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Gloria Dei Church National Historic Site


Gloria Dei Church National Historic Site
© Mike Dorn
Gloria Dei Episcopal Church is one of the oldest in the U.S.

Gloria Dei Episcopal Church, the oldest church in Pennsylvania and among the oldest in the country, still rings with the voices of worship after more than 300 years. Although designated a national historic site in 1942, Old S­wedes' Church, as it is also known, is owned and maintained by its congregation.

In 1643, Swedish colonists arriving on the ships Fogel Grip and Kalmar Nyckel settled along the Delaware River. Hanging from the ceiling of Gloria Dei Church today are models of those two ships.

The first church the Swedish settlers built was a modified log house at Tinicum Island. The baptismal font that was used in the Tinicum church -- and in Old Swedes' Church today -- came from the old country, as did several decorations, including the golden sprays on the lectern and pulpit and the Cherubim below the organ.

Several years later, the congregation decided to move the church to Wicaco, a Native American name meaning "peaceful place" and what is now known as South Philadelphia. Between 1698 and 1700, the permanent church was built of Flemish bond and black-header brick. Gloria Dei may have been the first church in America to use an organ, perhaps as early as 1703 (the current organ was bought in 1902). The bronze church bell still calls worshippers to service with the clapper from the old log church.

Gloria Dei Church National Historic Site Information

Address: 143 S. Third Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Telephone: 215/389-1513
Hours of Operation: Gloria Dei is an active religious congregation; please call before visiting
Admission: Free

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eric Peterson is a Denver-based freelance writer who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.


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