Friday, February 1, 2008

Scratching the Philly Surface

Princeton is 51 miles from New York, and 49 miles from Philadelphia. A rather ideal vantage point, and it will take many more trips to both cities to even begin to approach a comprehensive church photoset of either one.

My recent day in Philadelphia was paradisiacal. I grew up near near Philly and worked near it after college, hence the churches are captured over a layer of memories. On the way down I hit the shrine of the recently canonized Philadelphia Saint, Katharine Drexel, just off Rt. 95 (meeting a nun gave me the Gaudi). That was complemented by the rare design of St. Peter's Episcopal, with the wineglass pulpit on one end and the communion table on the other. I had it all to myself! I scored a Truro both there and (thanks to a friendly sexton) at Old Pine. Then came a ringing Gaudi from Mother Bethel AME, where I got a great tour and was able to see, arranged not unlike Katharine Drexel, the tomb of Richard Allen. There were many drive-bys as well. Is there a connection between Philly's Divine Lorraine and this picture from Newark?

That would have been a great day; but it continued. Then (with a little persistence) I got into the legendary St. Mark's, an Anglo-Catholic landmark, with a silver altar in the Lady Chapel donated (if I recall) by John Wanamaker of department store fame. Then came the massive Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul, and a sunset by St. Franics Xavier's by the Art Museum. A solid day.

As if that wasn't enough, on a trip to Ikea last Sunday, I was able to slip into the oldest church in Pennsylvania, Old Swedes', encroached by gentrification on the north end and strip mall sprall on the the south, but the park services has done a fine job of giving it some semi-monastic protected space. The cracked tombs all along the outside was like something out of a Stanley Spencer painting, a foreshadowing of the general resurrection. The shutters on the apse is such a nice colonial touch. The inscription on the way inside heightens expectations considerably, but they weren't disappointed. Again, I had the place all to myself, balcony and all. Don't other people realize how fun this is? The original furnishings such as the ship (above) and the angels added character. This was perhaps the first church in American where an organ was used, as early as 1703. It was all just too much.

No comments: