabeth ME
The oldest remaining building in Cape Elizabeth, the Spurwink Church was built in 1802 on a hill above the Spurwink River. This simple and quaint meeting place was an active church space from the early 1800s until 1957 when ownership passed over to Cape Elizabeth.
A blend of Federal, Gothic and Greek Revival architectural styles, Spurwink Church is on the National Registry of Historic Places and is available today for special events such as christenings, weddings, vow renewals, and the like, but public tours are not currently offered. You can (and should!) visit Spurwink Church just to see this charming historic New England church from the outside.
St. Anne’s Stone Chapel, Kennebunkport ME
St. Anne’s Episcopal Church is a historic stone chapel in coastal Maine that was built in 1887, and is perfectly picturesque and pastoral. Built from seawashed stones from Maine’s coast, it has been in continuous use as a “summer chapel” since 1892.
Interesting architectural details abound in this charming historic chapel, such as actual seashells embedded in the stained glass windows! The interior of this New England church is very cozy, with the same seawashed stones on the interior of the walls as make up the exterior. Church services happen from June to September in this summer chapel, and visitors are allowed to come through and see this gorgeous chapel outside of service hours, as well.
St. Columba’s Chapel, Middletown RI
St. Columba’s Chapel is a stone chapel built in the Gothic Revival architectural style in the 1880s, and beautiful artistic touches abound in this lovely New England church. Quaint, cozy, and picturesque are terms that can describe both the interior and exterior of this small stone church and its churchyard; the churchyard features a classic English lych-gate, adding to its idyllic charm.
St. Columba’s Chapel is an active church to this day, holding services in the stone chapel throughout the year, and offering guided audio tours of the churchyard as well. Events are also held at this beautifully scenic church, so you can check the calendar to see what public events are being offered.
Trinity Episcopal Church, Shelburne VT
Trinity Episcopal Church is a historic New England church in Shelburne Vermont that is comprised of rock-faced Redstone, limestone trim, and Tiffany stained glass memorial windows. Built in the Pottery style of architecture, the high steeped buttresses create a charming profile for this historic church in New England.
The grounds of this historic Vermont church offer a pastoral feel, and while Trinity Episcopal Church is not currently publishing its service times, a visit to see this lovely church in New England from the outside will be certainly worth your time.
Old North Church, Boston MA
Another historic church on Boston’s Freedom Trail, the Old North Church is the church referenced in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “If the British march / By land or sea from the town to-night, / Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch / Of the North Church tower, as a signal light,” describing the role of this New England church in alerting Bostonians to the British troops pending arrival.
This historic church is a National Historic Landmark and is in the National Register of Historic Places, and it is Boston’s oldest surviving church! With a strong Colonial Revival aesthetic, the inside features high vaulted ceilings and plenty of natural light, while the 175-foot tall white spire makes for an impressive sight as you approach this historic New England church for a tour by Old North Foundation of Boston.
Really and truly, we could go on and on featuring the beautiful cathedrals and churches in New England that are worth visiting, because this region has such a strong showing of churches that are historically, culturally, or architecturally significant, and often all three! In addition to those we’ve highlighted above, consider visiting these churches and cathedrals of New England, too:
Westmoreland Park Hill Meeting House, Westmoreland NH
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, Boston MA
Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Boston MA
Trinity Church, Newport RI
First Parish Church, Plymouth MA
First Church in Belfast, United Church of Christ, Belfast ME
Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Boston MA
Whichever of these cathedrals and churches in New England that you choose to visit, you are sure to be impressed with either the historical or architectural significance… and maybe even both.
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