Status: Active, Roman Catholic
41 E. Baltimore Ave
Lansdowne, PA 19050
Original visit: May 31, 2009
Where Is It?
Baltimore Pike, in some place called Lansdowne.
You know those old-timey maps of the world, where unknown or unexplored parts were depicted with sea monsters and the like?
That’s how the Project felt when planning this trip to Lansdowne’s St. Philomena.
I had only ever heard passing snippets of information relating to Lansdowne, and, despite it residing surprisingly close to the Philadelphia border, it was an area that I really had no knowledge of, to say nothing of actually having been there.
For all I knew, it actually was a place full of sea monsters and other mythical beasties. Here be dragons!
It turns out that Lansdowne is a populated area much like any other. And that its church, St. Philomena, is one of the more respectable suburban churches you’re likely to come across. It’s a fairly nice non-cruciform Italian-Renaissance design. The nave is non-columned , although the sanctuary itself is, oddly, vaulted and columned.
That sanctuary is the highlight here, with very lovely main and side altars, and nice paintwork in the apse. There’s also a nifty baptismal font, respectable stations of the cross, and a fully-functioning organ. Rock on!
Beyond that, though, you get white paint, some plainer patterned stained glass windows, and wooden beams. Not exactly the makings of an all-star church, especially where the wooden beams awkwardly abut the marble vaults near the front of the church. I mean, really?
Yet, it all comes off surprisingly well. And even the wooden beams have barrel-vaults between them, so they’re not nearly as odious as usual.
Not spectacular, but still very good, especially by suburban standards.
How's It Doing?
Well enough for now. St. Philomena has already survived one round of closures, absorbing neighboring St. Cyril of Alexandria in 2013. Its attendance is still stagnating around the 400 range, though, which could lead to some dire things if it doesn't improve.
As for the area, Lansdowne reminds me of a lot of old neighborhoods — kind of scruffy and forgotten. It doesn’t strike me as a bad area; indeed, the vigil mass was quite diverse. But it looks like an area that could use an influx of new life. The central business district is either scuzzy or, in the case of the shops across the street from the church, closed down entirely.
Get your wits about you, St. Philomena.
There’s no real easy highway access, so depending on where you’re coming from, you’ll most likely have to take either Baltimore Pike or Lansdowne Avenue. Neither is bad, although traffic fluctuates greatly.
Philomena also has a spacious lot, so parking is a cinch.
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The Final Word
The Project has done much worse.