Shrine of the Miraculous Medal

Status: Active, Roman Catholic

Founded: 1915
Construction: 1875

475 E. Chelten Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19144

Visit its website

Original visit: July 20, 2007

Where Is It?

You remember where Immaculate Conception was, right? Well, go South / Southwest on Chelten Avenue for a few more blocks.

The Skinny

You know, I’m beginning to think that the greater Germantown section is some weird confluence of holiness. Sort of the like the Bermuda triangle, but with salvation instead of disappearances. You’ve got the aforementioned Immaculate Conception and St. Vincent de Paul, as well as the excellent St. Athanasius and St. Francis of Assisi. You’re also within spitting distance of Logan and the venerable Our Lady of Hope. Whew! And as if that weren’t enough, there’s this…

Ok, so technically the Shrine of the Immaculate Medal isn’t a parish. The handiwork of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal, as its name implies it’s a shrine to honor Mary and her miraculous medal.

The astute reader will notice that the building was constructed in 1875, yet the Association wasn’t founded until 1915. What gives? Glad you asked. Before the Association, the building was the Public Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, built by the Vincentians and used by the local community until they got their own parish. (Ironically also named Immaculate Conception.) It was then appropriated and modified by the Central Association.

The shrine does hold mass, usually novenas, but they fall at odd times. It does hold regular visiting hours during the week, however, except for Sundays. (D’oh!) Luckily, I had some free time during the week, so I did what any hip, twenty-something would do on a Friday afternoon: I went to the shrine.

Anyhow, the shrine is constructed like a parish, even if it normally doesn’t function as one. It doesn’t block out the sky like its neighbor Immaculate, but it’s large enough to be impressive. Inside, there are nice soaring arches and columns. The shrine is done in plaster, with a lovely blue and white color scheme (Mary’s colors, don’t you know). There are also some very nice and very large stained glass windows, including a really exceptional rose window on the front wall.

The real magic happens with the shrines. There are two of them; one upstairs and to the right, and one in the basement. The upstairs one has its own wing, and is done in a magnificent, shiny gold tile. The downstairs one is slightly smaller, but it also features lovely tile work and a boatload of intention candles. You can’t enter either of them, but you can kneel at the strategically placed barriers.

How's It Doing?

This is a tough one, since the shrine doesn’t abide by our usual parish rules. If it means anything, the building is in excellent shape and the Central Association seem to be dedicated and conscientious caretakers, judging by their slick and detailed Web site. I have no idea of their financial shape, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. It helps that the Archdiocese named it as one of its six official pilgrimage sites.

Travel Tidbits

What I said for Immaculate also applies here, although maybe doubly so, since the neighborhood seems to get even sketchier four blocks down. It’s worth noting that I was watched by several locals as I went about my picture-taking outside. Creepy, yes, but you should be fine as long as you don’t dawdle.

Of course, it is a pilgrimage site, so I suppose those people are used to braving anything to get their worship on.

Interesting Note

You can submit intentions (with a donation, of course), which isn’t anything new. But the envelope allows you to select your specific intention from a list of "common" themes. The ones I like best, though, are “Catholic Boy Friend” or “Catholic Girl Friend.”

Far be it from me to judge the dating habits of others, but if you’re relying on a church envelope to cure your dating woes, you’re probably not doing enough.

Image Gallery

The Final Word

Definitely worthwhile if you’re in the mood for something a little different.