Since it was completed in 1864, rain, sun, wind and snow have worn down the façade and ornate plasterwork at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, the main church of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia at 18th Street and the Parkway. Now is the time for a five- to seven-year $28M renovation project (funded by an Archdiocesan Capital Campaign) to rehab the site modeled after the San Carlo al Corso Church in Rome, as needed, inside and out. Sometime this month scaffolding will go up along the front of the building for masons from Vitetta to begin testing the faded-to-pink brownstone originally hauled to the Logan Square holy site from Connecticut and northern New Jersey, for structural integrity, according to Rev. Msgr. Arthur E. Rogers. Upgraded to the honor of Basilica in 1976 by Pope Paul VI, the structures’ statues of Saints Peter and Paul, the Sacred Heart and the Blessed Mother will be refinished and reinstalled in their current niches outside the building. Additional work includes roof repairs and the installation of a 21st-century heating and cooling system. Renovations will refresh the cathedral’s Roman-Corinthian interior and 60-foot copper dome.
The Broad Street Bullies were in action 40 years ago, the last time rehab was done to the church graced inside by four, 60-foot high Corinthian stone columns and six, 40-foot high Verte Imperial marble columns that support the 80-foot painted vaulted ceiling. Keeping in tune with Philly’s green-trend, folks from Wallace, Roberts and Todd will redesign its garden at 18th and Race Streets to include a water feature enclosed by a wrought-iron fence. A new handicap accessible entranceway with a glass pavilion attached to the Basilica (that includes a gift shop) is also part of that project. Regardless of your religious bend, if any, the Basilica is an architectural gem we hope stands for another 150 years in our Museum District as a testament to Philly times gone by. And on these muggy May days, its air-conditioning, paintings like “Angels of the Passion,” and stained glass windows are a divine enclave amidst the urban rush. —Lou Mancinelli