One of the more remarkable architectural and historic sites in Pennsylvania is the Bryn Athyn Cathedral, 23 miles north of Philadelphia. The expansive Episcopalian cathedral complex includes a number of historic and architecturally unique buildings that date as far back as 1913.
The main church building and its soaring tower are the dramatic center of the complex, designed in the English Perpendicular Gothic style by the well-known and creative architect Ralph Adams Cram. He designed churches in many major cities in the early 20th century, most notable being the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York.
The Bryn Athyn Cathedral was constructed using unique methods for the 20th century. Workshops for stone, wood, metal and stained glass were on-site, allowing designers, stone carvers, woodworkers and other craftsmen from Europe to collaborate during the building process. A notable feature of the cathedral is the use of architectural refinements of “bends in elevation” and curves—in order to give a sense of life and movement to the building. This is said to represent the path of a human’s spiritual growth.
The Bryn Athyn Cathedral sits among the rolling hills that combine open fields and woods with expansive views over the surrounding countryside. The complex also features three huge houses that were originally built for the John Pitcairn family, who financed most of the projects.
Pitcairn filled the houses with a collection of religious art and antiques that was originally started by his father on trips to the Middle East, the Holy Land and Europe in the late 19th century. Pitcairn’s collection is displayed in the museum that is located on the complex.
The Bryn Athyn Church has an active congregation that is dedicated to preserving the cathedral as a house of worship, a center for community activities as well as a building of historical and architectural importance.
Bryn Athyn Cathedral is located at 900 Cathedral Rd. in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania. For more information, visit www.brynathynchurch.org.