Philip Ludwell III of Virginia, the First Known American Convert to Orthodoxy

By the summer of 1738 Philip Ludwell III of Virginia had become one of the largest landowners in British Virginia, but his worldly wealth must have dissatisfied him to a certain extent. He then began to turn inward, to begin to seriously cultivate his spirit and the outward expression of his faith.

Ludwell’s quest led him to travel to London, England — and during that fateful summer he encountered a tiny community of Orthodox Christians there who changed the course of his life forever. He would become known as the first American to convert to Orthodox Christianity.

The Orthodox community in America has not forgotten the courageous conversion of Philip Ludwell, who was confirmed on December 31, 1738 with the holy Chrism in London. The 300th anniversary of Ludwell’s birth was celebrated by the Orthodox faithful in America.

After his fateful trip to London, Ludwell returned to Virginia, married and had three daughters. In 1753 his wife, Frances Grimes, passed away and Ludwell took his three daughters to London. In 1762, they too were received by the Eastern Orthodox Church, just as their father had been years before.

The family returned to Virginia and Ludwell begun translating three of the most-used Orthodox liturgies and other popular services into English. The Holy Synod immediately blessed the printing and distribution of Ludwell’s work.

Encouraged by this approval, Ludwell began to distribute his English translation of the Orthodox liturgies to whomever was interested in reading the passages.

If you would like to learn more information about Philip Ludwell III and his important role in bringing Orthodox Christianity across “The pond,” the website dedicated to him here has a great deal of information on his life.