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The Student Newspaper of MAST Academy, since 1991.
The Student News Site of MAST Academy

The Beacon

The Beacon

GALLERY: Prom 2024
GALLERY: Prom 2024
April 7, 2024

Churches: The Historical Treasures of Miami

By Emma Almanza
Staff Writer

Though Miami is known for its many beaches, Art Deco buildings, and sunny weather, it also has an often overlooked, rich, unique history of churches that not many know about. The first of these churches is the Trinity Cathedral; the Trinity Cathedral was the original church within the Miami city limits. First built in 1896, the Cathedral was designed by architect Harold Hastings Mundy who also designed several schools in the Miami Dade District. The Episcopal church was later remodeled in 1925, which is the version seen standing today. Mundy drew inspiration for the church from the Roman Catholic Church of St. Gilles in France; using Romanesque Revival architecture, he combined different European architecture styles such as that of the Romans, Byzantines, and Italians.

The present-day exterior of Trinity Cathedral (Photo courtesy of trinitymiami.org)

The church’s interior contains beautiful mosaics, each depicting the six days of creation, the hosts of heaven, and the cross stations. It also includes refined stained-glass windows, each correlating with a scene from the Old Testament, including the miracles of Jesus, the Song of the Three Young Men (the Benedictus), the seven sacraments of the church, and several of the saints and scholars of the British Isles before the Protestant Reformation. Mundy also cleverly included sound reverberation where sound persists even after the source has been stopped to enhance the Organ’s musical effect. Performing arts teacher Ms. Cayce Benton has performed there and had some comments about the church’s acoustics.


The interior of Trinity Cathedral featuring its beautiful mosaics: (Photo courtesy of trinitymiami.org)

“It has the best acoustics of any church I’ve sung at,  likely because of its tile floors. Tile floors don’t absorb sound as carpet and wood do. Instead, it’s reflected, making the sound echo through the church,” Benton said.

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The Trinity Cathedral in it’s early years (Photo courtesy of trinitymiami.org)

Later on, in 1970, the first convention of the new Episcopal Diocese in Southeast Florida decided to make Trinity Church the cathedral for the Diocese (a district under the pastoral care of a bishop in the Church).  In 1980, the church was seen as a place of impressive architectural and historical significance, so much so that it earned itself a place in the U. S. Department of the Interior’s Register of National Historic Places. 

The Gesu church in 1940 only 10 years after being built (Photo courtesy of  floridamemory.com)

The Gesu Church, located in Biscayne Bay, is known for being the oldest Catholic church in Miami, designed and built in 1894 by Orin T. Williams. The church was built on land donated by the famous American industrialist and philanthropist Henry Flagler. The first model of this church was made entirely of wood. But, it eventually proved to be too small, so a more extensive, 800-seat one was built in 1922. It is still standing and operating to this day. 

The present day exterior of The Gesu Church  (Photo courtesy of  miamiarch.org)
The interior of Gesu Church featuring its famous Spanish tiles (Photo courtesy of gesuchurch.org) 

The church’s exterior famously features pink walls built from structural steel, reinforced-concrete, and walls covered with stucco.  The interior is far more detailed, containing a roof lined with beautiful Spanish style tiles, arched stained glass windows depicting scenes from the Bible, and double doors with intricate cartouches (a carved tablet or drawing used ornamentally or bearing an inscription) above. 

The church not only hosted masses and services but also became a place of shelter for refugees as well. In 1959, Gesu welcomed the Cuban exiles, educating hundreds of their children at the school and becoming a center of peace for those who had lost everything. They also worked with the sick and poor as well, having priests serve as chaplains in hospitals such as Jackson Memorial Hospital and hosting flea markets where donated clothes were sold at low prices.  


Plymouth Congregational in 1947 before its expansion (Photo courtesy of floridamemory.com) 

The Plymouth Congregational Church is famous for being built in 1897 by just one man, Felix Robem, using only four materials: a T-square, a plumb line, a hatchet, and lastly, a trowel. It was founded by important historical figures of Miami, including Solomon G. Merrick, the father of George Merrick, who developed Coral Gables and later became a pastor at Plymouth. Designed by Clinton Mackenzie, the church was modeled after a Spanish style mission church located in Mexico, being created using limestone surface rock covered in vines taken from what is known as “Coco Plum Circle” today. 

The exterior of Plymouth Congregational after its expansion (Photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org)

Later, in 1950, the church was expanded to fit more people during service, adding transepts and a chancel. These additions gave the building its now cruciform shape, drawing inspiration from Roman and Gothic Christian architecture. The two bells located in the towers were gifted to the church just in time for its 40th Easter mass. The interior features an all-wood roof and benches, as well as its brown limestone walls containing one of the largest pipe organs in the city of Miami. 

The church played a significant role in the development of Miami, and particularly Coconut Grove. It became home to one of the first-ever school campuses in Coconut Grove and includes two houses of former Navy admirals. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 23, 1974, because it reflects Coconut Grove’s early development and is one of the most important historical religious locations of its area. 


The construction of Coral Gables United Church in 1924 during construction: (Photo courtesy of gablessucc.org)

Lastly, the Coral Gables United Church of Christ became the first church of Coral Gables. It was built in 1923 under the order of George Merrick to honor his father Solomon G. Merrick, one of the first pastors of Plymouth Congregational.  It was designed by Richard Kienhel, who drew inspiration from Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, which can be seen throughout other cities of Florida like Vero Beach and St. Cloud as well. 

The present day exterior of Coral Gables United Church featuring its Spanish Colonial Revival architectural style : (Photo courtesy of interfaithmiami.org)

The building’s exterior is mostly beige walls, except at the front where a decorative bell tower was built along with an also white entrance featuring a carving of the cross. Its interior contains checkered floors and dark wooden benches and a wooden ceiling, arched walls, rustic appearing chandeliers, and a large dome shaped wall at the front for the Pastor to present during service. These features further accentuate the building’s Spanish Colonial architectural style. 

The church is particularly famous for its music and arts program in which they encourage these pursuits for youth. They do this to bring people together “despite their differences” in times of both celebration and sorrow. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 for its outstanding display of Spanish architecture and its significant role in the development of Coral Gables.

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Churches: The Historical Treasures of Miami