Philadelphia: An Oasis of Catholic Beauty

By Matthew Plese

Holiday visitors to ‘the City of Brotherly Love’ may be astonished to learn that the city is in fact a hidden gem of Catholic beauty. Two hundred years of immigrant Catholics have left their mark on Philadelphia with several nationally- known Shrines (St. John Neumann, St. Katharine Drexel, St. Rita of Cascia), the National Centre for Padre Pio, and the Cathedral Basilica of Ss. Peter and Paul.

PHILADELPHIA’S HUGE CATHEDRAL BASILICA features truly breathtaking paintings and world-class sculpture.

MAGNIFICENT ART: A larger-than-life painting of the Adoration of the Child Jesus by the Magi by is surrounded by images of the angels. The Stations of the Cross were sculpted by Constantino Brumidi, who painted and sculpted most of the interior of the Cathedral.

VISITORS MARVEL AT THE BEAUTY of inlaid marble floors, confessionals, side altars, devotional candles, and in the distance, a lovely side altar in honor of the Holy Mother of God. (Nearby, notice the red and yellow papal umbrella, present in all Basilicas.)

THE CATHEDRAL’S SANCTUARY is replete with the beauty of the traditional art and architecture of Roman Catholicism. Crowning the marble altar is an impressive baldachin of Italian marble. The altar is made of Botticino marble with Mandorlato rose marble trim – a fitting material for the holy place on which the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ is re-presented. Visible on the underside of the baldachin’s dome is a Latin phrase: “In every place there is offered and sacrificed in My Name a clean oblation.”

POSSIBLY THE MOST FASCINATING OF PHILADELPHIA’S SHRINES is the National Shrine of St. John Neumann, one of the first canonized Americans. Neumann was a professed priest of the Redemptorists, a bishop of Philadelphia (1852-1860), and founder of the Sisters of Saint Francis of Philadelphia. The holy saint is clothed in his pontifical vestments because a Bishop’s body at burial is to be dressed in his vestments with his pontifical insignia — including the pallium if he is a metropolitan Archbishop, but without the crozier.

DIRECTLY BEHIND THE BODY OF ST. JOHN NEUMANN is the resplendent High Altar. The front features the image of the Last Supper. The altar itself is traditionally arranged with the placement of the 6 Candles for High Mass as well as the two candles for Low Mass. St. John Neumann, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Credits: Photography by Jamal Zayyad of J.Z. SnapShot, the Photographer of

Matthew Plese is the President and Chief Catechist of Matthew is national speaker on catechesis and the Traditional Form of the Roman Rite.

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