St. John Cantius
Status: Active, Roman Catholic
Thompson St. above Orthodox St.
Philadelphia, PA 19137
Original visit: August 16, 2008
Where Is It?
Bridesburg, baby! Thompson & Orthodox Streets, to be specific.
Like many churches in the Northern regions of the city, Cantius is clearly visible from I-95; its pointy, red-brick rear-end is easily seen off the eastern side of the highway, right near the aforementioned All Saints and just north of the famous, super-prominent Church Alley.
St. John Cantius, as you may have guessed from the name, is a Polish church. (And yes, there's no It's All Greek to Me! here. They do actually still offer masses in Polish.) If our experience with Polish churches is any indication — namely, St. Adalbert and St. Laurentius — we’re in for a treat! Right?
Well, yes and no.
Yes, in that it’s better than your average church. It’s non-cruciform gothic in design, with a white and blue plaster interior. There are some interesting paint flourishes and some decent windows. Oh, and the red-brick exterior is pretty cool.
No, in that it just doesn’t come together the way its Polish cousins do. The windows lack the same three-dimensional glory, the paint job is a little plainer and the wooden altar, while respectable, is way too two-dimensional to really work well. It seems too much like wood paneling and not a stand-alone piece, which hurts it when compared to the great beasts that dominate Adalbert and Laurentius.
Oh, and there is an organ, but the pipes are hidden. Come on, guys.
Look for it: The nice, fully 3-D stations of the cross.
Compared to most other churches, Cantius comes out ok. Polish church architecture is notoriously over the top, however, and when compared to that, it falls short. It’s nice, but if you want to see better examples of Polish love, you know where you have to go.
How's It Doing?
Well, better than neighboring All Saints, which it absorbed in 2013. That means St. John Cantius has been handed the keys to Bridesburg's soul. As the only game in town, literally, the parish is probably not in any immediate danger. I suppose it's possible there could be further consolidations down the road, but it seems more likely the AD keeps an active parish here, regardless of the cost.
Like neighboring Church Alley, Bridesburg is incredibly easy to find and navigate. It’s also a fairly safe area. From Bridge Street it’s a surprisingly short jaunt to incredibly shady Frankford.
Still, Bridesburg seems insulated somewhat. Living in the shadow of a huge chemical plant might do that.
Upper Church v….Chapel????
No, Cantius doesn’t have a lower church. But they do have a separate chapel, and it seems that during the summer months they pull a St. Anne and abandon the church because of the heat.
I bring this up because, on a spur-of-the-moment whim, they decided to use the church for the Saturday vigil, for the exact mass the Project happened to be attending. Coincidence? Perhaps. Or maybe, just maybe, someone up there likes the Project.
I can only hope...
The Final Word
Cantius is decent in its own right, but if you’re looking for an example of a true Polish church, Adalbert and Laurentius are better bets.