Monday, May 24, 2010
With a list like this, you knew it was only a matter of time before we went to the Project's favorite place, South Philadelphia.
Hit it, fellas!
#8: Pennsport's Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Why They're Here
General dumpiness, really. Our Lady of Mount Carmel takes a good, common architectural style--the gothic, columned, cruciform one that's used by such gems as Incarnation of Our Lord, St. Bridget, St. Matthew, St. Mattias, etc.--and manages to make it wholly unimpressive. Sloppy paintwork, lazy and uninspiring ornamentation, and an exterior that's either missing pieces and / or crumbling are just some of the delights you'll find here.
Why They're Not Lower:
The structural quality and large windows buy them a bit of slack. Unfortunately, it's just enough for them to hang themselves.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
You can imagine our extreme joy at receiving the following note from Project reader Patrick Kidd:
Most date to the 1920s-40s and come from parish anniversary booklets now in the Archdiocesan Historical Center; the school pics are from the Sisters of Saint Francis, who used to run the parish school. I'm also attaching a brief history of the parish and the block on which it sits. I did this as part of a and thought some of the readers might enjoy it.
Never-before-seen (to us, anyway) vintage photography of the late, great St. Bonaventure? Yes. Yes! YES!
See below (click for larger):
Oh my. :drool:
Really great and invaluable stuff. The church, pretty much, is what the Project thought it would be. A gothic, columned and cruciform masterpiece; not huge, but expertly crafted and lovingly ornamented. A black-and-white photo doesn't tell the whole story, but I'm in no position to be greedy. These images are already among our most treasured.
The bonus is the school images, which are obviously (and in some cases ridiculously) staged. Still, they're incredible period artifacts.
Mr. Kidd also provided a portion of a document titled "A Preservation Plan for Fairhill: History of a Fairhill Block," which provides a very comprehensive overview of the founding of the parish and the planning of construction of the church and other parochial buildings. I've provided a download link below.
A Preservation Plan for Fairhill: History of a Fairhill Block (PDF)
The sad thing about reading a history like this is that it reminds you just how much effort went into this parish and this church. The parishioners and the pastor, Father Hammeke, poured their blood, sweat, tears, hearts and souls into creating this place; just read about Hammeke's painstaking efforts to fill out the church's ornamentation over a period of many years.
In better and more caring hands, these creations would have stood forever as a testament to their lives and their hard work. Instead, the ruined husk of Bonaventure is a grim reminder that everything they strove for has been cast aside and forgotten.
I'll give the last word to the good Father:
When I landed for the second time...I decided to live and die in
Sorry your successors decided those people weren't good enough, Padre.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
The Project's tour of the damned continues with #9 on our list, Cobbs Creek's St. Cyprian
Why They're Here:
Yes, I know it's another case of Tabula Rasa, and if better cared for, a 1924 columned, cruciform Italian-Renaissance church would be a thing of beauty. Sorry, can't go by what-used-to-bes. It's bad.
Why They're Not Lower:
Well, good stained glass art is always appreciated. But mostly, it's the respectable stone exterior, nifty red-tile roof and prominent tower--which, fun fact, was constructed as a big %!$@ you to the KKK, who burned a cross on the parish's property.
That's some nice moxie there, but moxie, sadly, doesn't pay for church upkeep.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Being a third generation Episcopalian, my interest has been in your
reviews of the Episcopal parishes.
Since you are Roman Catholic, I thought I would write to give you some
background on the various types of Episcopal churches.
Episcopal churches fall generally
into three types of "churchmanship": High, Low and Broad.
A or "Anglo-Catholic" parish will have a more highly
decorated ornate church building than the other two types. It will
typically have a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary and follow many
of the Medieval church ceremonial practices. Examples you have visited
include St.Tim's Roxborough and St. Clements on 20th Street.
tradition so that the altar faces east to Jerusalem. That's why you
have found it difficult in some instances to find the main door. High
churches, like a Roman Catholic church, has Mass every Sunday. All
high churches will have .
A is one that may have many decorative elements but they
typically will not celebrate Mass every Sunday and it will not have a
shrine to the Virgin. Mass is celebrated only on the 2nd and 4th
Sunday of the month. The other Sundays the service consists of only
"Morning Prayer". on Rittenhouse square and St. Paul's
Chestnut Hill are "Broad" church examples.
