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Home | Articles | A Carved Church Pulpit

First Church, Bethlehem, Connecticut, 1768
White pine
Photography courtesy of Antiquarian & Landmarks Society

Recently reinstalled in the First Church of Bethlehem, Connecticut, after years in storage, is the carved pulpit of the Second Meeting House of Bethlem (later changed to Bethlehem). The pulpit was built and carved in 1768, and the Reverend Joseph Bellamy, one of the most influential religious men of his time, was the first minister to preach from what is now a rare survival of Connecticut’s ecclesiastical heritage.

Currently covered in white paint, the pulpit was most likely originally embellished with polychromed grapes and vines, raised panels, and frame. Plans for analysis of the pulpit’s finish history are under way to determine the original color scheme, at which point the pulpit may be conserved or a reproduction made to show the full effect intended by Connecticut’s eighteenth-century country Congregationalists. Missing are the side extensions and possibly a base molding. Otherwise the pulpit is an extraordinary survivor, which Antiquarian & Landmarks Society Director Bill Hosley describes as “a rare example of the most prized and embellished wooden objects made and used in Colonial New England.”

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