Sitting on the eastern side of Logan Square (opposite the Franklin Institute) is the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul (the head church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia). Built between 1846 and 1864, it is the largest Catholic Church in Pennsylvania. Tradition states that it took so long to build because the Bishop at the time did not want it to run into debt. Because it’s completion was only two years after the anti-Catholicism riots in Philadelphia, the Cathedral was constructed with high “clerestory” (above eye level) windows so as to inhibit vandalism (some documents of the time reported that the architects stood outside the buildings and threw rocks at the side to determine how high up the widows should be).
The first Catholic Church built in Philadelphia was St. Joseph’s in 1733. As the congregation grew, a new, larger church, St. Mary’s, was built in 1763. By 1810, this became Philadelphia’s first Cathedral. Twenty-eight years later, even this was replaced by a newer Cathedral, known as St.John’s. In June of 1846, plans for a newer and grander Cathedral, modeled after the Lombard Church of St. Charles (San Carlo al Corso) in Rome were developed.
Saints Peter’s and Paul’s Cathedral has been the site of two recent Papal masses; (1) with Pope John Paul II in 1979, and (2) with Pope Francis in 2015. Most of the Bishops and Archbishops of Philadelphia have their final resting places in the crypt below the main Altar and these are viewable by the public. The Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. We’ve had the opportunity to visit various denominational religious structures during our travels, with each one being as beautiful as the others, and this one certainly ranks well amongst them all.