Posted by: faithtravelfocus | October 3, 2011

Explore Pittsburgh’s Faith and Culture Stops

Heinz Chapel at University of Pittsburgh

From the Gothic splendor of the Cathedral of Learning (see previous column) to gardens that encourage contemplation and meditation, Pittsburgh has a lot for faith travelers to explore. This is a city with a proud cultural heritage, gleaned through the decades from its many immigrant communities, and a picturesque urbanscape located on the confluence of three rivers.  

Heinz Chapel shares location with the Cathedral of Learning on the grounds of the University of Pittsburgh. Henry John Heinz, founder of the H.J. Heinz Company, built it to honor his mother, Anna. Dedicated in 1938, it has a 15th century French Flamboyant interior design, and features stunning windows that wash the interior in a gentle purple light. The chapel hosts hundreds of events annually, including religious and memorial services, concerts, and guided tour.

Calvary United Methodist Church is as majestic as any of Europe’s finest cathedrals, with its elaborately decorated spires, louvers, gargoyles, geometric designs, St. Andrews Crosses, angelic faces carved into the Cleveland bluestone and vaulted oak ceilings. The crowning feature of the building is its array of Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass windows.

St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Church is decorated with elaborate tempera paintings by artist Maxo Vanka (1890-1963). The murals tell the story of the Croatian peasants who left their native farm lands at the turn of the 20th century to seek a better life in the post-industrial U.S.. The murals also capture Vanka’s strong belief about the futility of war and his sadness about the destruction of the motherland. The church is alleged to be haunted. 

Rodef Shalom Temple Biblical Botanical Garden is in one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, Squirrel Hill. The synagogue is the oldest Jewish congregation in western Pennsylvania, dating to the mid-19th century. Bible lands sites like the River Jordan, Dead Sea, and Lake Galilee are in this horticultural display that features plants grown by the ancient Israelites such as olives, dates, figs and pomegranates.

Phipps sculpture and horticulture

The what else on a Pittsburgh tour really should include the breathtaking gardens in the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, a great steel and glass Victorian greenhouse that has attracted visitors since 1893. Its modern era has elevated it into one of the region’s most visited cultural attractions and setting for the 2009 G-20 summit event. 

The serene natural surroundings in the nearby Laurel Highlands that can augment a city tour with outdoor recreation options – the same beauty that provides setting for master architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces, Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob. For more ideas about visiting western Pennsylvaniaand Pittsburgh’s cultural treasures, go to VisitPittsburgh.


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