Shadyside church should be a shoe-in

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .


Churches and cemeteries are not considered for the National Register of Historic Places unless they are examples of extraordinary significance. This from architect David Vater, whose recent nomination of the Calvary Episcopal Church in Shadyside will be considered by the board of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission next week.

There are no shoe-ins in life but if there were, this drop-dead-magnificent church would get on the National Register as automatically as Roberto Clemente got into the Hall of Fame.

Built in 1907 in the late Gothic Revival style, it was designed by the master architect Ralph Adams Cram and employed numerous master craftsmen in creating the stained glass windows and carved wood.

The nominating process has taken David a couple of years of research, writing and meeting the documentation standards of the National Park Service, which include extensive bibliographies and photography.

Although I do not worship in churches except as an architecture buff, they are among my favorite tourist stops when I travel in other countries. You can usually walk right in during the day. In this country, you need an appointment or an in like I had the other day when I met David and Roger Westman, a member of the church’s architecture and history commtitee, for a tour.

Many churches are gorgeous; Calvary Episcopal is moreso.

You have to stand and stare at the exterior for many minutes to let it sink in. While you’re staring, keep this in mind: all those limestone blocks were hand hewn.

Then there’s the inside. For the faithful who worship there, surely it is a spiritual heaven on earth; I could feel its vast, encompassing serenity and I wouldn’t know serenity if it showed up on my birth certificate.

The elaborately hand-carved rood screen alone is worth the trip but then there are the astonishing windows. And the tile floors.

When you go, look on top of the steeple. It’s a regular stop-off for a falcon. Then read my story Monday to learn more. (Photo courtesy of the church.)

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