321 Willings Alley, off 4th St. btwn. Walnut and Spruce Sts., 215/923-1733
HOURS: Mon.–Fri. 11 a.m.–3 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.–6:30 p.m.,
Sun. 8:30 a.m.–3 p.m.
A tiny chapel served as the city’s first Catholic parish in 1733 for just 11 Philadelphia families. Despite the general unpopularity of Catholics in Philadelphia  at the time, William Penn’s 1701 Charter of Privileges called for religious tolerance, so the land was granted to the small group. This became the only place under British rule where Catholic Mass was legal.
Ben Franklin advised church leaders to install an iron gate, which turned out to be a good call, considering Quakers once had to prevent a Protestant mob from interrupting services. The church was, however, damaged during anti-Catholic riots in the 1830s.
The current building is the third on this site, dating from 1839, and the parish remains active.
Notice the stained-glass windows above the altar, glass mosaics on the north and south walls, and the ceiling painting, The Exaltation of Saint Joseph into Heaven, by Italian artist Philippo Paggini, whose work also appears in the Capitol in Washington, D.C.