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Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul

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1846–1864, Napoleon LeBrun; 1851–1859, John Notman. N. 18th St. and Benjamin Franklin Pkwy.
  • St. Peter's Cathedral (Richard Guy Wilson)
  • Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul (Richard W. Longstreth)

It is a tribute to the ingenuity of the planners of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway ( PH116) that they so deftly incorporated the parkway's principal mid-nineteenth-century monument, this Roman Catholic cathedral. The monumental Roman Baroque scheme with its great copper-clad dome was begun just after the Know-Nothing Riots of 1844, which destroyed a number of Catholic institutions ( PH10), and its site and size denote the combative and assertive Church in a period of crisis. The original plan by LeBrun, with its massive vaulted nave and crypto-collateral side aisles, was based on Rome's sixteenth-century Church of the Gesu. By 1851, perhaps disappointed in the slow progress of the project, the bishop replaced LeBrun with John Notman, under whose direction the facade was constructed. Conflicts over prices brought LeBrun back in 1860 to complete the upper levels. It was the Catholic LeBrun who supervised the Baroque splendor of the interior that links the church visually to Rome. The decoration is by Constantino Brumidi, decorator of the U.S. Capitol rotunda. The interior with its spectacular Romanlike barrel-vaulted nave was remodeled in 1914–1915 by Henry D. Dagit, founder of a family dynasty of architects of Catholic institutions.

Writing Credits

George E. Thomas


What's Nearby


George E. Thomas, "Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul", [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 2

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, George E. Thomas, with Patricia Likos Ricci, Richard J. Webster, Lawrence M. Newman, Robert Janosov, and Bruce Thomas. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 111-112.

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