Wednesday, October 7, 2009

When A Church Dies

Boy, the Project goes underground for a week and a half, and the church world starts crumbling around me.

Well, at least one part of it is. You remember West Philadelphia's sad, defunct Transfiguration of Our Lord? Of course you do. It's one of our churches that won't die, since it's one of a handful of parishes whose former parishioners still treat it with an almost obsessive reverence.

Except that now Transfiguration is really going to die. Or the building is, anyway.

Project reader Joe Kearney alerted to me to the fact that the Boys Latin of Philadelphia Charter School, now in its third year of operation in Transy's former school, is undertaking a wholesale demolition of the rest of the property's structures. The convent and rectory are gone, and they've now moved on to...the church itself.

Joe was kind enough to forward some of his own pictures on the subject:

The Project doesn't know when they'll finish--the laborers are allegedly "taking their time" with the demolition--but if any of you has any designs of seeing Transfiguration, now would be the time. I will try to stop by as well and contribute additional images.

This is an interesting phenomenon, since the Project has discussed and featured destroyed churches before, but we've never actually been around to see any demolitions firsthand. There's only one way to mark such a sad occasion:

Church Project Theorem #25: The End

Yes, I know we usually only do these during church recaps, but there's no better place and time than right here, right now. The End refers to the whole destruction of a church and its parochial property, usually after suffering through The Closer and The Long Goodbye, and being so unappealing that it can't be Caveat Emptor'd into something else.

The Long Goodbye is criminal in and of itself, so anything that ends it has to be good, right? Well, not really. It's sad to see a church rotting before your eyes, but the fact that it's still standing means there's still hope that it will eventually find new life, that it will be renovated and repurposed into something useful. The End, though, destroys those hopes with a cruel finality. While it's bad to see an empty church crumbling, it's somehow even worse to see a property and never know that it even existed.

Anyway, the Project will keep you posted. Stay tuned.


  1. Have you heard about the two high schools closing - Cardinal Dougherty and North Catholic?

    The Archdiocese has forsaken the City. All they care about is the 'burbs.

  2. They let that church sit there and rot for nine years.

    Shame on them.

  3. Does anyone know where/how/if the things being stripped from Transfiguration will be for sale?

  4. Aside from the pillars and carved tympaniums, there's little of value left in the building--virtually all of the ornamentation was stripped and removed back when the church closed. Its greatest worth now seems to be as raw material, although the Boys Latin Charter claims to want to save and reuse as much as possible.

    The school can give you a more definitive answer on what they plan to keep and what they plan to unload. I suggest you start there.

  5. Ray:

    The important stuff is at Saint Raymond of Penafort in Virginia.


    Do a search for "Transfiguration" and it will take you right down to the part of the statues coming from TOLC.

    Oh? And Saint Raymond has TOL's MAIN altar.

  7. NO, the dedication booklet says it is but its not. What they have is the white marble table that after the liturgical renovations was installed in front of the Tan marbile one that had the large candles on.