The large window at the rear of the cathedral. At the apex is the Shield of Faith, the emblem of the Trinity. In the center is Christ ascending, with the legend “He is the King of Glory.” Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John watch and record, each with his traditional symbol (man, lion, ox, eagle).
Certainly unique in Pittsburgh, this Episcopal church was a design by William Halsey Wood, whose only other work here that Father Pitt knows about is the Church of the Ascension in Shadyside. The Church of the Good Shepherd was built in 1891; it is now up for sale, so anyone with some money has a chance at a signature building that looks like nothing else in the city. After decades of decline, this part of Hazelwood is moving up in the world: just a couple of blocks away is a branch of La Gourmandine, the delightful French bakery. Wouldn’t you like to live or work in a landmark building just a short stroll from a French bakery?
And then there’s Titus de Bobula.
There are few real outliers among the architects who worked in Pittsburgh before the First World War; we had brilliant architects, but we can sort most of them into groups by the styles they worked in. Titus de Bobula’s work, however, is unique here. He brought us a breath of Budapest Art Nouveau, and for a few years he was the favorite architect for East European churches of all sorts.
And then he was gone—back to Hungary, where his regular job seems to have been trying and failing to overthrow the government. Later he ended up back in the United States, but he never again had a great architectural career. Perhaps that was because he worked with Nikola Tesla, designing the structural parts of Tesla’s never-built (and possibly delusional) superweapons. It might have been a good job at the time, but no permanent structures ever came of it.
So we should try as hard as we can to preserve what remains of de Bobula’s work. Fortunately this church, built in 1903, still belongs to its original congregation and is still active.
The shape of the building is similar to the shape of your average Pittsburgh Gothic church, but the details are straight from fin-de-siècle Budapest—right down to Titus de Bobula’s trademark Art Nouveau lettering in the inscriptions.
The wildly irregular stonework around the uniquely shaped windows may remind you a bit of Gaudi.
“Welcome” in stained glass over the main entrance.
Titus de Bobula made a habit of signing his buildings. The rail of a later wheelchair ramp obstructs part of this inscription (the contractor was Bodine and Co.), but we can see enough to appreciate the Art Nouveau lettering.
Ralph Adams Cram was probably the greatest Gothic architect our country ever produced. There are four churches by Cram in Pittsburgh (and one in Greensburg), and each is a masterpiece in its way. East Liberty Presbyterian is overwhelmingly impressive. Calvary Episcopal is restrained and tasteful, a good fit for its low-church Episcopalian congregation. But Holy Rosary seems to be a product of the artist’s pure delight in his medium. It was finished in 1930, when Cram was at the peak of his creative powers.
The church is still in good shape, but it is no longer a worship site, and what can be done with a building this size? The offices of St. Charles Lwanga parish are here, but it is only a matter of time before someone decides that it would be more efficient to have an office building that is less expensive to maintain. Homewood is prospering much more than it was a few years ago, but it has a long way to go before it becomes a rich enough neighborhood to make it worth adapting this building; and any congregation looking for a church would have to have a high budget to maintain this one. (St. Charles Lwanga parish worships a few blocks away in the small and undistinguished, but much easier to maintain, Mother of Good Counsel church.)
We hope Holy Rosary will be preserved and restored, but it competes with many other churches and synagogues worthy of preservation and restoration. It is hard to find uses for a building so perfectly adapted to one specific purpose for which it is no longer wanted.
All the niches have lost their statues, which suggests that the parish took them down and reinstalled them elsewhere. Do any St. Charles Lwanga parishioners know the story?
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral was built in 1872 from a design by Gordon W. Lloyd, an English-born Canadian architect who was popular among Episcopalians. The view above is made up of three pictures to give us a broad view of the nave.
This is the third church for this congregation. The first was the “Round Church,” built at about the time the streets were laid out in their present plan in 1785. (It was actually an octagon—one of the first generation of odd-shaped buildings caused by the colliding grids along Liberty Avenue.) The second was a brick Gothic church built in 1824.
Note the divided pews, which are the original furniture from 1872. At the time this church was built, churches were generally funded by pew rents. Your family would rent a particular section, and that was where you sat every Sunday.
The number on the end of the pew identifies your section. When Father Pitt visited, the dean of the cathedral, the Very Reverend Aidan Smith, was kind enough to bring out a precious historical artifact: a pew chart of the previous church marked with the prices for each section. The closer to the front (and the more visible) the pew, the more it cost per annum. He explained that this cathedral stopped the practice of pew rents in the 1930s, after receiving a large legacy on the condition that pew rents would be stopped. (In addition to funding the church, they were a good, but arguably un-Christian, way of keeping out the undesirable poor.)