St. Anthony's Chapel
St. Anthony’s Chapel is home to the “largest collection of publicly venerable Christian relics – 5,000 in total – in the world outside of the Vatican” (“About”). With its Romanesque rounded arches, vaults, towers and new façade, the chapel’s design and construction is similar to a chapel royal. The original chapel featured a decorative dome that is now a skylight and the 1892 addition added an extended nave for the Stations of the Cross. The chapel was designated a historical landmark by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.
Backstory and Context
The chapel was named after St. Anthony of Padua, a 13th century Portuguese priest and friar. He was born into a wealthy family and devoted his life to helping the poor, sick and infirm. He was canonized in 1232 by Pope Gregory IX, less than one year after his death. St. Anthony is also known as the patron saint of lost things.
St. Anthony’s Chapel founder Suitbert Godfrey Molinger left Europe to pursue missionary work in the United States and entered the priesthood in the town he made his home: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. To house the relics he had amassed, Molinger financed the chapel’s construction. Built in 1883, the original chapel, called the “Shrine of the Saints,” housed his collection; the annex, known as “The Way of the Cross,” was built in 1892 and houses the chapel’s life size wooden statues. Molinger was known for his hope and miracle healing and treated over 325,000 patients within the chapel’s walls.
The chapel, which went through a major restoration during the 1970s, is the destination of numerous pilgrims due to the religious relics it houses. Those relics include the complete skeletal remains of St. Demetrius, the skulls of Saints Macharius, Stephana, and Theodore, one of St. Anthony's teeth, and slivers of wood from the Holy Cross.