The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church

with 3 comments


– photo by Mitch Waxman

As I’ve been roaming about here in Pittsburgh, a certain church building has been continually catching my eye. On South 7th street at East Carson Street in what I presume to be the South Side Flats neighborhood is where you’ll find it. St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church’s Parish was organized in 1891, the church building itself was erected in 1895, and then enlarged in 1917. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Ukrainian Catholicism is a complicated story, so I’m just going to refer you to the Wikipedia page about it. There’s Kings and Warlords, Mongols and Russians, Schisms and Synods. All are involved in a multiple millennia long storyline that goes all the back to the beginnings of the Christian era in Europe. Suffice to say that this organization is what the Vatican regards as a “Particular Church” which is part of its organizational hegemony and its adherents are considered as full fledged Catholics despite the Church not using the Latin Rite. The Ukrainian Catholics organization also includes a Major Archbishop who is part of the pecking order back in Rome.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Those two paragraphs up there are not everything I’ve been able to find out about this branch of the Catholic family, but truth be told I don’t want to deep dive into that sort of thing and it’ll probably piss off some of you if I do. On a side note, A few weeks ago, I showed you a photo of and mentioned a Byzantine Catholic Church in Pittsburgh’s Oakland section. Saying all that, it’s a pretty interesting thing to read up on, the history of Europe’s churches. If you use the term “Europe” in a larger sense than its geographic boundary, you’ll find other people’s interpretations of the material amongst the neighbors. Notably – the Copts of the Levant and North Africa are pretty interesting.

What drew me here was curiosity, which was piqued while I was moving around other sections of Pittsburgh and my eye kept on drifting toward this church. Beautiful building.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Ukrainians use the so called “Greek” or “Patriarchal Cross,” and this spectacular Mosaic was arranged over the lintel and under the cruciform of the main entryway. Unfortunately, I didn’t go inside, but as I always say – I’m like a Vampire, I need to be invited into a building in order to do my work. Hopefully, I’ll manage to get to know somebody from St. John’s in the future. It’s got to be amazing in there.

I really dig religious art of this kind. I’d love to know all of the references that the various parts of it point to. Flag, blue shirt, water, palm tree – every thing there has to have some meaning.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A sportsball field of some kind, quite modern in design with bleachers and everything, adjoins the Church. I speculated for a moment about whether or not there might have been a parochial school in its footprint once which was connected to the church, but I haven’t been able to find anything to back up my theory. All up and down the Monongahela River, which is a few blocks away, there were Steel Mills and Rail Yards. A lot is missing from the scene witnessed here in 1917 when the expanded version of the building opened.

As mentioned, this place has been catching my eye for a while.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here’s a long shot of the place, nestled into the foothills of Mount Washington. The South Side Flats neighborhood that St. John’s is at the western end of has a really interesting catalogue of private homes and commercial buildings which could be described as “old timey.” There’s a thriving night life industry in this area with lots of bars and clubs which, as I’ve read, draws in the college kids.

Hopefully, I’ll find a way to get me and the camera invited inside the building sometime, would love to get some photos of the interior.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I covered a decent patch of ground on this particular day. One drove up and down the streets hereabouts, which were luckily pretty traffic free, scouting out interesting things to return to on foot in the future.

Back tomorrow.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 30, 2023 at 11:00 am

3 Responses

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  1. In the last picture I am taken with the colors. Tha yellow front is beautiful.
    The building next door…purple- ish…has an interesting roof line, though I can’t quite make out the details.

    Jaye Haviland

    March 31, 2023 at 3:40 pm

    • I’m intrigued by it as well. Re the church and its yellows – check out this detail of the doors –

      Mitch Waxman

      March 31, 2023 at 3:55 pm

      • Amazing. Is that cut out brass, or paint?
        I took a Google maps walk to look at the purple ish building, then went up the hill towards the overhead road and noticed a large homeless encampment there.
        The area is interesting in that there can be completely renovated buildings in between ones that are seemingly abandoned or downtrodden.
        I think you chose a city that will keep you busy busy. A curious person is always busy busy.

        Jaye Haviland

        April 3, 2023 at 11:22 am

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