A month ago, I spent about an hour and a half, on a steamy Saturday morning, soaking in the sights and smells associated with The Strip in Pittsburgh. All sorts of trendy restaurants, produce shops, and lofts line a mile-long neighborhood, north of the city’s central business district, once filled with many of the city’s warehouses and factories.
But while there, when I came across St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, I felt instantly at home at this throwback religious institution built in 1891. I am not of the Eastern European stock that filled its pews over the years, but the general style of devout worship by its blue-collar immigrant adherents is what I grew up with.
You can’t really tell from the outside, but the Romanesque, Baroque and even Byzantine touches of the interior make this one of the finest examples of the “Polish Cathedral” style. (All praise to architect Frederick C. Sauer.) I particularly love the stained-glass windows.
One distinguished visitor in 1969 was in a special position to recognize this: Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, the future Pope John Paul II, who said it reminded him of the churches of his native Poland.
For all its beauty, St. Stanislaus is, like its city, a hardy survivor. It endured, back in 1936, a pair of disasters: flooding on St. Patrick’s Day and, nine months later, an explosion at the Pittsburgh Banana Company that weakened the church’s towers and forced removal of its original Baroque style bonnets. (Both of these events occurred amid a third, albeit man-made, disaster: the Great Depression.)
But, like faith itself, the church persisted, reaping honors (placement on the National Register of Historic Places), affection and awe.