Our Lady of Hope
Status: Active, Roman Catholic
Formerly Known As: Holy Child
(Holy Child 1909)
5200 North Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19141
Initial visit: February 3, 2007
Subsequent visits: December 24, 2009, September 2014
Where Is It?
The Logan section of North Philadelphia — 5200 N. Broad Street, to be exact.
In many ways, this is perhaps the most impressive church in Philadelphia. A French Romanesque cathedral, the former Holy Child is a treat inside and out. Starting with the exterior: Buttresses (which are rare in Philadelphia)? Check. Grand dome where the nave and transept meet? Check. Intricate stone carvings, gargoyles and Latin inscriptions? Check, check and check.
Inside, it's hard not to be amazed by the soaring arches and columns, and the grand reredros behind the altar needs to be seen to be believed.
Speaking of the columns—the building was influenced heavily by Durham Cathedral in Durham, England, and nowhere is that more evident than in the engraved columns themselves. Compare Durham, first....
...with Our Lady of Hope, below:
Architect George I. Lovatt clearly did his homework. Whew.
As with a lot of cathedrals, however, it's designed to emphasize the vertical at the expense of the horizontal, so it's neither particularly wide nor designed to hold as many people as you might think. If you like your churches wide, you'll be disappointed. Otherwise, this is a real beauty.
Pimp My Church: OLH flirted with disaster by, for a time, extending the nave and moving the altar out beyond the altar rail. Thankfully, that faux pas has recently been rectified, and with the altar rail still intact, a full return to a classic setup is within their grasp. There's still the matter of the missing pews and the elevated platform, however, but it's a step in the right direction.
How's It Doing?
Unfortunately, pretty @$%#@^. (Can I even say that in regards to a church?)
The decline of the Logan section, and North Philly as a whole, doomed this church to decades of neglect. It was renamed Our Lady of Hope in 1993, when neighboring St. Stephen and Our Lady of the Holy Souls were closed and consolidated into it. The combined manpower hasn't been a Godsend, unfortunately. The population figures are teetering, and the building shows alarming signs of water damage and scarring. And in a very unwelcome development, the dreaded black mesh protective screen has recently been installed in the nave and side aisles.
Despite a price tag in the millions, the parish is making a concerted effort to fight back. The 2012 opening of a Cristo Rey high school on the property put a spring back in their step, and with a true resurrection planned for the long-marginalized Shrine of the Christ Child, there's some hope they can rally, raise the money, and repair the damage.
That said, this is still a parish with very little margin for error.
Logan's had its share of issues, but this parish occupies a pretty central location on busy Broad Street, surrounded by venerable institutions like Albert Einstein Hospital, The Widener School, Central / Girl's High, and La Salle University. Park on Broad and you should be fine.
But if something should happen, Einstein has a fine trauma center.
While largely inactive in modern times, the Shrine of the Christ Child still occupies its basement position. Given its age, it's probably not the most robust display you'll see, but still very much worth your time.
Depending on when you go it may not be not open, but just ask an usher or the priest to let you in. Cough, Outsider's Edge, cough.
Images taken September 2014. Click to enlarge!
The Final Word
One of the best. Make it a priority, though, because the former "Cathedral on North Broad" may not have a very long shelf life.