I bet you’d be surprised to know that the largest collection of Catholic relics outside the Vatican is housed in a small church in the quiet hilly neighborhood of Troy Hill in Pittsburgh. Well it is. it is in St. Anthony’s Chapel.
I can’t remember where I learned this, but it was probably on some Rick Sebak special, because that is where I learn a lot of this type of stuff. Anyway, when I learned that there was a massive collection of relics right in our own city, I just had to see it. Because with something so unique in our backyard, why wouldn’t I?
Many of the relics are tiny pebble-sized fragments of bone or teeth or what have you. There are also some larger bones, skulls and a tooth of St. Anthony of Padua. The chapel is simply gorgeous inside, with ornate frescoes and life-size hand carved and painted sculptures of the Stations of the Cross. I am not Catholic, but I believe that religious art from all faiths is beautiful. It is amazing to see the beauty that people create, inspired by their faith.
The chapel offers guided tours on certain days, but also offers a handheld audio tour if a guide is not available. I did the audio tour and really enjoyed it. It’s about 30 minutes long, tells you the history of the chapel, including the story of its founder, Father Suitbert Mollinger, as well as an overview of the relics and art in the chapel. It’s amazing that the whole thing is sustained by volunteers and donations, so if you visit, be sure to leave a contribution. The Chapel is now on my short list of must-sees in the City. If you’re a resident and haven’t made your way over there, it’s absolutely worth a visit. It’s close, it’s quick, and it’s wonderful.