Society Hill in Philadelphia in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Old St. Joseph's
Old St. Joseph's earliest church on this site was built in 1733 by Rev. Joseph Greaton, a Jesuit missionary from England. When news that a "Romish Chappel" had been set up the Provincial Council investigated, but because William Penn's 1701 Charter of Previleges for Pennsylvanians guaranteed freedom of worship to all who confessed "One Almighty God," the chapel was left undisturbed. Penn's Charter took precedence over the English Penal Laws.
When the first public Catholic Mass was celebrated here in 1733, Philadelphia was the only place in the thirteen colonies where public Catholic services could be celebrated legally. Those principles of religious freedom enjoyed here, which later became a part of the Constitution of the United States, make Old St. Joseph's a national historic shrine.
Jesuits at St. Joseph's planted the first seeds of Catholicism in an important urban center, participated fully in the civic and political life of the colony, and evangelized southeastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and New York for the American Catholic church.
The first chapel on this site had a congregation
From the beginning, the Jesuits at St. Joseph's helped give the growing number of arriving Catholics a foothold in a new land. In the 18th century, they ministered to Acadian exiles in 1755 and refugees from Santo Domingo in the 1790s. The city's first African-American Catholic congregation met at Old St. Joseph's in the 1850s. Here Italian immigrants planned their first church in Philadelphia, St. Magdalen de Pazzi, in 1852. And on this site St. Joseph's College (now on City Avenue) was established in 1851.
Old St. Joseph's, Philadelphia's "church in the alley," is still an active Catholic parish. For more than 250 years, Jesuits and their lay colleagues have ministered to the spiritual and material needs of parishioners and other persons throughout the Philadelphia metropolitan area, regardless of their religious affiliation, social or economic status, and have encouraged dialogue and mutual respect among all men and women.
Erected by Old Philadelphia Congregations.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans • Churches & ReligionColonial Era • Settlements & Settlers. A significant historical year for this entry is 1733.
Location. 39° 56.788′ N, 75° 8.884′ W. Marker is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia County. It is in Society Hill. Marker is at the intersection of 4th Street and Willings Alley Mews, on the left when traveling south on 4th Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Philadelphia PA 19106, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Old St. Joseph's National Shrine (within shouting distance of this marker); The Philadelphia Contributionship (within shouting distance of this marker); Philosophić et Scientić Domus (within shouting distance of this marker); Caspar Wistar (within shouting distance of this marker); Saint Joseph's Roman Catholic Church (within shouting distance of this marker); Original Cobblestone (within shouting distance of this marker); Hon. James Campbell (within shouting distance of this marker); Old St. Mary's (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Philadelphia.
Credits. This page was last revised on February 2, 2023. It was originally submitted on July 14, 2008, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. This page has been viewed 1,484 times since then and 17 times this year. Photos: 1. submitted on March 2, 2022, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. 2. submitted on July 14, 2008, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. 3. submitted on March 2, 2022, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. 4, 5. submitted on July 15, 2008, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland.