St. Martin-in-the-Fields

Status: Active, Episcopal

Construction: 1895

8000 St. Martin's Lane
Philadelphia, PA 19118

Visit its website

Original visit: January 10, 2010

Where Is It?

Willow Grove Avenue at St. Martins Lane, in swanky Chestnut Hill.

The Skinny

St. Martin-in-the-Fields was actually the Project's backup church this week. My first choice was derailed by a parking-lot style backup on 76 (See why I proclaim that highway to be evil? Even on a Sunday morning it's torture!), so I was forced to go to Plan B.

Fortunately, in going to St. Martin the Project didn't have to "settle," so to speak. The church is actually one of the more surprising entries we've had, and certainly one of the Project's favorite Protestant churches thus far.

It may not be as big as Holy Trinity, or even as ornate as Holy Nativity, but St. Martin succeeds because its columned, cruciform Gothic design features a terrific stone decor. Tan, black and burnt orange, it manages to be bright and airy while still possessing some of the dark, old-school, wrath-of-God type stuff.

Throw in some high-quality stained glass windows (especially the pair of rose ones), a nifty shrine in the right-hand transept, an understated and tasteful sanctuary, and some gargoyles and ornate stone sculpturing outside, and you have a building that's really very, very lovely.

How the $#%@ do I get in here? Two ways — a side door, and the door under the overhang the connects the church to the parish house. (The latter a defining feature of many Protestant churches.) Not too bad, although some people find it confusing:

Older Usher: (as Project enters through the side door): "Oh, you came in that way! You surprised me! There are people coming from all sides. Ha ha!"

And that's coming from someone who works there, folks.

Ah, whatever. Point is, the Project digs this church a lot. Certainly the best in Chestnut Hill, and it actually redeems the area quite a bit in our view.

How's It Doing?

Pretty well, by the looks of things. The building is in good shape, and the parish offers an impressive four Sunday masses. If the pamphlet is to be believed, there are roughly 255 registered households. Doesn't sound like much, but again, Protestant parishes survive and thrive and at lower numbers than their Roman Catholic counterparts.

There are also a lot of parish activities, including an upcoming trip to Guatemala. Guatemala!

Travel Tidbits

Depending on where you live, Chestnut Hill is either really easy or a complete pain to find. Regardless, it's ridiculously safe and pleasant. St. Martin is back a ways from Germantown Avenue, and since the side streets aren't always made for cars, parking can be haphazard.

That said, there is a small, unofficial-looking lot across the street from the church, so you can rely on that if nothing else.

Interesting Note

Look for it: The cornerstone, which is not actually at a bottom corner of the building, but up near the peak of the back end of the sanctuary. First time we've ever seen that.

Image Gallery

The Final Word

Highly recommended.