Epiphany of Our Lord

Status: Active, Roman Catholic

Also Known As: Epiphany

Founded: 1889
Construction: 1892

11th & Jackson Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19148

Visit its website

Original visit: November 4, 2007

Where Is It?

11th & Jackson Streets, in the Wharton section of South Philadelphia.

The Skinny

Epiphany of Our Lord is the latest in a long line of South Philly churches that are just interesting enough, but not quite good enough to really stand out among the city's elite. A lot of that, I think, reflects the general architectural stylings of South Philly as a whole: solid, but pretty underwhelming on the whole.

Don’t get me wrong, Epiphany is a nice parish. But like a lot of parishes, it falls victim to the St. Cyprian Effect:

Church Project Theorem #14: The St. Cyprian Effect

The complimentary theorem to the St. Athanasius Effect, last seen with St. Rita of Cascia. The St. Cyprian Effect applies whenever a church is more impressive outside than inside.

And that’s certainly the case here. The Gothic Epiphany has a great exterior, a nice dominant tower, and even some paintwork over the doors. How often do you see that? Never, that’s how often. The problem is that the interior is far smaller than it appears from the outside. The church is also done in by some questionable design features, such as the use of wallpaper and (ack!) wooden beams on the ceiling.

Hey, the Project loves wood. Really. But it has very specific applications in church constructions, and ceiling beams are not one of them. 

Not all is negative. Epiphany has a unique pastel color scheme that reminds you of a giant Easter egg. Even the organ is painted in pastels, making it seem as if it’s made out of ceramic. And the altar features some nice, albeit unremarkable marble work.

Ultimately, the slightly disappointing size and several dubious design elements keep this church from the upper echelon.

Of course, given the rest of its South Philly brethren, that’s not really too surprising.

How's It Doing?

Pretty well. Mass turnout was strong, and their overall numbers are decent, if declining slightly. The totals are still solid, but I’d be concerned if the downward trend continues.

The church itself is in good shape, although there is a surprising amount of damage, mostly up near the front. It’s nothing major, though.

Travel Tidbits

My South Philadelphia rants have me sounding like a broken record, so I’ll just stop here. Read one of the other South Philly church recaps. The same pretty much applies here.

Interesting Note

I’m not harping on the size aspect, but while we were outside taking pictures, a parishioner heard us remark that the church must be very big. “Oh yes,” he replied as he hurried inside, “It’s very big.”

Sorry, friend. I don’t think you have much experience with big churches.

Photo Gallery

The Final Word

Epiphany of Our Lord is a nice parish: no more, no less. Unless you’re doing some bizarre project that requires you to visit old Philadelphia churches, it shouldn’t be terribly high on your list.