St. Thomas Aquinas

Status: Active, Roman Catholic

Founded: 1885
Construction: 1889

17th & Morris Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19145

Visit its website

Original visit: January 13, 2008

Where Is It?

17th & Morris Streets, in (gulp) Point Breeze.

The Skinny

The Project loves South Philadelphia. Ok, not really. But that doesn’t stop me from going back to cover this week’s church, St. Thomas Aquinas.

Thomas Aquinas can really be thought of as St. Peter the Apostle lite, which is kind of ironic considering that we covered Peter last week. The two share quite a bit of interior similarity, as Thomas is designed in a strikingly similar angular Baroque style, with the same flat roof and heavy ornamentation.Thomas is a little smaller, and their color scheme eschews the red and gray for red and coral, but the effect is much the same.

Two interesting things stand out here. Despite appearing a tad smaller, Thomas Aquinas features the Project’s beloved cruciform shape, so the church actually holds more people. And, perhaps most importantly, where Peter the Apostle skimped on the stained glass design, the windows here are beautiful.

The exterior is nothing particularly special, but it’s notable for its oxidized copper trim and copper-lined, bulbous twin steeples.

Look for it: An organ so big that it completely obscures the front window. Were the original designers really that insane?

All in all, a really good entry.

How's It Doing?

It’d be easy to write off Aquinas as another small, insignificant South Philly parish, but it’s actually pretty robust. It offers five Sunday masses (six if you count the Saturday vigil) in four languages, and sees over 900 people a weekend.

Aside from the population bomb that is St. Monica, this is the healthiest South Philly parish we’ve seen.

Travel Tidbits

South Philadelphia. Enough said.

Oh, as for safety, well, you're kind of right smack in the middle of Point Breeze, which is widely regarded as one of Philly's worst areas. That said, I've been to some bad neighborhoods before, and I didn't see or encounter anything to give me pause. Even bad areas, perhaps, have their good sections, and we shouldn't be so quick to paint entire sections with the same broad brush.

That said, this probably wouldn't be the best place to go wandering aimlessly. Just saying.

Interesting Note

Media Matters: This is the church where Rocky marries Adrian in Rocky II.

Image Gallery

The Final Word