St. Donato

Status: Worship site, Roman Catholic

Founded: 1910
Construction: 1921
Closed: 2013

65th & Callowhill Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19151

Original visit: June 14, 2009

Where Is It?

65th & Callowhill, in the Overbrook section of West Philadelphia.

The Skinny

The Project returns to the city’s western regions to tackle the Italian national parish of St. Donato, which is found right on the border between Overbrook and Haddington, and is a mere two blocks from Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament (OLOBS)

(St. Donato is not to be confused with the delicious pizza chain of the same name.)

At first glance, Donato looks like weird cross between Most Blessed Sacrament and SS. Cosmas and Damian. It has the general shape and scope of MBS, with the smaller size and weird spire of Cosmas — coincidentally, another Italian national parish.

Inside, you get a (fittingly) non-columned, non-cruciform Italian-Renaissance design. The interior works very well, on the whole. The barrel-vaulted ceiling is impressively muraled, and the large pictorial stained glass windows and moldings give the place a good ambience.

Look for it: The stations of the cross, which actually appear to be inset into the walls.

The overall effect is hampered by a mostly unimpressive sanctuary. Sure, the mural backdrop is decent enough, but the altar is plain and unimpressive, and the whole thing sort of detracts from the rest of the church’s décor.

It’s worth noting that the sanctuary is, interestingly, framed by a large circular arch, which is eerily similar to the large Gothic arch that frames the sanctuaries of St. Paul and Annunciation BVM.

Look for it, Part 2: The little shrine in the back right-hand side of the church, which is simply a room full of statues. We’ve noted the Italians’ love of statuary before, but this is extreme.

Overall, it’s nice. Not as nice as the Project expected, but nice enough. The Italians just didn’t bring their A-game to Philadelphia-area churches. Alas.

How's It Doing?

:sad trombone sound:

As of February 24, 2013, the parish is closed and merged with neighboring Our Lady of Lourdes. Not a surprising move, since attendance had dipped down into the 100s and the neighborhood had...well, let's just say it's much different than it used to be. At least this building will remain open as a worship site for the time being, which is something of a positive, even if it doesn't look like it gets regular work anymore.

Travel Tidbits

Speaking of the area, there might be no street that acts more like a barrier than 63rd, which separates shady Haddington from less shady Overbrook. Seriously, the two blocks between the churches creates pretty stark and, frankly, stunning contrast. Talk about the wrong side of the tracks!

I still wouldn’t act recklessly, as you are still only a couple of blocks from some much shadier environs. But since Overbrook is better off than just about any other West Philadelphia neighborhood, you shouldn’t have much to worry about.

Donato has no lot, but you should have no problem finding street parking next to or in front of a church.

Interesting Note

You’re only two blocks from OLOBS, but you’re also close to the former Our Lady of Victory, at 54th & Vine. If you recall, OLOBS was formed from the union of Victory and Our Lady of the Rosary. OLOBS occupies Rosary’s building, leaving the impressive Victory to be Caveat Emptor’d into the St. Joseph Baptist Church.

If you’re in the area and you can spare a couple of minutes, take the short jaunt over to the former Victory. The church was open when the Project drove by, so, depending on when you go, you might actually have a chance to take a look at it.

I would have, but the nefarious gaze of a neighborhood n’er-do-well convinced me that stopping wasn’t smart. If no one’s looking at you, though, go for it. And don’t forget to send the Project your pictures.

Image Gallery

The Final Word

Recommended, provided it still gets any sort of regular use.