Bryn Athyn Cathedral: The Building of a Church

E. Bruce Glenn

The Bryn Athyn Church of the New Jerusalem, Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, 1971.

Note from the Editors of
Author's Preface
First Vistas
A Church of the New Christianity
Organic Design
Architectural Refinements and Variations
Shops and Artisans
The Stone Work
The Timber Work
The Metal Work
The Stained Glass
The Windows and Their Representations
The Dedication Ceremony
The Council Hall and Ezekiel Tower
The Choir Hall and Michael Tower

Thus saith the Lord God, Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Isaiah 28:16

Note from the Editors of top

Bryn Athyn Cathedral: The Building of a Church by E. Bruce Glenn was originally published in 1971 in hardcover format and has been unavailable for many years now. A revised and updated second edition is currently being prepared by the Bryn Athyn Church. The new hardcover edition will feature new color photography, enhancements to the original color photography, some revisions to the text, and the addition of source citations for quoted material.

The purpose of the online version of the book is threefold: 1) to make the text widely available to students and scholars, 2) to encourage a greater general awareness of the history of Bryn Athyn Cathedral, and 3) to generate interest in the upcoming revised edition. The text has been preserved as originally written, with the exception of the modification of a few dates (due to updated information), and small revisions in some of the quoted material. Only the archival black and white photographs from the book are included here, with the color photographs being reserved for the upcoming revised hardcover edition. Source citations for quoted material, not included in the original 1971 edition, are being added in the form of chapter footnotes as they become available through ongoing research.

Author's Preface top

THE CHURCHES of medieval Europe were essentially anonymous. Abbot and artist, builder and craftsman gave of their talents together for the greater glory of God. The Church was His, and there was room in it for all who aspired to work in His name. The results, in parish church as well as great cathedral, remain the chief glories of our cultural heritage, standing also as measure of our loss. With the decline of faith during the Renaissance and the rise of the modern temper, the great church buildings became monuments to an earlier unity, and men created more and more in their own name rather than in His who is the soul of all created things.

In this perspective the cathedral-church of Bryn Athyn is unusual among modern structures. You will search in vain among its stones and glass for the signatures of men. To build worthily for the worship of the Lord was the aim; and the means, neglected for centuries, was found in the planning and fashioning of the work on the site, in a harmonious sphere like that of the Middle Ages but infused with the vision of a new revelation of His Word. The Bryn Athyn Cathedral speaks for itself and of God; but because it is uniquely beautiful and historical in our day, its erection is worthy of record in word and picture.

Such a record was suggested when the foundations were being laid in 1913, while first departures from modern architectural and building practice were contemplated. Raymond Pitcairn, entrusted with the building of the church, hoped to tell its story. His would have been the fitting hand, having accepted the charge with enthusiasm and carried it through with a rare combination of vision and perseverance. But a life devoted to many pursuits, civic and cultural as well as business, precluded his writing this book. Late in a fruitful career he commissioned the work. Some of its chapters he reviewed in draft; but before it was completed, he died in July 1966.

Raymond Pitcairn might well have deprecated the number of times his name occurs in these pages. Yet because the cathedral at Bryn Athyn excites continuing interest for churchman and secular visitor, architect and artist, the way of its building should be fully recounted, together with the men who saw and took the way. Foremost among these was Raymond Pitcairn, who gave up law practice and curtailed other pursuits for many years in order to direct the design and erection of the cathedral. As with him and those who worked with him, so for us who share the benefits of his endeavors, the Psalmist's words are true: "The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage."

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