St. Stanislaus Kostka In The Strip

The Historic St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish: A Polish Heritage Gem in Pittsburgh

St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, a historic church located in the bustling Strip District of Pittsburgh, stands as a testament to the city’s vibrant Polish heritage. Boasting a blend of Romanesque, Baroque, and Byzantine influences, this ‘Polish Cathedral’ style church is an iconic landmark that has stood the test of time.

The Early Beginnings

St. Stanislaus Kostka: The First Polish Parish

The foundation stone of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish was laid in 1875, marking the establishment of the first ethnic Polish parish in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The parish initially made its home at 15th and Penn Avenue before moving to a new location on the third floor of the school hall at 22nd and Smallman in 1880.

The Third and Current Church

The third and current church was consecrated on July 31, 1892, and continues to serve as a beacon of faith and a symbol of Polish culture in Pittsburgh.

The Stained Glass Window

The church’s historic stained glass windows, crafted by The Royal Bavarian Art Institute in the famed ‘Munich style’, have survived the ravages of time and industrialization. The windows, initially costing $6,000, are now valued at $171,579.56 in 2021 dollars.

The Challenging Times

The Flood and Explosion

In 1932, disaster struck when a flood filled the church to about 5 feet deep. Later that year, an explosion at a nearby banana warehouse caused pressure damage to the stained glass windows and the church’s front towers.

The Transformation Era

The mid-20th century brought significant changes as the Strip District transitioned from heavy industry to a produce hub. This period also saw a mass population migration to the suburbs, affecting the composition of the parish community.

The Papal Visit

In a historic moment, Cardinal Karol Wojtya, the future Pope John Paul II, visited St. Stanislaus Kostka on September 20, 1969. He is quoted as commenting on the church’s beauty and its reminder of churches in Poland. The location where he knelt in prayer is now a humble memorial to the Pope.

St. Stanislaus

Recognition and Revitalization

Historic Status

The 1970s saw St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish gaining recognition for its historic and cultural significance. It was listed on the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks register in 1970 and the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

The Parish Merger

As part of the Pittsburgh Diocesan revitalization, St. Stanislaus Kostka merged with Saint Patrick and Saint Elizabeth in 1993. The unified parish was named St. Patrick-St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish.

The Shrine Status and Restoration

In 2019, St. Stanislaus Kostka Church was designated as one of the five Shrine churches of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. This status aims to preserve the unique religious history encapsulated in these historic churches.

In January 2020, a Stained Glass Window Campaign was initiated to raise funds for the restoration of the historic windows.

Architectural Highlights

The architectural style of Saint Stanislaus Kostka is a blend of Romanesque and Baroque, with Byzantine influences. The church is a one-story brick structure covering an area of 8,337 square feet.

  • The Twin Towers: The church’s twin towers house a total of seven bells, each dedicated to a different saint.
  • The Stained Glass Windows: Produced in Munich, Germany, at the Royal Bavarian Art Institute, these windows are some of the best examples of “Munich Style” stained glass in the United States.
  • The Latin Inscriptions: Three Latin inscriptions adorn the church’s interior, each offering a different message of faith.
  • The Murals: The current paintings in the semi-dome over the altar, completed in 1925 by Italian artist Vincent Scatena, add to the church’s artistic richness.

St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish stands not only as a place of worship but also as a storied monument to the Polish community’s resilience and faith. It continues to serve as a beacon of hope and testament to the enduring spirit of Pittsburgh’s Polish heritage.

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