St. Francis of Assisi
Status: Closed, Former Roman Catholic
Greene & Logan Street
Philadelphia, PA 19144
Original visit: September 16, 2007
Subsequent visits: July 20, 2008
Where Is It?
Greene & Logan Streets, in the Germantown section of Northwest Philadelphia.
The Project returns to familiar haunts: Germantown, the site of so many of our past successes. This week we tackle the last missing piece of the G-Town puzzle: St. Francis of Assisi, which sits at the southernmost tip of the neighborhood, overlooking Wayne Junction station and the barrens of Nicetown-Tioga and beyond.
Upper v. Lower Church: People keep telling me that St. Francis has a lower church, but I can't find any evidence of one. I've been downstairs, and all they have is a meeting room, not a lower church. I mean, would they actually try to hold mass downstairs? I doubt it, but you know what? The Project has seen stranger things.
The Francis Triangle: You may remember that St. Francis of Assisi is one of the three members of the Francis Triangle, joined by Cedar Park's St. Francis de Sales and Spring Garden’s St. Francis Xavier. I am still working intently to solve the triangle's meaning; stay tuned for further developments.
Francis of Assisi is not quite in the same league as de Sales, but that’s really not a knock against it. Few churches are in de Sales’ league. Francis of Assisi is still a lovely parish, and ranks solidly in the upper echelon of Philly churches.
It's a pretty sizeable non-columned, cruciform Romanesque beauty, highlighted by a really unique, tri-layered design. The bottom layer is done in a Mahogany-style wood paneling; the middle section is done in a light, almost crème-colored stone; and the top layer, including the roof, is done in a combination of plaster and stone.
The top two layers particularly affect an Egyptian-style feel, both in the blue and gold guildwork and in the light-colored stone. It’s a strange effect, particularly given the wood paneling at the bottom, but it works better than you might think.
I should also mention the sanctuary area, which is done almost entirely in wood paneling. Once again, you’d think the rec-room finish would detract, but…it just works somehow.
How's It Doing?
The Closer has come here as well, and St. Francis is scheduled for the axe on July 1, 2011.
A real shame, although with the attendance falling to just over 100 — 100! — what do you really expect? The parish will be consolidated, along with Immaculate Conception, into St. Vincent de Paul. Nobody wins in that arrangement, because St. Vincent, for all of their wackiness, doesn't have a particularly great church. Certainly not as nice as this, and not even in the same galaxy as Immaculate.
Chalk it up to a declining neighborhood and all of the assorted problems that causes. St. Francis isn't in the best of shape—one back corner of the church was roped off during our original visit—but in the hands of a stronger congregation, that wouldn't be a problem.
I kept hoping they would hold on until Germantown came around again. Sadly, they won't get that chance.
R.I.P., St. Francis.
As I just said, the surrounding area is a little shady, but that’s what you get with Wayne Junction. Still, you’re all veterans by now, right? It’s nothing you shouldn’t be able to handle.
The church’s most visible feature is its green-domed spire, which is visible (albeit briefly) from the vicinity of the Wayne Junction SEPTA station. Sit on the side of the train that faces west, and keep your eyes peeled toward the hills that rise up behind the station. You could also get off at the station and get a static view, but I wouldn’t really recommend that.
The Closer Comes to Germantown / April 15, 2012
The Final Word
Saint Francis of Assisi deserves to hold its head up high. It’s a fine, fine addition to the Project — too bad it's not sticking around for future generations.