August 16, 2016
The Priory Hotel was the only Pittsburgh lodging mentioned in this story recommending visits to Pittsburgh and other must-see cities around the country.
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The Priory Hotel began its existence in 1888 as just that – a priory. The St. Mary’s Priory, to be exact. What is a priory, one might wonder? It is a place where clerics gather and live, communally, like a monastery or convent. In the case of the St. Mary’s Priory, the clerics were Benedictine monks and priests, some of whom lived in residence, some of whom ministered to the adjacent St. Mary’s Church (now our Pittsburgh’s Grand Hall at The Priory), and some of whom would stay between clerical assignments. The St. Vincent’s Arch abbey, located in nearby Latrobe, is the seat of authority for the Benedictine Order in the United States. Many of the Benedictine priests and brothers traveling to Latrobe would rest their heads at the St. Mary’s Priory.
The St. Mary's Parish and Church
The St. Mary’s Parish was founded in 1848 by German, Austrian and Swiss immigrants living in a neighborhood then known as “Deutschtown” (or “Germantown”). (Since that time the neighborhood was rechristened as “East Allegheny,” but has recently re-adopted the Deutschtown moniker in commemoration of the area’s German heritage.) St. Mary’s was the first Roman Catholic parish founded in what was then Allegheny City, a city separate and apart from the City of Pittsburgh and which now comprises Pittsburgh’s North Side.
In 1850, parishioners began to build their own church, a towering edifice build in the Italiante style. They completed the project in 1854, a massive structure with over 10,000 square feet of floor space and space for more than 900 parishioners. Many of the parishioners were Germanic speaking immigrants, and masses were routinely said in German.
Notably lacking in the 1854 design were stained glass windows. These were purposely omitted for fear of vandalism by the infamous Know Nothing Party – a terroristic socio-political organization reminiscent of the 20th Century Ku Klux Klan. One of the main activities of the notorious group was breaking the windows of Catholic churches. The stained glass windows which now grace the Church (Pittsburgh’s Grand Hall at The Priory Hotel) were placed in 1912. They were crafted by the Tyrolese Art Glass Company of Innsbruck, Austria, and were lovingly restored in 1995 as part of the Grand Hall renovation project.
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