Pittsburgh Curiosities: Relics of St. Anthony Chapel
Our monthly look at oddities around the region.
The Belgian-born priest Father Suitbert Mollinger had an abiding interest in relics — bits of human remains, from the tiniest piece of fingernail to full skeletons, believed to be from the bodies of Catholic saints. In the mid-19th century, many of these artifacts were being destroyed or sold throughout Europe; fortunately, Father Mollinger started buying as many as he could find.
Mollinger established the Most Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Troy Hill in 1868, and spent the remainder of his life filling what is now St. Anthony Chapel with reliquaries. Today, more than 5,000 relics are housed within the lovely chapel — a higher number than can be found anywhere else outside the Vatican.
You can visit from noon-3 p.m. every day but Friday and even can arrange for a guided tour that will show you highlights of the collection (including the skulls of St. Macharius of Jerusalem and St. Stephana, visible on either side of the altar). A docent will also give you the dramatic history of Father Mollinger’s life; he was also a renowned healer, using science and faith in conjunction to bless the sick and prescribe medicine. (In the small museum across the street, you’ll find early-20th century medicine bottles printed with Mollinger’s name and image.)
Don’t miss the remarkable wooden Stations of the Cross lining the larger part of the chapel; the 14 almost life-size stations, depicting the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, are themselves over a century old, imported from Munich and carved from Bavarian wood. Whatever your faith, it’s a remarkable and striking place well worth a respectful visit.
Find It! Troy Hill: 1700 Harpster St.