Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Historic Sacred Places of Philadelphia

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Historic Sacred Places of Philadelphia

Article excerpt

Historic Sacred Places of Philadelphia. By Roger W. Moss, with photographs by Tom Crane. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 2004. Pp. xiii, 314. $34.95 cloth.)

Conceived as a companion to Historic Houses of Philadelphia (1998), Historic Sacred Places of Philadelphia, also lavishly illustrated with Tom Crane's exquisite color photographs and written by Roger W Moss, is, like its predecessor, a rich feast for the eyes. Here Moss, executive director of The Athenaeum of Philadelphia, takes the reader on a memorable tour of fifty worship sites-colonial and Victorian Protestant and Catholic churches, Quaker meeting houses, and Jewish synagogues-out of the hundreds that enrich Philadelphia's neighborhoods. At each sacred place, Moss provides the reader with basic information about the congregation that commissioned the building, as well as the architects, artists, and artisans who created these architectural and artistic masterpieces.

Criteria for inclusion of a sacred place in this book were threefold: it must be in the City of Philadelphia, have been erected before 1900, and be reasonably accessible (p. xiii). Moss further explains: "I have attempted to select sacred places in Philadelphia which a visitor may find worth going to see for architectural or other aesthetic reasons. Some readers may object to this point of view, arguing that sacred places were not meant to serve the cause of aesthetics, that the abundant beauties of these structures are a byproduct of a desire to glorify the Creator. Without disagreeing, my purpose is simply to call attention to these sacred places as repositories of our artistic and cultural patrimony that should be valued by churchman and nonbeliever alike" (pp. xii-xiii).

The introductory chapter takes as its starting-point William Penn's Charter of Liberties, Franchises, and Privileges (1701), noting,"Not that there weren't periods of overt intolerance, most notably directed toward Roman Catholics, whose sacred places too often became the target of the fearful and ignorant in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. …

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