Gloria Dei [Old Swedes’] Church

Oldest church in Pennsylvania is a link to early Swedish settlers

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Photo by B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia
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Gloria Dei is an active Episcopal parish filled with reminders of its Swedish founders, who settled here before William Penn.

It is easy to imagine the past here, in its park-like setting between the bustle of Columbus Boulevard and quiet residential streets.

Swedish and Norwegian congregations still use the church regularly.

Miniature wooden replicas of ships that carried Swedish settlers in 1643 are suspended from the church ceiling, along with a carving of the angel Gabriel.

The baptismal font dates from Gloria Dei’s predecessor, a log church built in 1677 in Tinicum.

Among those buried in the adjacent cemetery are sea captains and Revolutionary War soldiers.

The History

Sea captains and Revolutionary War soldiers are buried in the adjacent cemetery.

Gloria Dei was built between 1698 and 1700 to serve a parish of Swedish settlers who lived along the banks of the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers.

In 1845, it joined the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. The interior was renovated, and balconies were added.

In 1942, Gloria Dei was named a National Historic Site.

Don’t Miss

On the balcony just below the organ are carvings of two angels dating from the early 1700s. The same image appears in the stone floor.

A granite memorial honors John Hanson, the first president of the U.S. Articles of Confederation, and other community leaders of Swedish descent.

Events & More

The Lucia Fest is held each December, featuring a pageant with candlelight, costumes and songs. Try the Swedish Lucia buns!

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