An Architectural Tour of Downtown Pittsburgh Churches #LovePGH

When The Kid and I visit big cities, we love taking the camera and snapping photos of buildings and city streets packed with cars and locals. It helps us to become familiar with their layout and gives us an excuse to get out there and exercise a little bit. I am always drawn to churches and their architecture, especially the old ones. Photos showcasing ornate spires and modern city buildings really bring a city’s feeling alive to me. The melding of old and new is inspiring and a beautiful thing to behold.
This summer, The Kid and I took a walking tour of downtown Pittsburgh and three original churches that are very photogenic (can a church be photogenic? It can be in my book!) and had a fun, inspiring trek.

Trinity Episcopal Cathedral

Since 1872, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral on Sixth Street has been a beautiful addition to downtown Pittsburgh. With its English Gothic style, the cathedral is an architectural beauty.
Before the cathedral and much of the city block around it was built up, the land contained over 4,000 graves along with an ancient Indian burial mound. Prominent Pittburghers are interred on-site and include upstanding citizens and Red Pole- a Shawnee Indian Nation chief.
Here’s a photo of the graveyard area on the side of the cathedral.
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and its famous red doors. The Kid and I were curious about the history of many Episcopal churches and the history of their red doors and found several interesting theories via the internet. A comical take is the doors were painted red when the mortgage was paid in full! My favorite, however, is that red doors signaled a place of refuge and safety from both spiritual and physical harm.
Exquisite stained glass panels and organ pipes on either side.
The intricately carved pulpit.
A view from the balcony/loft area.
Flags from nations that the diocese’s missionary has helped through the years.

First Presbyterian Church

From the first cornerstone laid in 1903, First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh has been surrounded by rich history and grand stories. Beside Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, the Sixth Street building is the fourth version of the church and a sight to behold. I don’t consider myself an architectural expert by any means, but I know beauty when I see it.¬†First Presbyterian Church has a great restaurant in its lower level and folks from all over the area head to it for lunch. Now that’s melding the old with the new!
A plaque giving service times. Following the 10:45am Sunday service, guided tours of the church are given to folks wanting a detailed history.
Here’s a pretty photo of ¬†The Kid outside the front entrance.
A view of the pipe organ form the side balcony. The Casavant has over 4,400 pipes and 77 ranks and is a musical wonder from Quebec, Canada.
A close-up of the organ pipes.
On our visit, a church member gave us a small tour of the offices and behind the pulpit area where the grand 30-foot oak doors are opened for services. Weighing 4,000 pounds, the doors are so well-made that a singles person can slide the doors open on their recessed floor tracks.
A view from the pulpit.
I love this photo showing the gorgeous stained glass panels. Insured for two million dollars, 13 of the stained glass windows were designed by Tiffany studios. Yes, THOSE Tiffany Studios.
A pretty photo of the front area of the church. Check out the stone carving.
And lastly, my favorite photo of First Presbyterian Church. The Kid and I noticed the beauty of the light seeping through the stained glass combined with the stone work made and chandelier made for a great photo op.

First Lutheran Church

The first English Evangelical Lutheran Church on Grant Street was the third church on our tour. “The first English-speaking Lutheran church west of The Alleghenies”, the beautiful stone church hosts holy Eucharist weekdays from 12:10pm -12:30pm for folks on their lunch breaks or for those that may be unable to go on Sundays.


The pulpit area and front of the tabernacle.

The South Narthex cross. Designed by Virgil Cantini in 1975. The colors used reflect the similar colors of the stained glass opposite the cross.


Installed in 1992, the Casavant Freres Limite 44 rank pipe organ fills the room with beautiful, inspiring music.

The marble baptismal font in the southwest corner of the nave. In 1889, the angel font was the first work of art to be placed at the church.

So, what did we discover about these three churches on our walk? We learned that each religion has a way of incorporating beauty, history, and need into its church’s creation and each and every one way different from the other, but also maintained a common bond.

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