Status: Active, Roman Catholic
E. Mt. Airy Ave. between Chew Ave. and Boyer St.
Philadelphia, PA 19119
Original visit: October 2, 2010
Where Is It?
Mt. Airy Avenue, right off Germantown Avenue, in Mt. Airy.
Holy Cross is actually a parish that the Project has gotten quite a few e-mails about. One even contained pictures, which I'll get to later. But you know the Project's rule: one crackpot suggests something, I shrug. Two, I shrug harder.
But three or more and you send decent pictures? Well, then you're on to something. The exterior of Holy Cross doesn't look like much, but I was convinced enough to brave the Belgian blocks of Germantown Avenue.
Cue the St. Athanasius Effect.
Middling exterior aside, Holy Cross is a very stout entry. It's a smallish, non-columned, non-cruciform Gothic church. Not a good start, granted, but Holy Cross wins because it has the stones (literally) to go with an essentially all-stone interior. Most churches, maybe because they're afraid of the coldness and darkness, try to augment the stone with plaster. It doesn't work.
The Project, for what it's worth, has never feared a little dark and cold in our church construction, and all-stone interiors are classically beautiful and great at evoking an old-world feel. Sure, the ceiling is done in wood and there are wood protrusions (topped by creepy painted angels, no less), but Holy Cross still succeeds where all others fail.
An impressive figurine-encrusted marble altar and twin organ pipe banks on the back wall round out the impressive features. The windows and stations of the cross aren't much to write home about, but hey, you take what you can, and there's more good here than bad.
Before I move on, the pictures. Project reader Coleen W. alerted me to a Flickr photostream of someone's 2008 baptism at the church. I mention it because the Project's overachieving camera just wasn't up to the task of a dimly-lit stone church. These far-brighter reader images are a good complement.
Overall, worth your time.
How's It Doing?
The 200ish (and at, times, sub-200) attendance is terrible. But with the 2013 closings of both St. Therese and St. Madeline Sophie, Holy Cross is clearly the standard-bearer in Mount Airy. Is that enough? Probably. I'd like to think that every neighborhood will keep at least one church.
Mt. Airy may be largely safe, integrated and pleasant, but it's a !$@%# to get to. No major highway access, and the closest artery is Germantown Pike, which isn't exactly a pleasant drive.
Once you get there, though, things are fine. The church does have a lot, but you shouldn't experience any problems if you decide to street park. You're on a quiet, leafy street surrounded by gorgeous old homes — the stuff of the Project's dreams.
The scriptwork that adorns the front entryways, beneath creepy stone Jesus and his angel friends, is in Greek. Unusual, since Latin is usually the language of choice. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure this is the only appearance of Greek, especially in such a prominent position.
The Final Word