Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul (Philadelphia)
Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul
|Location||18th St. & Benjamin Franklin Parkway at Logan Square
|Architect||Napoleon LeBrun, et al.
John Notman, et al. (dome and facade)
Constantino Brumidi (interior)
|Architectural style||Italian Renaissance, Palladian|
|NRHP Reference #||71000720|
|Added to NRHP||June 24, 1971|
The Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, head church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, is located at 18th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, on the east side of Logan Square in Philadelphia. It was built from 1846-1864 and was designed by Napoleon LeBrun – from original plans by the Reverend Mariano Muller and the Reverend John B. Tornatore – with the dome and Palladian facade designed by John Notman added after 1850. The interior was largely decorated by Constantino Brumidi.
With its grand façade, vaulted dome, ornate main altar, eight side chapels and main sanctuary that comfortably holds 2,000 worshippers, the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul is the largest brownstone structure and one of the most architecturally notable structures in the city of Philadelphia.
The cathedral, presented in a Roman-Corinthian style of architecture, is modeled after the Lombard Church of St. Charles (San Carlo al Corso) in Rome. Its Palladian façade and aqua oxidized-copper dome are in the Italian Renaissance manner, as is the spacious interior, which features an oversized apse of stained glass and red antique marble in proportions reminiscent of Roman churches. A baldichino (canopy) over the main altar and the three altars on each of the side aisles point up this Italian Renaissance flavor. In the bowels of the building is the compact "Crypt of the Bishops".
Architects and designer
The basilica was designed by Napoleon LeBrun based on plans drawn up by the Reverend Mariano Muller and the Reverend John B. Tornatore, and by John Notman who added the dome and facade. LeBrun supervised the project from 1846 to 1851, when Notman took over until 1857, after which the cathedral was completed under LeBrun's supervision.
LeBrun was a native Philadelphian born to French-Catholic parents. He designed numerous churches throughout Philadelphia, including St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Twentieth Street (1841); the Seventh Presbyterian Church (1842); the Scot's Presbyterian Church (1843); the Catholic Church of St. Peter the Apostle (German), Fifth Street (1843); and the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Holy Nativity (1844), no longer standing. Other notable buildings he designed include the Philadelphia Academy of Music.
Notman is most noted for his Philadelphia ecclesiastical architecture for the Protestant Episcopal Church, including St. Mark's Church, Locust Street (1850); St. Clement's Church, Twentieth Street (1857); and the Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square. He also designed the Athenaeum of Philadelphia and the New Jersey State House.
Constantino Brumidi, who executed much of the decoration of the cathedral's interior, was a Greek/Italian-American painter, best known and honored for his fresco work in the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, especially the Apotheosis of George Washington in the dome of the rotunda.
On the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, June 29, 1846, Bishop Kenrick, then Bishop of Philadelphia, issued a pastoral letter announcing his determination to build a cathedral. It was the bishop's intention to avoid running into debt, so the cathedral was long in building. He chose for the site a plot of ground adjoining the seminary at Eighteenth and Race Streets. Construction on the cathedral began shortly thereafter but was not completed until 1864. This was less than 2 years after the Philadelphia Nativist Riots, which represented the height of Anti-Catholicism and Know-Nothingism in Philadelphia and, according to local lore, greatly influenced the design of the building. The Cathedral was built with only very high clerestory windows that according to parish histories would inhibit vandalism. In order to protect the windows of the Cathedral Basilica from possible future riots, the builders would throw stones into the air to determine the height of where the windows would be placed.
Under the main altar of the Cathedral is a crypt with the remains of most of the Bishops and Archbishops, and of several other clergymen, of Philadelphia. The crypt can be reached by stairs behind the main altar. The crypt is the final resting place of:
Ordinaries of Philadelphia
- Michael Francis Egan, O.S.F., first Bishop of Philadelphia, consecrated October 28, 1810, died 1814.
- Henry Conwell, second Bishop of Philadelphia, consecrated 1820, died April 22, 1842.
- Francis Kenrick, third Bishop of Philadelphia, died 1851.
- James Frederick Wood, fifth Bishop and first Archbishop of Philadelphia, died June 20, 1882.
- Patrick John Ryan, sixth Bishop and second Archbishop of Philadelphia, died February 3, 1911.
- Edmond Prendergast, seventh Bishop and third Archbishop of Philadelphia, died February 26, 1918.
- Dennis Joseph Dougherty, eighth Bishop, fourth Archbishop of Philadelphia, and first to be elevated to Cardinal, died May 31, 1951.
- John Krol, tenth Bishop, sixth Archbishop of Philadelphia, and third to be elevated to Cardinal, died March 3, 1996.
- Anthony Joseph Bevilacqua, eleventh Bishop, seventh Archbishop of Philadelphia, and fourth to be elevated to Cardinal, died January 31, 2012.
- Francis Patrick O'Neill, pastor of St. James, Philadelphia, 1843–1882, died 1882.
- Maurice Walsh, pastor of St. Paul’s Philadelphia, 1832–1888, died 1888.
- James Corcoran, professor at Saint Charles Seminary, died 1889.
- Ames J. Carroll, bishop, died 1913.
- Francis I. Clark, bishop, died 1918.
- D. Cletus Benjamin, bishop, died May 15, 1961.
- Gerald P. O'Hara, bishop, died July 16, 1963
- Francis Brennan, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments, the first American to receive an appointment to the Roman Curia, died July 2, 1968.
- Gerald V. McDevitt, bishop, died September 29, 1980.
- John Patrick Foley, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, seventh Philadelphia priest to be elevated to Cardinal, died December 11, 2011.
- Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia
- List of basilicas
- List of cathedrals in the United States
- List of National Register of Historic Places entries
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23.
- Gallery, John Andrew, ed. (2004). Philadelphia Architecture: A Guide to the City (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: Foundation for Architecture. ISBN 0962290815.,p.52
- Teitelman, Edward & Longstreth, Richard W. (1981). Architecture in Philadelphia: A Guide. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. ISBN 0262700212., p.111
- David O'Reilly (December 12, 2011). "Funeral arrangements announced for Cardinal Foley". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.|
- Official website
- Philadelphia Archdiocese website
- PBS: Holy Philadelphia
- Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Research Center
- Napoleon LeBrun architect's biography
- Catholic Encyclopedia
- Panorama (drag mouse to look around, including ceiling and floor)