A has a building that has minimal decoration and the
service is based on 18th century ideas that were prevalent at the time
of the country's founding: less is more. Emphasis is placed on the
preaching by the minister and not the ceremonies and symbols of the
medieval Church. Mass is celebrated in same manner as the Broad church
. Christ Church on 2nd street in center city is a Low church example.
I hope one day you will visit St.Luke's Episcopal Church in the
Germantown section of Philadelphia. It is by far, my favorite
If only all e-mails were so informative. It's interesting to discover the various divisions of church constructions, each designed to serve a specific purpose. Fascinating stuff, and a very big contrast to old Roman Catholic constructions, whose only instructions were usually to "make it as big and ornate as possible!"
(Oh, and it's nice to have at least some explanation for How the $#%@ do I get in here?)
We'll certainly keep this in mind when evaluating Episcopal churches in the future. And yes, that does include St. Luke in Germantown. We've actually tried to go several times before, but were always stymied by freak mishaps. We'll make it back over there eventually--if the Fates start smiling on us.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
First, a few ground rules.
1. We’re only going to include churches that we have covered so far. University City’s gorgeous St. Agatha – St. James may very well be the nicest church around, but since we haven’t visited personally, it will have to be omitted for now.
2. We’re judging churches by how they look today. Perhaps not fair, as most churches have to go undergo décor renovations at some point, some more drastic than others. (Tabula Rasa, and so forth.) But again, we can only evaluate what we’ve seen personally. That St. Anne was absolutely gorgeous in 1947 doesn’t count, because we never saw it with our own eyes.
3. As a corollary to the above, abandoned churches don’t qualify. It’s not fair to judge them after years or even decades of The Long Goodbye.
4. Likewise, neither do demolished churches. Sorry, .
#10: St. Anne, Kensington
Speaking of St. Anne, they clock in at #10 on our list.
Why They’re Here: Pretty much an awful décor all around. The bunker-like exterior—the so-called “fortress of faith”—is squat and ugly. Likewise, much of the interior is either plain or putrid. Or, as in the case of the renovated windows, both. Yes, it’s not entirely their fault, as a 1947 fire erased what looked to have been one of the best interiors in the city. But without a time machine, there’s nothing we can do.
Very little to write home about here.
Why They’re Not Lower: The sanctuary pieces are perhaps the best we’ve seen. And they have a graveyard. Plus, I kind of feel bad for them, with the whole fire thing and all.
Not bad enough to leave them off the list, but bad enough not to rub their faces in it.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
From an anonymous Project reader:
Now this is an interesting if unsubstantiated tidbit. The structural problems St. Boniface faced were well-known, and it's been widely credited (even by yours truly) as the reason for their demise. Their attendance was still good enough that, with even halfway decent buildings, they should have survived.
But embezzlement? Curious. I don't see how punishing a parish's population for the sins of its leaders makes any sense, but again, this is the Archdiocese we're talking about.
The Project has never heard anything about this; for all we know it may very well be false. But if anyone out there in Projectland has any information, do let us know.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
I've been wanting some kind of guide to the Philadelphia area's since I moved here some 20 years ago. Your taste seems to be pretty solid from what I know of some of the churches on your list. Terrific! Do you have some kind of ranking or top 10 list or must-see list? I'd love to see it if you do. Please keep up the good work.
Our taste is more than solid, in our not-so-humble opinion, but thanks for the kind words.
There are no current top 10 lists of any kind. But believe it or not, I've long had the same idea. I never did one because, since at one time I considered the Project finite, I figured I'd wait until I covered every church I wanted and then do a summary of sorts. Hence, I filed the idea away and went about my business.
But since it looks like the Project will never cover "every" church, and even if we do it would be a long way off, why not resurrect the concept? I'm game if you are. If you have a top-10 list, though, it stands to reason you'd also have to do a bottom-10 list, too.
Look for both of those to come sooner than you think. In the meantime, what would be on your lists? Your choices won't really impact mine, mind you; I'm just curious as to what all of our Projectaholics think.