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St. Benedict the Moor, Historic Black Catholic Church in Pittsburgh & Freedom Corner History

One of my favorite places to go to mass as someone who lives in Pittsburgh is St. Benedict the Moor Parish, across the street from Freedom Corner on the edge of the Hill District, a traditionally Black neighborhood in Pittsburgh. The Lower Hill area below this spot was brutally torn down with the building of the original Civic Arena. This spot is very important as it is the spot where the black community was able to get the city to stop demolishing the neighborhood with the "urban redevelopment" projects of the 50s and 60s that decimated the community and displaced the people and businesses that were established within these spots, the damage of which has never been fully rectified after all of this time. 

Freedom Corner both physically represents a demarcation line in the fight against forced urban redevelopment and displacement, and the same purpose spiritually. It is often a gathering point for people for a number of causes and unification purposes, right at the corner of Centre and Crawford. It is a center for free speech akin to historical free speech and protest gathering places like Haymarket Square in Chicago. Martin Luther King spoke at this location and the city of Pittsburgh has commemorated the progress that this location has symbolized. It is a special place. Faith leaders from many different churches often gather in united prayer at this spot to work to bring about change in the community.
St. Benedict the Moor Parish is across the street from Freedom Corner, and it is an elegant and stately parish that dates back to 1894. It was designed and built by Moeser and Bippus. The building was originally home to the Holy Trinity Parish and eventually the other churches of the Hill District consolidated into the original St. Benedict the Moor Parish and this building became its home.

As is often the case for many churches, such as St. Stanislaus, the namesake of which is a Polish saint, in a traditionally Polish neighborhood of Pittsburgh, St. Benedict the Moor was named for a saint that was significant for the African-American community in which it serves. For some background, the namesake of the church, St. Benedict the Moor, was a man who was born to enslaved Africans in Italy in 1526 and passed away in 1589. Differing information says he was either born free or became free at 18. Official information seems hard to come by. He faced racial taunting and harassment and went on find comfort and community within the Catholic Church. He went on to be a leader within the church and an example of the inhumanity of slavery. His exemplary life led him to be beatified in 1743 and canonized in 1807. For a really good rundown on his life, check out this article
On the bell tower, on the top right, you can see a sculpture dedicated to St. Benedict the Moor. 
The 18 foot sculpture of St. Benedict the Moor was commissioned and added in 1968. Renowned religious painter and sculptor, Frederick Shrady, created it. The first black priest in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Fr. Augustus Taylor Jr, was first assigned to the church as well. 

The interior is very elegant, and services are really something special and lively, with traditional black gospel choral ensembles, all built within the traditional Catholic mass structure. For anyone else on here that is Catholic, I highly recommend attending mass at this church. 

The church is located at the base of the Hill District and is centrally located to easily be accessed if you are in the city of Pittsburgh. 

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