Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin
Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin.jpg
Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin
House House of Galitzine
Father Prince Demetrius Alekseyevich Gallitzin
Mother Countess Adelheid Amalie Gallitzin
Born (1770-12-22)22 December 1770
The Hague, South Holland, Netherlands
Died 6 May 1840(1840-05-06) (aged 69)
Loretto, Pennsylvania, United States
Burial St. Michael's Church, Loretto, Pennsylvania
Religion Roman Catholic

Prince Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin (December 22, 1770 – May 6, 1840) was an emigre Russian aristocrat and Roman Catholic priest known as The Apostle of the Alleghenies. Since 2005, he has been under consideration for possible canonization by the Catholic Church. His current title is Servant of God.

Early life[edit]

Prince Dimitri Dmitrievich Gallitzin was born into a world of inherited privilege at The Hague. His father, Prince Dimitri Alexeievich (1735–1803), the Russian ambassador to the Netherlands, was an intimate friend of Voltaire and a follower of Diderot. So was his mother, the former German Countess Adelheid Amalie von Schmettau, until a severe illness in 1786 led her back to the Catholic Church, in which she had been nominally reared.

As a young child, Prince Dmitri was cradled in the arms of Catherine the Great, as a sign of special favor to his father. He was raised as a nominal member of the Russian Orthodox Church, although his father, like many Russian aristocrats of his age, had little connection to or fondness for religion. As was fashionable at the time, the language of the household was French, which would always be Prince Dmitri's native tongue.

After his mother's conversion, he was greatly influenced by her circle of Catholic intellectuals, priests, and aristocrats. At the age of 17, Prince Dimitri was formally received into the Catholic Church. His sister, Elizabeth Gallitzin, would also eventually convert and become a religious.

His father, who had been planning a military career for him, was quite unhappy with the change and was barely dissuaded from sending his son to St. Petersburg, where he hoped a stint in a Russian Guards Regiment would force his son back into Orthodoxy. In 1792 his son was appointed aide-de-camp to the commander of the Austrian troops in the Duchy of Brabant; but, after the death of Leopold II of Austria and the murder of King Gustav III of Sweden, Prince Dmitri, like all other foreigners, was dismissed from the Austrian Service.


As was the custom among young aristocrats at the time, he then set out to complete his education by travel. As the French Revolution had made European tours unsafe, it was determined by his parents to send him to the newly founded United States. On October 28, 1792, he arrived in Baltimore, Maryland, bearing a letter of recommendation to Bishop John Carroll and several other prominent figures. To the shock and horror of his father, Prince Dimitri decided to enter the priesthood and voluntarily offered to forego his inheritance. The Ambassador subsequently got Catherine the Great to award his son a commission in one of the Palace Guards Regiments, and formally summoned him to active duty in St. Petersburg.

Father Demetrius Gallitzin was ordained in March 1795, becoming one of the first Catholic priests ordained in America. Gallitzin then was sent to work in a church mission at Port Tobacco, Maryland, whence he was soon transferred to the Conewago district where he served at Conewago Chapel until 1799.[1] There, Gallitzin's impulsive objection to some of Bishop John Carroll's instructions was sharply rebuked, and he was recalled to Baltimore. But in 1796 he removed to Taneytown, Maryland, and in both Maryland and Pennsylvania worked with such misdirected zeal and aristocratic manners that he was again reproved by his bishop in 1798.


A stained-glass depiction of Father Demetrius Gallitzin and Father Peter Helbron located in Saint Patrick Church in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania

In the Allegheny Mountains, in 1799, Gallitzin founded the settlement of Loretto, Pennsylvania in what is now Cambria County, Pennsylvania. Loretto in turn was an expansion upon a small clearing, "the McGuire Settlement", established by Captain Michael McGuire in 1788. McGuire, who died in 1793, bequeathed this clearing and its accompanying 1200 acres (5 km²) in trust to Bishop Carroll for the eventual establishment of a full Catholic community with resident clergy. With Gallitzin in the lead, Loretto became the first English-speaking Catholic settlement in the United States west of the Allegheny Front. (In addition to McGuire's patrimony, Gallitzin is believed to have spent $150,000 (USD) of his own funds later, to purchase some additional 20,000 acres (81 km²), which it is said he gave or sold at low prices to newly arriving Catholic settlers.) Gallitzin dedicated Loretto's parish church to the honor of St. Michael the Archangel, both as a nod to Gallitzin's Russian roots and, indirectly, to Michael McGuire. The church today is known as the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel.[2]

