St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr Cathedral Of the Polish National Catholic Church
529 East Locust Street
St. Stanislaus Cathedral will go down in history as the site of the greatest American religious reformation of the 19th Century.
A Church, not pretentious, but a paradise of which sacred memories will never be driven out. The momentous decision to break with Rome was effected within these walls: The infamous excommunication was read from its pulpit – The blasphemy was then burned in the site of god as a covenant, that never in His presence shall man who is made unto the likeness of God be so degraded by another fellow man. This humble House of God has witnessed over 110 years of life and death; of consecration and blessing – but above all almost 111 years of the reign of Christ the Benign. In the short span of life of this historic Cathedral, over three hundred priests were ordained and most of the bishops of the PNCC were consecrated here.
The appointments in the vestibule, the holy water fonts and the penitents’ pew, are simple. In the early days, Christians stood outside the church door if their conscience was burdened with sin—they did not feel worthy of walking into the presence of God. While the saintly and the innocent passed to enter, the penitent Christians begged for their prayers, that they might be restored into the Grace of God, that they may worship in his presence again- hence the penitents’ pew.
The holy water fonts are a reminder to cleanse the heart and mind before entering into the presence of God. A long aisle runs through the center of the church leading directly to the altar which occupies the most eminent place. The aisle represents the way of life. It is uncluttered, to signify that nothing must stand in the way of the wanderer who desires to meet his God. The communion rail represents the judgment bar. The cross at the front pew means that by way of death we come first to the judgment and then into the habitation of the Lord.
As adornment of the apse (ceiling portion nearest the sanctuary) in the four sections of the semi-circular vault rest the imposing figures of the four evangelists with their symbols. The evangelist Matthew, who had written his Gospel for the Jews is with a winged figure of a man, because his gospel represents Jesus as the Messiah, the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies- the Word made flesh.
The evangelist Mark is portrayed with a lion. His gospel was written to the Romans. The character of Jesus is portrayed as royal and mighty- the royal symbol of the Romans being a lion. The evangelist Luke is portrayed, holding a pen and book, supported by an ox. To the thoughtful, cultured, philosophic Greek mind, Luke in a complete, orderly, and classical story which has been called “the most beautiful book ever written” depicts the glorious beauty and perfection of Jesus, the ideal universal man. The special emphasis of Luke is the humanity of Jesus, representing Jesus as the Son of God, Luke features his kindness towards the weak, the suffering and the outcast. Luke is symbolized by the ox, the animal of sacrifice, since Luke stresses the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.
The evangelist John is portrayed with an eagle. His gospel was directed to all mankind. Because of his loftiness and spiritual heights, the appropriate symbol is the king of soaring heights- the eagle. The skylight of the sanctuary is the original glass window installed when the cathedral was constructed. The window’s focal point is a cross of resurrection, symbolic of the fact that resurrection (oneness with Christ) is every faithful Christian’s reward.
Above the gospel side altar, a painting depicts Christ leading the way, and Bishop Hodur with the faithful of the Polish National Catholic Church following his footsteps. Above the epistle side altar, the scene portrays Poland’s conversion to Christianity. The two missionaries baptizing the Polish people are Saints Cyril and Methodius. These two holy men played a major role in the spiritualization of the Polish people by translating the Christian ritual and liturgy form the Latin into the Slavonic language.
The central and most dominant part of the Cathedral is the main altar with the tabernacle, the heart of the real presence of God. A perpetual light hung from the sanctuary ceiling symbolizes the living presence of Christ.
The main altar originally built by M. Ohal, and when the Cathedral was rebuilt in its present form, rebuilt by Walenty Bialkowski is monstrance-shaped, beautifully carved and detailed in wood. A wooden altar is symbolic of the wooden cross upon which Christ died.
The two side altars are the art work of Bishop Gritenas and were built by the Craftsmen’s Society of the Parish.
On the east wall the Prime Bishop Francziszek Hodur plaque can be found. It is dedicated to the beloved organizer of the PNCC by the bishops, priests, and laity of the Church, “in grateful recognition of his principles, loyalty, devotion, and sacrifice…” Bishop Hodur was born on April 1, 1866, ordained to the priesthood on August 19, 1893, and consecrated on September 29, 1907. He died February 16, 1953 in the rectory of the Cathedral he served so faithfully.
Also on the east wall, inside the sanctuary, is a portrait of Bishop Hodur given to the Cathedral Parish by the Central Diocesan Clergy Conference. It was unveiled and blessed by the Rt. Rev. Anthony M. Rysz, Bishop of the Central Diocese, during solemn Vespers on March 12, 1978, the occasion of the 81st Anniversary of the founding of the Polish National Catholic Church. The portrait faces the bishop’s throne, symbolic of the present day guidance of Bishop Hodur to the Catholic Church organized.
On the south wall of the Cathedral the Adam B. Pikulski Memorial is located. Professor Pikulski (Feb. 20, 1889-April 13, 1965) was a dedicated PNC organist, choir-master, composer, and first president of the National United Choirs. The plaque was given by the NUC in 1975 ‘in grateful recognition of his lifelong service in the field of Church music.’The bells in the tower of the cathedral were baptized and blessed on July 31, 1898. They were purchased from a foundry in Troy, NY, and were baptized with the names: Stanislaus, Francis, and Ignatius. St. Stanislaus Cathedral, baptized with tears and glorified by deeds is not big in size but big in purpose. It is a living testimony of the presence of God in human history.