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Gloria Dei [Old Swedes’] Church

Oldest church in Pennsylvania is a link to early Swedish settlers...

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, and the it is known to be the first church to use an organ in colonial America..

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.

A church built in 1646 in Tinicum was the first Christian church built in the Delaware Valley and is Gloria Dei’s predecessor.

The present day church — the oldest church in Pennsylvania and the oldest brick building in Philadelphia — was built between 1698 and 1700 to serve a parish of Swedish settlers who lived along the banks of the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers. The church’s baptismal font was crafted in 1731.

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

Gloria Dei is a National Historic Site.

The Gloria Dei churchyard. The Gloria Dei churchyard.

Gloria Dei — a National Historic Site — is the oldest church in Pennsylvania. — Photo courtesy Gloria Dei

Don’t Miss

Just below the organ are carvings of two angels dating from the early 1700s. Miniature wooden replicas of ships that carried Swedish settlers are also suspended from the church ceiling, along with a carving of the angel Gabriel.

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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