St. Adalbert

Status: Active, Roman Catholic

Founded: 1904
Construction: 1908

E. Allegheny Avenue & Thompson Street
Philadelphia, PA 19134

Visit its website

Original visit: July 21, 2007
Subsequent visits: May 31, 2008

Where Is It?

Thompson and E Allegheny Avenue, in Port Richmond.

The Skinny

Most Philadelphians are familiar with St. Adalbert, even if mentioning its name brings a puzzled look to their faces. This church, you see, is located right of the west side of I-95. That prominent location, as well as its bright aqua roof and spires, make it highly visible to anyone driving along the highway. You’ve probably all seen it at some point without even truly realizing it.

Moreso, Adalbert is also the westernmost member of Church Alley, which remains simultaneously the most puzzling and delightful epicenter of churchiness in the city.

Back to Adalbert: It’s a large, if not huge, church that scores its points for design. As I mentioned, it’s notable for its bright aqua roof and matching aqua spires, which are really quite pretty.

Inside, the church is even prettier, with a soaring, columned Gothic design. Because this is a Polish church, the paintwork is done in white with a variety of crazy, colorful Eastern-European style designs and patterns. The design is capped by one of the coolest altars we’ve seen yet, a huge, ornate wooden piece that stretches from the floor to the ceiling. It's big and bold, with a variety of intricate points, latticework, and religious statues, some of which are pretty large. It’s done in a dark color, accented by reds and golds, which makes an interesting contrast to the white plaster around it. Beautiful.

I should also mention the stained glass windows, which, true to Gothic design, are large and very ornate. Each one depicts a Saint in various poses. There is a particularly gruesome one of St. Michael the Archangel stabbing a demon that I assume is Lucifer. I don’t think I’ve seen blood inscribed so artfully on stained glass before.

Look for it: Have you ever seen an aqua gargoyle?

How's It Doing?

You’d think that, in a section featuring three Catholic churches in a seven-block span, at least one of churches would be in trouble. And you'd be right. All three are still open, but this 1950s type of arrangement doesn't work so well anymore.

Adalbert is the healthiest of the three, thanks to the still-vibrant Polish community in this part of town, and should continue to be so for a while. No It's All Greek to Me! here.

The other two? Well, let's just say their outlooks are far less rosy.

Travel Tidbits

Given its location, Adalbert is easily and quickly accessible via I-95. There’s no lot, so you’ll have to wage war with the one-way streets and often precarious parking.

Random crimes aside, Port Richmond is a fairly respectable neighborhood. You should have no qualms about coming here.

Interesting Note

I happened to wear a “Wildcats” shirt to mass (go ‘Nova!). On my way out, the priest, whose name I didn’t catch, noticed by shirt and responded by vaguely mumbling “Wildcats? WILDCATS!” He then stuck his hand into my chest with what I can only describe was a half poke, half tickle.

I was speechless then, and I’m still speechless now.

Additional Resources

Mailbag 29: Church Alley Update / November 16, 2011

St. Adalbert's Roof / April 12, 2010

Schools, Not Parishes. Get it Right / December 14, 2009

Image Gallery

The Final Word

A beauty.