Saint Mary's Church

Philadelphia's Unfinished Cathedral



In the early part of the twentieth century, the Episcopal Bishop of Pennsylvania began to plan the construction of a  cathedral that would rival the great cathedrals of Europe. (New York and Washington too!) In 1921the "Pro-Cathedral" located at Broad and South Streets downtown was closed and the plans for the new cathedral were in progress. The site selected in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia was roughly the geographic center of The Diocese of Pennsylvania. The Diocese paid half a million dollars to purchase slightly over one hundred acres of land.  Ground breaking for the new cathedral was in 1932.  On All Saint's Day 1934 the first Mass was held in the apse of the unfinished Chapel of Saint Mary.  If the cathedral had been completed, it would have been the longest Gothic cathedral in the world.  Unfortunately only the apse of the Chapel was ever completed.

The Architects rendering of the finished Cathedral.  Only part of the area within the circle was ever completed.

The completed section

Due to economic pressures of the Great Depression and the second world war, the Cathedral project was abandoned.  The structure that remains is a unique place and an active Episcopal church.  In 1980 Cathedral Village, a retirement community, was opened adjacent to the unfinished cathedral. 

Outdoors an arch and brick show where the chapel would have continued

Mortar fills in the spaces between the widow arches and the portions of the windows which are completed.

   Ribbed vaulting with no where to go.  A large  glass wall (left) encloses the west side of the chapel.

Twelve bells which made up  a chime in The Church of Saint Matthias, Spring Garden Street, were to be installed in the three hundred foot tower of the cathedral.  The bells are still on the premises.  The tenor is on the lawn on display.  The rest of the bells are in storage on the site.

Dedication Board from Saint Matthias Church crated up in storage.

The Tenor Bell

Five bells in storage.

Six more bells and a Sanctus bell.



Close up of one of the bells

"I toll the funeral knell, I summon all to pray"

The bells were cast at the Whitechapel, Foundry in London, England by Mears and Stainbank in 1896.  They were never used as change ringing bells, they were rung as a chime.  Hammers underneath the bells were controlled from a chime stand similar to the one at Saint Peter's Church.  In this case there were 12 bells, more than at Christ Church or Saint Peter's.  These bells could be easily modified to be hung for change ringing.   A tower would have to be constructed. 

The Bells are in the Key of E-flat and have 10 bells tuned to a diatonic scale with two flat notes useful for playing of hymns when chiming.

Bell Weight in pounds Weight in CWT
G (Treble) 522 4-1-16
F 627 5-2-11
E-flat 680 6-0-8
D 741 6-2-13
D-flat (one of the flat notes in the scale) 793 7-0-8
C 820 7-1-8
B-flat 968 8-2-16
A natural  (one of the flat notes in the scale) 1024 9-0-16
A-flat 1172 10-1-24
G 1348 12-0-4
F 1698 15-0-8
E-flat (Tenor) 2363 21-0-7