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Old St. Joseph’s Catholic Church

Active parish where Catholicism took root and flourished in early Philadelphia

Old St. Joseph's

Old St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church is Philadelphia’s oldest Catholic community. Credit: Photo by B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia


The Experience

Walking down Willings Alley and through a small walled courtyard, you can imagine this parish as it started in 1733, in a small chapel set back from Walnut Street.

The present church, which dates from 1839, features devotional artwork added over the years, including the 1850 stained glass window above the altar, the glass mosaic windows along the north and south walls and the ceiling painting, The Exaltation of Saint Joseph into Heaven, by Italian artist Philippo Costaggini, whose work also appears in the Capitol in Washington, D.C.


The first public Catholic mass in Philadelphia was celebrated here in 1733 by Jesuit Father Joseph Greaton. Although challenged as contrary to English law, the right to such worship was upheld by the Provincial Council under William Penn’s 1701 Charter of Privileges.

In 1757, the chapel was replaced by a larger church and six years later, St. Mary’s was constructed a block away. The two operated as one parish until 1799. In 1839, the present church building was dedicated, and in 1888, the parish became known as “Old St. Joseph’s.”

Other Information

Open to the public daily
Service Times: Call ahead for hours

Insider Tip

Look for the painting in the sacristy that was given by Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother Joseph, a parishioner here in the early 1800s.

Kids’ Stuff

St. Joseph’s started the first Catholic orphanage in the 1700s. St. Joseph’s College, founded here in 1851, included both prepatory and college level studies.

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