St. Peter the Apostle Church


St. Peter the Apostle Church

St. Peter the Apostle Church is a Roman Catholic church located at the corner of Hollins and Poppleton Streets in Baltimore, Maryland. It is often referred to as "The Mother Church of West Baltimore." The church was built in 1842 to minister to the growing Irish population of West Baltimore, who had immigrated to the city in vast numbers to work for the B&O Railroad. [Spalding, Thomas W. "The Premier See: A History of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, 1789-1989". Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989.]

Overview

Robert Cary Long, Jr., a prominent "ecumenical architect," [“St. Peter’s Seeks Renewal Fund.” The Baltimore Sun, September 11, 1967.] designed the church in the Greek revival style with imposing granite pillars gracing the facade of the building. Its appearance is similar to the Lloyd Street Synagogue, also designed by Long. [Dorsey, John & Dilts, James D., "Guide to Baltimore Architecture" (1997) p. 250. Tidewater Publishers, Centreville, Maryland ISBN 0-87033-477-8] The design was based on Athens' Temple of Hephaestus. [“The Church of St. Peter the Apostle,” church bulletin, Vertical Files: St. Peter the Apostle, Maryland Room Collection, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, MD.] The interior of the church features a large, open nave furnished with wooden pews. Behind the altar, an apse adorned with white columns is punctuated with an imposing white marble tabernacle. It contains statues of angels and the holy family, and is topped with a large statue of Saint Peter. The inscription above the tabernacle reads, "Tu Es Petrus," a reference to the biblical passage, "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church" (Matt. 16:18). The church also has a historic tracker organ designed by Henry Niemann. [“The Church of St. Peter the Apostle,” church bulletin, Vertical Files: St. Peter the Apostle, Maryland Room Collection, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, MD.]

The church itself is part of a complex of several buildings, including a church rectory, a convent, and a school. The Sisters of Mercy came to the church in 1855 to teach at the St. Peter's School. [Spalding, Thomas W. "The Premier See: A History of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, 1789-1989". Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989.] In addition to their educational duties, the sisters also assisted the poor and sick of the community by opening the "House of Mercy for distressed women." [“The Church of St. Peter the Apostle,” church bulletin, Vertical Files: St. Peter the Apostle, Maryland Room Collection, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, MD.]

In 1868, the building received its first renovation, and was graced with stained glass windows imported from Munich. [Kujawa, Kathleen. “St. Peter the Apostle.” Catholic Review, June 27, 1975.]

Another renovation, done in 1967, brought the church to the attention of the Commission on Historical and Architectural Preservation. [Kujawa, Kathleen. “St. Peter the Apostle.” Catholic Review, June 27, 1975.] This attention led to the church being placed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 14, 1978.

Throughout its history, St. Peter the Apostle Church has ministered to those in need, and has also been active in community organization efforts. In 1965, pastor Thomas J. Donellan formed the Southwest Baltimore Citizens Planning Council, along with four other area churches, to bring identity and renewal to their Hollins Park neighborhood. [“In Hollins Park, People Hail From Both Sides of the Track.” The Baltimore Sun, August 22, 1979.] The former convent houses the Christian Life Center, which provides recreation and development programs. [“Parish Profile - IX.” Catholic Review, October 27, 1978.]

Although declining numbers of parishioners and priests have limited the number of services that the church holds, St. Peter the Apostle Church continues to celebrate mass on weekdays at 8AM and on Saturdays at 7PM. The final Ordinary Mass was said at St. Peters on, Saturday, January 26, 2008. The church is still open. However, it will only be used for weddings, funerals and special occasions. The Churches of St. Martin, St. Peters and St. Jeromes merged and formed a new parish know as Transfiguration Catholic Community. All Masses are now held at the former St. Jeromes parish located at Hamburg and Scott Sts.

References


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