Status: Active, Roman Catholic
128 Bryn Mawr Avenue
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
Original visit: March 1, 2009
Where Is It?
Bryn Mawr and Highland Avenues, right over the city line in Bala Cynwyd.
You could think of St. Matthias as St. Bridget, St. Matthew and Incarnation of Our Lord by way of Our Lady of Lourdes. That is, it’s a columned, cruciform Gothic church that shares the design quirks of the former buildings — low set columns topped by large stained glass windows, clerestories in the side aisles on the bottom — with the shrimpier leanings of the latter.
An odd mix, you say? Certainly, but aside from the vertical shortcomings, Matthias works really well because it’s decorated superbly, with bright murals and some of the most colorful, intricate molding we’ve seen yet. It also doesn’t hurt that the large pictorial windows are far more brilliant than any of the other churches on that list.
Look for it, Part 2: The pews are actually set on raised platforms, not at ground level. I could be mistaken, but I don’t believe we’ve seen that anywhere else.
I like this place quite a bit.
How's It Doing?
Both the population (1,500+) and the average attendance (600-800) aren’t bad, although they have fluctuated slightly in recent years.
Still, I don’t think there’s great cause for concern. The church is in immaculate shape, and the 10:30 a.m. mass I attended boasted a robust and diverse turnout, along both race and age lines. There’s even a full choir!
As previously indicated, City Avenue is generally a complete disaster. Fortunately, Sunday morning is not one of those times, which is convenient because it’s probably the easiest way to get to Bala Cynwyd. (If you come at any other time, though, may God have mercy on your soul.)
Bala Cynwyd is also more affluent section than most, so you’ll have no issues related to safety. Even if you still don’t feel like street parking, there is a sizeable lot.
St. Matthias offers a rare architectural mishmash, either by accident or by design. Probably the latter, but you never really know.
Structurally it is a Gothic church, as evidenced by the slight, though clearly pointed arches in the stained glass windows. Oddly, though, the arches in the columns are not pointed (as would be customary), but rather are semicircular, which is more a feature of Romanesque or Italian-Renaissance / Baroque architecture.
The Final Word
Very much worth your time.