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Cathedral Basilica: Sacred Sights and Sounds

Produced by Karen Smyles

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December 2012

The Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul is the principal church of the diocese of Philadelphia. Open since 1864 and located at the East side of Logan Square on 18th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the cathedral is considered to be one of the most architecturally beautiful buildings in the world and one with a rich history. It is the largest brownstone structure in Philadelphia and the largest Catholic Church in Pennsylvania, and a tourist attraction for people from around the world.

In 2011 the Basilica began presenting Concerts at the Cathedral Basilica under the direction of music director, John Romeri, providing the opportunity to experience the music of both local and international musicians in this magnificent sacred building. In October Friday Arts had a chance to talk with Romeri about the series and the role sacred music plays in the Catholic Church. We also spoke with Alan Harler, Artistic Director of one of our finest local choral groups, Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, as they rehearsed for a performance at the cathedral. Local composer, Robert Moran was on hand and shared why he always enjoys hearing his works in this great space. And lastly, Monsignor Arthur E. Rodgers talks with Friday Arts about Cathedral Basilica's rich history and architecture and how that enhances the overall musical experience.

Pictured below: (left) The Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul is modeled after the Lombard Church of Saint Charles (San Carlo al Corso) in Rome and is an excellent example of Roman-Corinthian architecture. It was completed in 1864. (right) The cathedral was dedicated and solemnly blessed on November 20, 1864, with Bishop James Wood officiating. At the time the Civil War was in high gear.

Left: Bishop James Wood, a native Philadelphian entered the Catholic Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Philadelphia was raised to the rank of an archdiocese in 1875 and Bishop Wood became the first Archbishop of Philadelphia. Archbishop Wood’s tenure saw the completion and dedication of the Cathedral and the building of a new seminary campus in the Overbrook section of Philadelphia.

Photos courtesy Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Research Center