In 1802, Gallitzin became a naturalized citizen of the United States under the name Augustine Smith. After his father's death, he was disinherited by Czar Alexander I of Russia in 1808 because of his Catholic faith and priesthood. Subsequently his sister, Anne zu Salm-Krautheim, repeatedly promised him his half of the valuable estate and sent him money from time to time; after her death, Gallitzin received little or nothing more.

Gallitzin felt free to discard the name Augustine Smith in 1809. He also soon found himself deeply in debt. He obtained a loan from Charles Carroll. Later, when Gallitzin was suggested for the see of Philadelphia in 1814, Bishop Carroll objected. Bishop Carroll agreed that Gallitzin's debts had been contracted for excellent and charitable purposes, but it was not clear Gallitzin had the financial acumen to run a diocese as important as Philadelphia, Carroll believed. In 1815, Gallitzin was suggested for the bishopric of Bardstown, Kentucky, and in 1827 for the proposed see of Pittsburgh. Later, Gallitzin is said to have refused the bishopric of Cincinnati.


Gallitzin died at Loretto on May 6, 1840 and was buried near St. Michael's church in Loretto.


His parishioners saw Gallitzin as a great power for good. Gallitzin's part in building up the Roman Catholic church in western Pennsylvania cannot be overestimated; it is said that at his death there were 10,000 Roman Catholics in the district where forty years before he had found a scant dozen. Loretto today is in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.

In 1899-1901, the steel industrialist Charles M. Schwab funded the construction of a large stone church, which is the current basilica, at Prince Gallitzin's tomb. Schwab also provided funds for a bronze statue of Gallitzin.

The nearby town of Gallitzin, Pennsylvania,[3] is named for western Pennsylvania's first English-speaking Roman Catholic priest. It is in this town that the Pennsylvania Railroad would tunnel through the summit of the Allegheny Mountains. Eventually, the railroad would operate three tunnels through the ridge into Gallitzin. The Gallitzin Tunnel was closed as part of Conrail's massive double-stack clearance project in the 1990s. In the mid-1960s, Pennsylvania christened a new nearby state park in honor of Prince Gallitzin, as he is called locally.

Among Gallitzin's pamphlets are A Defence of Catholic Principles (1816), Letter to a Protestant Friend on the Holy Scriptures (1820), Appeal to the Protestant Public (1834), and Six Letters of Advice (1834), a reply to what Gallitzin saw as attacks on the Roman Catholic church by a Presbyterian synod.

On June 6, 2005, it was announced that Gallitzin had been named a Servant of God by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the first step on the path toward possible future sainthood.


"The true minister of Christ, dear sir, speaking in the name of his divine master, must speak with authority, with certainty, without any hesitation, on all the different mysteries of religion on which he is obliged to instruct his flock. Woe to the wretch who shall deliver his private opinions, his own uncertain notions, as the word of God; and thus often give poison for wholesome food; the productions of weak and corrupted reason for divine revelations.... The idea we have of a minister of Christ, you will perceive, is precisely the same which the first Christians must have had. Surely, dear sir, the Church in 1815 must be the same as it was in the beginning: the same kind of pastors, provided with the same powers, administering the same baptism, the same Eucharist or Lord's supper; in short, all the same sacraments, and preaching the same doctrine" — Fr. Demetrius Gallitzin, Defence of Catholic Principles in A Letter to A Protestant Minister


  • Brownson, Life of D. A. Gallitzin, Prince and Priest, (New York, 1873)
  • Kittell, Souvenir of Loretto Centenary, (Cresson, Pa., 1899)

Fr. Gallitzin's defense of Catholicism[edit]

Fr. Gallitzin's life in detail[edit]


  1. ^ "National Historic Landmarks & National Register of Historic Places in Pennsylvania" (Searchable database). CRGIS: Cultural Resources Geographic Information System.  Note: This includes David C. Stacks (1973, 1974). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Conewago Chapel" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-12-08. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 134. 

External links[edit]