St. Paul

Status: Active, Roman Catholic

Founded: 1843
Construction: 1865

10th & Christian Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19147

Visit its website

Original visit: July 5, 2008

Where Is It?

10th & Christian Streets, in the Bella Vista section of South Philadelphia.

The Skinny

You know what? St. Paul is a pretty darn good church that belies South Philadelphia's mediocre tendencies.The church is a little on the smallish side, and the paint job is a little gaudy in places, but it’s got a great red-brick exterior, mahogany-framed balcony and organ, and a unique patterned roof. Even the design-oriented stained glass windows, which the Project usually despises, come off surprisingly well here.

Perhaps the most interesting thing is that St. Paul is something of an architectural oddity. It’s mostly Gothic in design and form, but it’s a rare Gothic church that doesn’t have a cruciform or faux-cruciform shape. We’re used to that sort of thing with Italian-Renaissance or Baroque designs, most of which are non-cruciform, but it's much more unusual with Gothic designs.

In the end, the Project kind of digs it. Worship site St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi is a more stunning church, but this one holds up its end of the bargain.

How's It Doing?

As I mentioned during the visit to St. Mary Magdalen, St. Paul is struggling with attendance and financial issues, and there suddenly seems to be a lot of internal concern over the parish's future. Not the best of timing, I'll grant you, especially as South Philadelphia's Roman Catholic parishes undergo the dreaded pastoral evaluation and planning.

The building seems to be in good shape, and Bella Vista is a great neighborhood. Let's hope that's enough.

Travel Tidbits

South Philly usually gives the Project a headache, but this was less painful than most. You even have some great restaurants within walking distance, if you so choose.

The Project did, and boy, I could barely walk back to my car.

Interesting Note

The mass was said by a visiting missionary priest, who reminded the Project of somebody who would be right at home in one of our Fat Girl parishes. The Italians of South Philly just don’t seem to be the right audience for him. The line of the day:

“I love all of you...because you love Jesus!

Testify, brother.

Image Gallery

The Final Word

Surprisingly good.