Onion Dome Fever: St. John Church of the Eastern Rite

St. John the Baptist church, Pittsburgh, Pa.

St. John the Baptist Carpatho-Russian Church of the Eastern Rite, Marshall-Shadeland

Sometimes life has a funny way of handing out consolation prizes. This blogger was out hunting an elusive patch of historically important heavy metal graffiti and wound up finding religion. I was out looking for Black Sabbath and came back with, uh, actual sabbath. Out for Queensryche, got Eastern Rite. Seeking Slade, got saved. Searching for Slayer, got a savior. Looking for Judas Priest…O.K., this is too easy; you get the joke.

There I was, huffing and puffing my way up and down, back and forth combing through the steep streets and alleys of Marshall-Shadeland looking for a very particular deconstructed garage containing a spray painted history of teenage male hair farmer fandom that I’m starting to think only exists in my dreams (and others’ nightmares). I curse myself for failing to take pictures the first time I came across them (“always record!”) and turn the bicycle toward home in disgrace.

But then, clearing a bluff I’d never been to at the end of Woodland Ave., they popped right out of the sky at me: gleaming onion domes, gorgeous against the perfectly blue early Spring sky, glowing like golden apples in the bright sun.

Detail of onion dome on St. John the Baptist church, Pittsburgh, Pa.

St. John the Baptist Carpatho-Russian Church of the Eastern Rite sits on a lonely stretch of California Ave. It dominates the otherwise two-story frame houses that surround it. The building and grounds seem to be in fine, well-maintained order, but its sign has either been vandalized or severely weather-worn. There is no indication the church is still open Sundays, nor is there evidence of closure. (I was there mid-day on a Saturday and the doors were locked tight.)

Cornerstone for St. John the Baptist church, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Bilingual cornerstone

The church stands an impressive three (very tall) stories, but, other than the showy domes and big Byzantine crosses on the front doors, has a very subdued plainness. That may be a Carpatho-Russian thing, or possibly just a belt-tightening side-effect of its Depression-era construction. I’d love to see inside.

Byzantine crosses on the front doors of St. John the Baptist church, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Byzantine crosses on St. John’s front doors

Probably you’ve whizzed by St. John on your way out Route 65, taking your tube amp to Don for yet another repair at Phil’s TV, or just to peruse the menu of fried items at Miller’s Seafood. Maybe, like me, you never really processed it from the highway, but hopefully you did. Either way, if you find yourself off the main drag, down on California Ave., maybe stick around one time and say hello to St. John. And let me know if you ever find that garage full of graffiti over the hill.

St. John the Baptist church, Pittsburgh, Pa.

St. John the Baptist Carpatho-Russian Church of the Eastern Rite, Marshall-Shadeland

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