This Easter Sunday we thought it would be appropriate to talk about one of the oldest churches in the United States. It is Pennsylvania’s oldest surviving church from 1700 – Gloria Dei Church. Also called Old Swedes’ Church, for 150 years this was where Swedish lutherans worshipped – from 1677, five years before the founding of the city of Philadelphia. In fact, at one point in time, this area was called New Sweden because of the number of Swedish immigrants.
About Gloria Dei Church
Established as a National Historic Site in 1942 , this site was actually designated prior to a much more famous local national park site featuring Independence Hall. It preserves and protects the church and it’s grounds from the encroachment of the city.
Gloria Dei Church National Historic Site is not “technically” one of the 419 national park units administered directly by the National Park Service. It is owned and managed by the (still active) congregation, in affiliation with the National Park Service.
Things to do at Gloria Dei Church
Gloria Dei Church is still an active place of worship, so be sure to check ahead for the schedule of services. During operating hours, you can visit the inside of this colonial church and see the fine wood carvings, including a carving of the angel Gabriel.
Probably the most interesting part of the visit is to walk around the cemetery where the oldest grave sites date from the lat 1600’s. Along with original families, there are many revolutionary war tombstones… George Washington’s men from the Revolutionary War.
Nearby National Park Units
Gloria Dei Church is just a mile and a half from Independence Hall, the most famous and most visited site in Philadelphia. Most people who go to Philadelphia only go to Independence National Historical Park – they see the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Dolly Madison’s House, old Philadelphia, and the Ben Franklin museum. They may even stop by The Philadelphia Mint (if you want to visit, be sure to take your passport!)
But the city is home to a handful of other national park units (and affiliates). These include Gloria Dei Church and Edgar Allen Poe National Historic Sites, and Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial – each representing a different aspect of our history and well worth a visit.
Once again, we are grateful to the National Park Service for preserving these sites and allowing us to visit.
Need Help Planning Your Visits?
If you would like to explore this or other National Park Units, but need a bit help in the planning, please give us a call at (480) 609-3978. We are happy to offer customized trip planning.