Frescoes inside Old City church certified as historic

Thursday, July 23, 2015
VIDEO: Frescoes inside Old City church certified as historic
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The frescoes inside St. Augustine Church in Old City have been certified as historic - the oldest in any church in America.

OLD CITY (WPVI) -- Walking through the doors of St. Augustine Catholic Church in Philadelphia's Old City section is like taking a step back in time.

"This is like almost a snapshot of 1848. That's what we see - the kind of art here, the kind of architecture going around," said Celeste Morello, historian.

"I've been here every day, unlocked the church, locked the church, I'm here for masses every day - all that," said Father Bill Waters, OSA.

Father Waters works in the church every day.

He's always known that this church has played a special part in Philadelphia's history but now some of the beautiful art inside is officially certified as historic.

These frescoes were painted in 1844 by Nicola Monachesi who was called over from Italy because he was able to do this type of work.

He painted the same style as Raphael did in the Vatican and for that he became widely popular amongst Philadelphia's upper class.

"We don't have any single house left in Philadelphia with any of these and at one time, if you were in the elite class in Philadelphia, you had the Monachesi in your home," said Morello.

These frescoes painted on the ceilings somehow survived the changing decorating trends.

Today they are the oldest in any church and some of the oldest in the country.

"It's unusual. It's very unusual," said Morello.

"This is the first place the Augustinians came in this country so this building is important to us but now that it's certified, it makes it more important for us," said Father Waters.

It's a move to protect this church's history and to preserve a piece of the past for future generations.