An upper floor room of the 1741 Gemeinhaus which is the oldest surviving building in the city of Bethlehem and a National Historic Landmark. The room is known as “the hall” and it was a gathering place for early Moravian settlers and was used for many activities such as worship, baptisms, marriages, funerals, education and many other uses.
Loretta Hein is the tour guide for the Church and Chapel tour. Loretta has extensive knowledge of Moravian history and has been actively been involved with historic Bethlehem since 1986.
It was very common for early Moravians to use a rectangular space with benches facing the wall and at the center was a portrait of Christ and a bible. The bible pictured here dates back to the 1600s.
Pictured is a typical tile stove that Moravians used as a source of heat in the buildings. When founding father John Adams visited the Moravians, he noted how warm their buildings felt because of the tile heat stoves used.
The inside of the old chapel built in 1751 where many notables before and during the American Revolution came to worship. Some of them include George and Martha Washington, John Adams, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and Marquis de Lafayette.
The altar of Central Moravian church. The church became a much larger option when it was needed and was built in the early 1800s. The front of the church showcases an altar and large columns that feature beautiful architecture.
PRESS PHOTOS BY MARK KIRLINThe original Oriel Pulpit which was removed in 1851 for design changes in the church. As a way to preserve the pulpit, it was hung on a wall inside a winding staircase. Pictured from ground level is a view looking up towards the pulpit that hangs on the wall (center) with the staircase that winds around it leading to an upper floor.
One of the many door handles that feature a clasped hand. It has been said that the handles represent the belief of “holding tight to the word of God.”
Church, chapel tours celebrate history
Historic Bethlehem’s Church and Chapel tour is a look at the Moravians who founded Bethlehem more than 270 years ago and the churches and chapels they built. These buildings represent some of the oldest in the city. The tour begins with guide Loretta Hein, who outlines the creation of the 1741 Gemeinhaus where the early Moravians lived, worshiped and conducted everyday life.
The Moravian religion is the oldest Protestant denomination that is still in existence today. Much of their traditions of worship and life revolve around music. They were the first to bring trombone musical instruments to the new world.
To this day trombones are an important aspect of Moravian music. In addition, the Moravians are known for the Bach Choir. The founder of the Bach Choir, Fred J. Woll, led the choir to perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B Minor for the first time in America in 1900 at the Central Moravian Church.
The next part of the tour focuses on the Old Chapel which was built in 1751. Many notable individuals from before and during the American Revolution visited and worshiped in the Old Chapel. Some of them include George and Martha Washington, John Adams, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and Marquis De Lafayette.
The third and last stop of the tour is the Central Moravian Church on the corner of Main Street in Bethlehem. The large, simple and elegant church was built to hold many more people. It was dedicated in 1806 and attended by 6,000 people. To this day, it’s the largest structure without interior columns in the state of Pennsylvania.
The Church and Chapel tours take place mostly on Saturdays and Sundays now through the end of March. Tickets can be purchased at the Historic Bethlehem Visitor Center located at 505 Main Street or from the historicbethlehem.org website.