Holy Trinity Romanian Orthodox Church

Holy Trinity Romanian Orthodox Church. Image provided by Historical Society of Pennsylvania

723 N. Bodine St (on right)

Designed by famous Philadelphia neoclassical architect William Strickland, this building was originally constructed in 1815 for St. John's Episcopal Church. In the early 20th century, significant numbers of Romanian immigrants began settling in Northern Liberties alongside other Eastern European groups. The Romanians established an Orthodox parish in 1913, holding services in people's homes until they arranged to share St. John's building with the Episcopal congregation in 1917. The two congregations continued to share the building until the Romanian congregation took full possession in 1972. One of only two Strickland-designed churches in Philadelphia, Holy Trinity was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. After some years of declining membership, Holy Trinity's congregation was reinvigorated by an infusion of young congregants in the late 1990s. The church's membership now comes from Bucks and Montgomery counties and New Jersey as well as Philadelphia.

Holy Trinity does not look like a traditional Orthodox church. The interior and exterior of the church embodies and unique combination of early American architectural history and the religious and immigration history of the neighborhood. The Romanian congregation added the wooden steeple above the entrance and the tower with a cross and three bells. They also painted the interior in a vivid decorative style, and added an iconostasis (icon screen) to the altar, consecrating and imparting an Orthodox character to the neoclassical building. Two of the stained glass windows and some of the lighting fixtures are from the 1850s. An intricately carved wooden cross recently imported from Romania stands in front of the church.

This revived congregation is dedicated to preserving the history and architecture of Holy Trinity and engaging with the wider Northern Liberties residential and artistic community by sharing its sacred spaces and social halls with other congregations, community groups, artists, and performers. Having already restored the stained glass windows and repaired the roof, the church started a non-profit dedicated to preservation fundraising. In 2006, it received a grant from Partners for Sacred Spaces to make more essential structural repairs.

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