Every city, town and hamlet has places of worship, and final resting places. Here, they’re a little… different. Gothic and Romanesque architecture. Stained glass from Europe’s finest art studios. Simple, precious clapboard structures where the seeds of the Civil Rights struggle took root. Amble around Greenville and take in these gateways to the hereafter. You’ll surely learn something, and come away with a deeper appreciation for this life on Earth.
These final resting places hold important histories of the men and women who were Greenville’s early residents: bankers and business people, politicians and former slaves, writers and teachers, community and religious leaders.
Greenville’s Jewish history dates to 1867 and includes the city’s first elected mayor, Leopald Wilzinski. An earlier structure was built on this site and dedicated in 1880.The current temple was erected in 1906 and boasts exquisite stained-glass windows. Also housed at the temple is the Century of History Museum.
For 140 years, Mt. Horeb Missionary Baptist Church has been an important part of the city’s religious life. The congregation was established in 1864; however, its first church was not built until 1868 on Levee Street. The church moved to its present site in 1909.The current structure was built in 1971.
St. John’s was one of the first churches in the region, built around 1830. During the Civil War, lead from the church’s stained glass windows was melted to make mini balls. After the war, the church, was destroyed by a cyclone and the ruins remain on the site. Don’t forget your camera: the majesty of these ruins makes it one of Mississippi’s most photographed historic sites.
This Romanesque Revival structure was built in 1828. For nearly a century, the Sacred Heart congregation has been dedicated to educating area youth. In 1910, the Divine Word Missionaries established a parochial school for African-American youth. On the same site in 1920, Father Matthew Christmann helped train and instruct African-American priests.
This exquisite Neo-Gothic Church was erected in 1907 and has a sister church in Haarlem, Holland. The church was designed and financed by Father P. J. Korstenbroek, a Dutch nobleman who was the parish priest for 33 years. Father Korstenbroek’s charity was memorialized in Lanterns on the Levee, the memoirs of William Alexander Percy. St. Joseph’s famous stained glass windows are from the Munich studio of Emil Frei.
St. Matthew African Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1867. It was the first AME church established in the Delta and the fourth in Mississippi. The church’s original site on Levee Street was flooded by the Mississippi River, forcing the church to relocate to its present site in 1890.
Arguably the most recognizable memorial in the Greenville Cemetery is The Patriot honoring Senator LeRoy Percy. Commissioned by Percy’s son, author and poet William Alexander Percy, the statue known as The Patriot is a life size bronze figure of a knight in armor against a wall of marble created by Mrs. Malvina Hoffman, a noted sculptor of New York.